26 Pickup—The Half Ton:
In Daughter of the Morning Star, the photo of the young ones at the school was faded except for the one face. Did that mean that the one person is still alive?
Boarding School Blues:
No, that’s not exactly what it indicates.
But in answer to your question, I was made aware of the current horrifying problem that involves murdered and missing indigenous women when I came up with the idea for Daughter of the Morning Star. I knew there had to be a backstory that would provide an underpinning to the more mystical aspects of the tale and remembered that a few years ago I was talking to venerable Cheyenne Elder Leroy White Man about the Éveohtsé-heómėse, a taker of children something of a bogeyman to keep the young ones from wandering off too far. I asked him where a being like that could originate, and not so oddly he told me that in his long life he had actually given it some thought.
His theory was that the Wandering Without was a conglomeration of all the lost souls that had been banished from the tribes–the murderous, the insane, and the evil ones that had been driven out into the wilderness to die alone. His belief was that there was and always had been something out there waiting to take these souls that no one else wanted and that they had banded together to feed a hunger for companionship.
Think of the thousands if not millions of those souls.
The Northern Cheyenne have a saying that you judge a man by the strength of his enemies… I couldn’t think of a better statement about Walt Longmire, but what if the souls he’s dispatched on their way are somewhere out there waiting for him?
Where would the perfect feeding ground for a creature like the Éveohtsé-heómėse possibly be? A storage place for the tender, young souls it finds so irresistible?
In the long list of incredible wrongs that have been implemented against the Native People, the boarding schools that separated children from their families, cut their hair, forbade them from speaking their native language and a million other atrocities must be forefront. With the discovery of unmarked gravesites scattered across the West, the true horror of these places and their genocide is only now becoming known. These were children.
When Walt is given the postcard you mention, a strange, scallop-edged photo of the young boys of the Fort Pratt Industrial Indian Boarding School with the number 31 printed on the back—Walt notices that the faces of all the children are blurred—almost all of them.
In the photographic process of the late 1800’s, the subject had to remain completely still; any movement at all would ruin the development of the tin plates. Not moving at all would be relatively impossible for children of any age, hence the only boy who stood still. Or was that it? The child couldn’t still be alive after all this time, but could his lineage?
What if the good sheriff decides to cross time and space in an attempt to rescue the tiny souls marked by the thirty-one crosses on the hill above Fort Pratt where the Indian Boarding School used to stand—an act that would right a tragic wrong.
Hell And Back 9/6/22
See you on the trail,