James Welch became one of the most successful Montana authors during his lifetime, writing the novels "Winter in the Blood", "Fool's Crow" and "The Indian Lawyer." He died in 2003, but his writing continues to be admired. His wife, Lois Welch, announced a new "visiting writer" fund at the University of Montana, which will bring a prominent Native American writer to the Missoula campus each spring semester, beginning in 2023. The authors of prose or poetry will teach a creative writing workshop and a class in Native American literature.

The James and Lois Welch Distinguished Native American Visiting Writer Fund will provide $50,000 a year for the program and is just one of the ways the Welches have supported creative writing in Missoula. The Welch Scholarship is a creative writing award for students and the upcoming James Welch Native Americans Writers Festival is planned for next summer.

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James Welch was a youngster on the Blackfeet Reservation and the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana. He attended the University of Montana in the 60s, and enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing and became friends with poet Richard Hugo. Lois Welch said, in a UM news release, "Jim became a writer, thanks to Hugo. Hugo was a working-class guy and an amazing poet. And Jim thought, 'if he can do it, I can do it.' We don't don't give enough attention to the importance of having a role model. It's so important that we have a place where Native Americans can tell their stories and be heard."

Lois has been a UM professor of comparative literature and head of the creative writing program and has included the fund in her estate plan, to keep the program continuing into the future. The UM Foundation encourages donations to grow the fund. Visit their creative writing website to donate. For more information, call Dan Minor at 406-438-6364.

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