James Welch Prize

James Welch Prize: An award for indigenous poets

Poetry Northwest’s James Welch Prize will be awarded for two outstanding poems, each written by an Indigenous U.S. poet. The prize is named for Blackfeet and Gros Ventre writer James Welch, whose early poems were featured in Poetry Northwest and who went on to become one of the region’s most important writers.

This year we are honored to have Diné poet Sherwin Bitsui judging the inaugural contest.

About Our Judge

Sherwin Bitsui is the author of three collections of poetry, Dissolve, Flood Song, and Shapeshift. He is the recipient of a Whiting Award, an American Book Award, and the PEN Book Award. His poems have appeared in Narrative, Black Renaissance Noir, American Poet, The Iowa Review, LIT, and elsewhere. He is Diné of the Todí­ch’ii’nii (Bitter Water Clan), born for the Tlizí­laaní­ (Many Goats Clan), and has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the Native Arts & Culture Foundation.


The prize is open to new, emerging, and established poets who are members of tribal nations within the United States and its trust territories (including American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Chamorros, and American Samoans). Eligible contestants need not be previously published, but must be demonstrated (enrolled or community-recognized) members of their tribal nation. 

How to Submit

Between February 1 and March 15, each entrant may submit up to three poems in a single submission. Please submit only once.

There is no submission fee for this prize.

Submissions must include a cover letter with tribal affiliation(s) and a brief biography. However, please do not include any personal information (name, mailing address, etc.) on the poems themselves. All entries will be screened by a team of poets from the board and advisory committee of In-Na-Po (Indigenous Nations Poets). All identifying information will be removed from the submissions before each round of judging, and entries will be read blind at each stage of the judging process.

Entries must be previously unpublished. We accept simultaneous submissions. You may withdraw your submission at any time via Submittable.

About the Winners

The final judge will select two first-place winners and any runners-up. A small group of finalists will be selected by the editors of Poetry Northwest for print and/or online publication alongside the winner. Results will be announced in early May.

One of the two winning poets will be flown to Seattle to read with the judge as part of the fall Seattle Arts & Lectures series at Hugo House. The other winning poet will be flown to Missoula, MT (the city James Welch called home), to read with the judge at the Beargrass Writing Retreat. These two trips will include travel, lodging, meals, and a very celebratory welcome for the winners.

Every entrant will receive a copy of Poetry Northwest featuring the prize-winning poems.

Code of Ethics

Poetry Northwest complies with the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) contest code of ethics. CLMP’s community of independent literary publishers believes that ethical contests serve our shared goal: to connect writers and readers by publishing exceptional writing. We believe that intent to act ethically, clarity of guidelines, and transparency of process form the foundation of an ethical contest. To that end, we agree to 1) conduct our contests as ethically as possible and to address any unethical behavior on the part of our readers, judges, or editors; 2) to provide clear and specific contest guidelines—defining conflict of interest for all parties involved; and 3) to make the mechanics of our selection process available to the public. This Code recognizes that different contest models produce different results, but that each model can be run ethically. We have adopted this Code to reinforce our integrity and dedication as a publishing community and to ensure that our contests contribute to a vibrant literary heritage.

Thank You

The James Welch Prize is made possible by the generosity and participation of the following:



Adrienne Celt, Alex Higley, Alison Deming, Allison Morton, Amanda Powell, Andrea Gough, Andres Eduardo, Andrew Haley, Andrew Shattuck McBride, Annita Sawyer, Anya Backlund, April Christiansen, Arlynn Fishbaugh, Ashby and Amy Kinch, Athena Kildegaard, Betsy Teays, Bettye Walker, Bill Carty, Bojan Louis, Bookmonger, Brett Hall Jones & Louis B. Jones, Brittany Amborn, Bryce Emley, Camille Dungy, Carol Light, Caroline Barr, Cathlin Noonan, Charif Shanahan, Chelsea R Grimmer, Chris Dombrowski, Christian Gaines, Christina Montilla, Christopher Kondrich, Cin Salach, Clelia Castro-Malaspina, CommunityofWriters, Constance B. Wieneke, Corrie Williamson, Dan Hornsby, Danusha Lameris, David Gravender, Dean Rader, Deborrah Corr, Dylan B. Suagee, Elissa Washuta, Elizabeth Hubble, Ellen Welcker, Emily Darby, Erika Meitner, Erin Malone, Erin Melissa Curtis, Erin White, Gabriela Denise Frank, Gabrielle Bates, Garrett Hongo, Geffrey Davis, Greg Bem, Hannah Ensor, Heid Erdrich, Holly, Isla McKetta, J Morales, J. R. Lennon, Jacob Kuipers, Jane Sell, Jared, Jasmine Grewal, Jeanette Ashworth, jen soriano, Jennifer Foerster, Jennifer Perrine, Jenny, Jenny Graber, Jérémie Pinguet, Jerrold Bruno, Jessica Gigot, Jim Finegan, John Hoppenthaler, John Okrent, Jordan McNeil, Julie Elworth, Julie Felner, Justin Rigamonti, Kari Nielsen, Kasey Jueds, Kat, Katherine Sacco, Kathryn Hunt, Kathy and Mark Kuipers, Katie Farris, Keith McCoy, Kevin Craft & Carmen Zelaya, Kierstin Bridger, Kim, Kim Garretson, Kim Kent, Kim McKeehan, KT Herr, Lauren Haldeman, Lawrence Gullo, Leah Daugherty, Liezel M Hackett, Lily Frenette, Liz Fritsch, Lois, lukepatterson1, Luther Hughes, lyrik, M. Ellsworth, Maggie Shipstead, Marc Mazique, Marci Cancio-Bello, Margot Atwell, Margot Kahn & Scott Case, Mark Rice, Mark Turcotte, Martha Silano, Mary Crauderueff, Mary Peelen, Matthew Kelsey, Meander Fiadhiglas, Meghan Dunn, Melissa, Meredith MacEachern, Michael Fox, Michael Heavener, Michelle LaPena, Mishigosa, Moira Walsh, Molly Mendenhall, Morgan Wallace, Onyx, P. Scott Cunningham, Paisley Rekdal, Patrick Marx, Patrycja Sara, Paul Sarvasy, Rachael Lin Wheeler, Rachel, Rajiv Mohabir, Rebecca Kling, Richard P Fahey, RIchard Robbins, Risa Denenberg, Rob Atwood, Robert Baker, Ron Henry, Ruth Dickey, Ryan Teitman, Sandra Newman, Sara, Sarah Fritsch, Sharma Shields, Sharon Olds, Shelley Harlan, Sibelan, Skylar, Spencer Short, Susanna Childress Banner, Taylor Mali, Tess Taylor, The Creative Fund by BackerKit, Tom Carrigan, Tom Cordingley, Traci Brimhall, Trudy Skari, Valerie Wood, Vineet Kumar, Walker Bass, Wiley Brooks, Windflower Performances