The most recent episode of Longmire takes us back to the Cheyenne Indian Reservation. “Dogs, Horses and Indians” also bravely tackles the issue of the blood quantum (the minimum percentage of Native American ancestry that will allow someone to claim membership in a federally enrolled tribe), and even more bravely jumps into a mystery story that is deeply entangled with reservation politics. I can’t think of another American television show that has approached either of these topics in a serious and engaged way.
The leader of the tribal council has been murdered. Initially described as someone everyone loves, we eventually discover that he has a gambling problem—which perhaps does not make him the best choice to take the lead on a casino development on the reservation. In an effort to ensure that future gambling profits are thinned out by being distributed to too many tribal members, the tribal council (against the wishes of a couple of members who “just happened” to be away when the vote on the issue was held) has just passed a resolution changing the blood quantum requirement, and thus disenrolling 60 tribal members. Being disenrolled provides a powerful motive for murder.
We also got to see another side of Zahn McClarnon’s tribal police chief Mathias. Up to this point, he’s been a one note character (he really hates Walt, and that’s pretty much all there’s been to his character), but we get to see him demonstrate that he is perhaps more like Walt than either of them would like to admit. Mathias actually moves the body so that it is discovered off the reservation—in Walt’s jurisdiction. He recognizes the unpredictable political implications of the murder, and, ultimately, he decides that the only way to achieve justice is to hand off the investigation to Walt. “Look me in the eye and tell me,” he says to Walt, “that you’ve never broken the law in order to do the right thing.” Walt can’t do it. And, in the final episode next week, looks like we may find out exactly what Walt has done in Denver that may have been the right thing, but perhaps not the legal thing.