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The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition
Paul Lauter, General Editor

Thomas S. Whitecloud (Chippewa)

Thomas St. Germain Whitecloud was born in New York City, October 8, 1914. His mother was white and his father, Thomas S. Whitecloud, was Chippewa. The elder Whitecloud was a graduate of the Yale Law School but after his education chose not to cast his lot with white America. Thus the Whiteclouds divorced, and he returned to the Lac Du Flambeau Reservation in Wisconsin, where he remarried and reared a family. The young Whitecloud remained with his mother, but his childhood experiences included life on the reservation as well as in mainstream America.

The younger Whitecloud encountered difficult times growing up. He was in and out of public schools as well as federal Indian schools in Albuquerque, Chilocco, and Santa Fe. He made an unsuccessful attempt at college studies at the University of New Mexico but finally settled down to serious study at the University of Redlands, where he also met and married Barbara Ibanez. Meanwhile, during his youth, he had been a farm worker, truck driver, mechanic, handyman, and boxer, among others.

By the time Whitecloud entered Redlands, he had settled on medicine as a career. After graduation, in 1939 he entered the Tulane School of Medicine from which he earned his M.D. degree before entering military service in World War II. He served for over two years as a battalion surgeon with U.S. paratroops in Europe. As a practicing physician, he worked as an Indian Service doctor in Montana and Minnesota before entering private practice in Texas, where for over seven years he not only ran a county hospital but also served as county coroner and deputy sheriff. Because of ill health, he moved to Mississippi, settling finally at Picayune, where he had a limited practice, engaged in many civic activities, and served as a consultant to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. During his later years, he also wrote and lectured extensively.

While a student at Redlands, Whitecloud had contemplated careers other than medicine. He liked to write and apparently considered taking up literature. He wrote essays and Indian tales, some of which he sent to the aged Hamlin Garland, presumably for criticism. His only significant published literary work, “Blue Winds Dancing,” appeared in his senior year. It has been a popular essay among readers of Indian literature because of its powerful theme and the quality of its style, which becomes almost lyrical at times. At his death, Whitecloud left a number of works in manuscript, including essays, tales, and poetry.

Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr.
University of Arkansas at Little Rock

In the Heath Anthology
Blue Winds Dancing (1938)

Other Works

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An Indian's Prayer
The complete text of Whitecloud's Prayer.

Native American Authors Project
From the Internet Public Library.

Secondary Sources