An American writer and poet, he was a founding author of the Native American Renaissance. His best-known works include the 1986 novel, Fools Crow, and the 1971 poetry collection, Riding the Earthboy.
While a student at the University of Montana, he took classes taught by author Richard Hugo. He published his first novel, Winter in the Blood, in 1974.
He taught writing at both Cornell University and the University of Washington.
He was descended from both the Blackfeet and Gros Ventre Native American tribes. He married Lois Welch and settled in Missoula, Montana.
He wrote a book about George Armstrong Custer and The Battle of Little Bighorn.