Virgil Wounded Horse is the enforcer on the Rosebud Reservation in southern South Dakota. He handles business that regular police — both on and off the Rez — ignore. Despite his life work, he has lost touch with his native Sioux roots.
One of the reservation council members approaches Virgil, asking him to handle the Rez’s newest and most difficult issue yet — heroin has made its way onto the Rosebud Reservation. Virgil is asked to find out how it’s coming in and stop its distribution in its tracks. He is hesitant to take on this dangerous task until the heroin problem hits close to home, to his own ward and nephew.
He enlists the help of the council member’s daughter, who also happens to be Virgil’s old girlfriend, and the two begin their hunt for the culprits. The hunt takes them all the way to Denver, where a powerful drug cartel is working hard to begin distribution on the Rez.
In the process of finding the root of the heroin problem, Virgil must come face to face with his own issues. As he does so, he becomes closer to his native roots.
Winter Counts, a novel by Native American David Heska Wanbli Weiden, hits to the heart of Native Americans’ issues in America. In that respect, it’s a difficult book to read. It’s hard to see how many American Indians live and what reservation life is really like. But it’s important for all of us to look at the problems facing natives Americans.
In addition to being an eye-opening novel, it is also a heck of a good mystery, and a good look at life on reservations, not just the Rosebud Reservation, but reservations around our country.
I highly recommend this book. It will be on of my favorites this year. I’m hoping it’s the beginning of a series. I want to see more of Virgil Wounded Knee.