Museum of New Mexico Press


Winter of the Holy Iron

Joseph Marshall III, Author

In the winter of 1750, a holy iron (flintlock rifle) and two Frenchmen are thrust into the lives of the Sicangu Lakota. A Lakota Sioux writer details in fictional form the impact of the gun on his people's culture.


"This is a powerful story about a people that must change to accommodate not only the white man but one of their tools--the gun. The questions raised in the story are ones that we are still struggling with today. Does owning a gun give the right to kill?" Editorial Review


"Marshall, a Lakota Sioux educator and writer, details the impact of the gun on his people's culture in this well-written and provocative first novel set in the Dakotas during the mid-18th century, when contacts between the Lakota and whites were rare. Whirlwind, the war leader of the Wolf Tail Lakota, finds the severely wounded Gaston de la Verendrye. He recognizes a bullet wound because he himself had been fired upon some years before and had captured his would-be killer's 'holy iron.' Though Whirlwind had hidden the firearm, dreading its power to influence his people, he takes the wounded man to his camp and sets in motion events that will confirm his worst fears. Meanwhile, Henri Bruneaux, the crazed thief who shot de la Verendrye in an attempt to steal his gold, renews his attack, killing one of the tribe's women and kidnapping another. Heading up a party to rescue the captured woman and bring Bruneaux to justice, Whirlwind finds himself opposed by his fellow Sioux Bear Heart, who longs to possess the holy iron. The ensuing struggle will tear the Wolf Tail people apart. Like Ella Cara Deloria in Waterlily, Marshall provides a vivid and authentic portrayal, free of romanticism or stereotype, of the Sioux before they were overwhelmed by whites. His insider's view of tribal history and custom--which doubles as an effective cautionary tale about the destructiveness of guns--deserves a place on the shelf of anyone interested in American history or Native American literature."
-Publishers Weekly

Trim: 8.5" x 5.5"

Pages: 304

American Indians




Paperback $16.95