While ascending the Missouri in 1804, Lewis and Clark met trader Jean Valle, who had wintered in Cheyenne camps near the Black Hills and who recounted extensive horse-raiding upon Spanish settlements. Trail of the Red Butterfly is the first novel to depict such a raid through Cheyenne eyes.
Cheyenne Kit Fox headman Stone learns that his twin, Whirlwind, has gone missing on an 1807 foray into northeastern New Spain. Gathering an eclectic party of Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Gataka warriors, women and children, and a wolf dog, Stone sets out from his camp on the Upper Republican River, present-day eastern Colorado. Stone’s relentless search takes his party across the High Plains of Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas; through the Davis and Chisos mountains; into the Bolsón de Mapimí; and past the great laguna to the Nazas River, where finally he picks up his brother’s trail. With the help of Maria, a Hiaqui woman whose freedom they buy, the party doggedly follows the trail in hostile country, through towns and ranches to dramatic conclusion on the Camino Real.
Relying on Juan Pedro Walker’s 1805 map and a distinguished career in anthropological research, Karl Schlesier conjures a convincing journey into the unknown, driven in part by the lure of plunder and distant places, but ultimately sustained by a brother’s determination to recover his other half.