Murder on the Red River

Murder on the Red River
by Marcie R. Rendon

A murdered man in a field. The sheriff calls on Cash—an almost-twenty-something tough, smart Indian woman with special seeing powers. 

Cash and Sheriff Wheaton make for a strange partnership. He pulled her from her mother’s wrecked car when she was three. He’s kept an eye out for her ever since. It’s a tough place to live—that part of the world where the Red River divides Minnesota and North Dakota. Cash navigated through foster homes, and at 13 was working farms. She’s tough as nails—barely over five feet, jeans and jean jacket, smokes Marlboros, drinks Bud Longnecks. Makes her living driving truck. Playing pool on the side. Wheaton is a big lawman type. Scandinavian stock, but darker skin than most. Something else in there? Cash hasn’t ever asked. He wants her to take hold of her life. Get into junior college.

So there they are, staring at the dead Indian lying in the field. Soon Cash was dreaming the dead man’s HUD house on the Red Lake Reservation, mother and kids waiting. She has that kind of knowing. That’s the place to start looking. There’s a long and dangerous way to go to find the men who killed him. Plus there’s Jim, the married white guy. And Long Braids, the Indian guy headed for Minneapolis to join the American Indian Movement.

“A coming of age story.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Feisty, sensitive, and smart.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“Marcie Rendon’s debut, Murder on Red River, features the magnetic Cash: aged-out foster child, girl pool shark, truck driver from Minnesota’s White Earth reservation. When a native man from nearby Red Lake is knifed, her cop friend Wheaton, a Longmire-type, enlists her help. Cash’s search takes her through her own hardscrabble memories of family and land sorrowfully lost—a journey that Rendon writes of with flat-out authority.” —Lisa Sandlin, The Do-Right, winner of the Dashiell Hammet award

“Cash. That’s what most people call the 19-year-old Chippewa woman Renee Blackbear in Rendon’s searing, soaring, and ultimately unflinching story of how Native people persevere in the face of policies and people that seek to destroy the essence of who they are.” —Debbie Reese, Nambe Pueblo

“Cash’s life experiences emerge as both landscape and resource to an investigation that engages the reader to the end.” —David Beaulieu, Ph.D., Professor of American Indian Education, University of Minnesota, Duluth. Enrolled White Earth Ojibwe.

“Marcie Rendon’s portrait of a Native woman detective is vibrant and rooted in the complexities of history and a place haunted by a violent past that refuses to loosen its grip.” —Jeff Berglund, Ph.D., Director of Liberal Studies, Northern Arizona University

“What kept me reading was getting to know Cash under her tough exterior, watching her come to terms with her harrowing, unjust past in white foster homes and fight to stop the next generation of Indian kids from suffering the same fate. Rendon’s descriptions capture the rural layout of the Midwest in the 1970s, expanses of farms and nothingness between small towns populated with churches and bars, and the persistent smell of wheat and earth. Not so much has changed in rural culture today. ” —Gwen Danfelt, Drury Lane Books

Distributed by Consortium Book Sales 

Publishes March 2017

Marcie R. Rendon is an enrolled member of the White Earth Anishinabe Nation. She is a mother, grandmother, writer, and sometimes performance artist. A former recipient of the Loft’s Inroads Writers of Color Award for Native Americans, she studied poetry under Anishinabe author Jim Northrup. Her first children’s book, Pow Wow Summer was reprinted by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in 2014. Murder on the Red River is her debut novel.

Why I wrote Murder on the Red River

“The historical trauma Native people live with today was not a path of their own choosing. From 1819 to 1934, Native children were systematically removed from families and put into boarding schools.

“There they grew up like prisoners of war—punished for speaking their languages, punished for talking to their siblings if they crossed paths. 115 years of children not seeing a mom and dad raise children. 115 years of children growing up not knowing how to hold a baby or protect a toddler. What they learned was to settle disagreements with silence, withdrawal or violence.

“Then they were sent home to the newly created reservation system where up until the mid-1960s it was common practice for county and state social workers to scoop up Native children and remove them to white foster or adoptive homes. Sandy White Hawk, Director of the First Nations Repatriation Institute, says, ‘I cannot imagine the entitlement the social worker must have felt to walk into a family and just take a child. I cannot imagine how emasculating it must have been for our men to watch that happen and not be able to do anything. My uncle remembers the social worker driving into our driveway, getting out of the car and taking me.’

“White Hawk relates how on a national level 25-35% of Native children were taken and placed in non-Indian homes or institutions. In Minnesota, 1 in 4 were removed. White Earth and Red Lake reservations experienced higher removals. For each lost child, there is a set of grieving parents, siblings, grandparents, aunties and uncles.

“As members of sovereign tribal governments, Native American children have a unique political status that was reaffirmed with the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. With this Act of Congress, ‘ICWA sets federal requirements that apply to state child custody proceedings involving an Indian child who is a member of or eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe.’ Each child, by Act of Congress, should have state welfare agencies work in the best interest of the child to place the child with a family member or extended family of the tribe.

“This Act was not in place during Cash’s lifetime. While this is a book of fiction, the story of removal, heartbreak, post-traumatic-stress symptoms and generational trauma Cash exhibits are all too true. What is equally true of so many survivors of that time is Cash’s resiliency in the face of such extreme early trauma.”


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