American Indians •  Fiction and Literature

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The Surrounded

D'Arcy McNickle

As The Surrounded opens, Archilde León has just returned from the big city to his father's ranch on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana. The story that unfolds captures the intense and varied conflict that already characterized reservation life in 1936, when this remarkable novel was first published.

Educated at a federal Indian boarding school, Archilde is torn not only between white and Indian cultures but also between love for his Spanish father and his Indian mother, who in her old age is rejecting white culture and religion to return to the ways of her people. Archilde's young contemporaries, meanwhile, are succumbing to the destructive influence of reservation life, growing increasingly uprooted, dissolute, and hopeless. Although Archilde plans to leave the reservation after a brief visit, his entanglements delay his departure until he faces destruction by the white man's law.

In an early review of The Surrounded, Oliver La Farge praised it as "simple, clear, direct, devoid of affectations, and fast-moving." He included it in his "small list of creditable modern novels using the first Americans as theme." Several decades later, long out of print but not forgotten, The Surrounded is still considered one of the best works of fiction by or about Native Americans.


A distinguished anthropologist and writer, and one of the founders of the National Congress of American Indians, D'Arcy McNickle (1904-1977) was a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes of Montana.


"Perhaps the most interesting aspect of McNickle's book is his success in capturing the whole in small compass, by the exercise of a thoroughly artistic selection, and writing of such sorts that the reader is primarily interested in an excellent story as such, and only secondarily in the background, which he gets in proper balance."


Saturday Review

5.25 x 8 in. 320 pages