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Winter in the Blood: Sun., September 29, at 2 p.m. at the Zinema Theater, 222 E. Superior St. --- Mon., September 30, at 4 p.m. at Weber Music Hall at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
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The Struggle to Find Answers from the Past

The University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) American Indian Studies Department has partnered with the Tweed Museum of Art and The School of Fine Arts to put on two special "sneak preview" screenings of Winter in the Blood, each followed by a question and answer session with executive producer Alex Smith. Jill Doerfler, associate professor of American Indian Studies, said the film is a true classic. "The novel was first published in 1974 and it's a classic story of survival and recovery that transcends time," she said. "It's really exciting to see it translated to film. The character, Virgil First Raise, is self-destructive but, in time, finds a way to make peace with his past and look forward."

Winter in the Blood
Sun., Sept. 29, at 2 p.m. at the Zinema Theater, 222 E. Superior St.
Mon., Sept. 30, at 4 p.m. at the UMD Weber Music Hall.
A reception at the Tweed Museum of Art follows the UMD screening.
The screenings are open and free to the public.

Winter in the Blood, was the first of five novels written by James Welch, a Native American poet, author, documentary scriptwriter and historical essayist. The book has been called unique, universal, timeless, uncompromising, and open. It has remained in print in at least eight languages for 35 years, evidence of the profound, life-changing way it touches people.

The story of Winter in the Blood opens as a native, Virgil First Raise, played by actor Chaske Spencer, (of Twilight fame), mysteriously wakes in a ditch. He returns to his house on his reservation in Montana to find his wife leaving him and taking his prized possession, his rifle, with her. Virgil sets off to find his wife and rifle. Virgil encounters childhood memories and his elders' stories. He struggles along the way and eventually meets a man, Yellow Calf, who helps him find connections to his families past and tribal history.

An enrolled citizen of the Blackfeet Nation, James Welch was born in Browning, Montana. He attended the University of Minnesota and Northern Montana State University at Havre, ultimately earning his BA at the University of Montana, where he started his writing career under the tutelage of poet Richard Hugo. Though his writing career commenced with a book of poems, Riding the Earthboy 40 (1971), Welch became better known for his novels and, later, his nonfiction. Beginning with his first novel, Winter in the Blood (1974), Welch joined Native authors N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa), Leslie Marmon Silko, and Gerald Vizenor in contributing to the Native American literary renaissance, an era of increased visibility and production of Native literatures after 1969. Welch's third novel, Fool's Crow (1986) earned him national literary recognition, including the American Book Award. In addition to his five novels, poetry, and essays, Welch also wrote a book of nonfiction, Killing Custer: The Battle of Little Bighorn and the Fate of the Plains Indians (1994), which stemmed from his collaboration with filmmaker Paul Steckler on the PBS documentary, Last Stand at Little Bighorn (1992). Welch also taught creative writing at the University of Washington in Seattle and Cornell University. Welch earned the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas in 1997 for his spare writing style, dry humor, and engagement with historical and contemporary issues facing Native Americans. Welch died in his home in Missoula, Montana on August 4, 2003 at the age of 62.

Alex and Andrew Smith grew up in Montana and had the rare privilege to grow up knowing the late James Welch. They note that, "Jim was a life-long friend, a mentor, and a profound influence on our own writing." For them, the film has been one long devoted vision and a quest to translate Welch's word -- the raw, emotionally honest characters, the tragicomic plot, and the high plains landscape -- to the big screen. They shot the film where the novel was born, on the Hi-Line of Montana, in Havre, Chinook, and on the Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy Reservations, and all points between and had with strong community and tribal involvement. Indeed, they assert that the film was created as much by the place, the people, the land, the weather, and "some presiding angels" -- as it was by their amazing cast and crew.

Story by Cheryl Reitan with Ellie Neigebauer, September, 2013.

UMD Feature News | News Releases
UMD Feature News editor, Cheryl Reitan,

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