This morning while I was getting ready for work, I heard a brief news report on NPR about a wildfire on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Immediately I listened closer to catch any references to locations I may know, and was rewarded with a mention of the city of Lander. I’ve never been to the Wind River Reservation, but several years ago I read through most of the mystery books written by Margaret Coel that take place on the reservation. Coel is a native of Colorado, but has spent enough time with the Arapaho and on the reservation to be able to write it well. She based her Father John O’Malley’s St. Francis Mission on the existing St. Stephen’s Indian Mission.1
The two main protagonists in the series are a disgraced Jesuit priest who is a recovering alcoholic and an Arapaho woman who has returned to the reservation after many years away in the city working as an attorney. These two are an unlikely pair of sleuths, and they both have personal baggage that hinders their ability to discern the truth. The novels are as stark as the descriptions of the wind-swept reservation and offer little comfort; however, they are a convenient vehicle for conveying Arapaho history to the ignorant like myself.