A Lakota in a Crow Land
by C. M. Wendleboe
My latest novel in the Spirit Road Mystery Series, Death on the Greasy Grass, opens with FBI Special Agent Manny Tanno and Oglala Sioux Tribal investigator Willie With Horn taking some much needed R&R at the site of the Battle of Little Big Horn. But when a death on the reservation cuts his vacation short, he learns that the secrets of the past have a way of stirring up trouble in the present.
As a scout for the infamous General Custer, Crow tribe member Levi Star Dancer kept a journal chronicling his exploits from the Battle of the Greasy Grass onwards. Now, the missing journal has been found and the descendants of those mentioned in the account, including Levi’s own, want to keep their family secrets hidden at all costs. . .
Manny’s trip to the Crow Agency Reservation turns out to be ill-timed when a reenactor of the Battle of Little Big Horn is killed right in front of him. It turns out the victim was the one who found Levi Star Dancer’s famed diary and was planning on selling it to the highest bidder. And while the dead body is hard to miss, the coveted book is nowhere to be found. Now, Manny has to watch his back while searching for a murderer and the missing journal, because this slippery killer will do anything to make sure the past stays buried. And Manny and Willie are targets of some very nasty people that do not want the murders solved.
As I was reading an article a couple years ago, I came onto the term a “murder of crows” to express a group of the birds. That got me thinking about the Crow Indians, and what might have killed some back in the day. The logical answer was their traditional enemies, the Lakota, and the working title was “A Murder of Crows” before I changed it. I was told there still exists some animosity between the two. I played on this conflict with my sleuth, Manny Tanno. He is a Lakota assigned to solve a case on Crow Agency, and must work together with Crow BIA Officers.
During the course of the investigation, someone tries killing him while on Crow Agency to prevent him from learning the truth. And someone tries killing Willie as he follows-up on leads on Pine Ridge.
I’m often asked how I developed Manny, and I always answer that he developed himself. My first law enforcement job out of the Marines was working an off-reservation town in South Dakota bordering two Sioux Reservations. As our town was the closest to grab coffee or a meal, BIA officers and tribal police, U.S Marshalls and FBI Agents would come into town and we’d visit. Manny is a little bit of this officer, a little bit of that agent, until he took the form that you’ll read about in Death on the Greasy Grass.
C. M. Wendelboe entered the law enforcement profession when he was discharged from the Marines as the Vietnam War was winding down. During the 1970s, he worked in South Dakota towns bordering two Indian reservations. The initial one-third of his career included assisting federal and tribal law enforcement agencies embroiled in conflicts with American Indian Movement activists in other towns and on other reservations, including Pine Ridge.
He moved to Gillette, Wyoming, and found his niche, where he remained a sheriff’s deputy for over twenty-five years. In addition, he was a longtime firearms instructor at the local college and within the community. During his thirty-eight-year career in law enforcement he had served successful stints as police chief, policy adviser, and other supervisory roles for several agencies. Yet he has always felt most proud of “working the street.” He was a patrol supervisor when he retired to pursue his true vocation as a mystery writer. He lives and works in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Wendelboe now revisits the Pine Ridge Reservation for research and recreation. He lives within a morning’s drive of Devils Tower, Bear Butte, the Black Hills, and the Badlands—“tourist sites” that are sacred places to the Lakota people. The distance of geography and expanse of time has accorded him an appreciation of their culture and spirituality. His developing awareness of their diverse perspectives on historical and contemporary issues is reflected in the themes of his Spirit Road Mysteries.
You can learn more about Curt Wendleboe at his website:www.spiritroadmysteries.com