Hardin resident speaks on advising work for ‘Longmire’ Netflix show

Logan Jeno / Big Horn County News
Thursday, July 5, 2018
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Photo by Logan Jeno

Attendees of the Western Writers of America convention look through books on June 22 at the DoubleTree hotel in Billings. At the convention, Hardin resident Marcus Red Thunder spoke on helping the “Longmire” Netflix series show authenticity in its depiction of Native Americans.

It’s easy to see why residents of Big Horn County can relate to the popular Longmire books and television show. In the Longmire universe, the fictional Absaroka County seat of Durant sits in close vicinity to the Cheyenne Reservation – partially located in real-life Big Horn County – and is home to only a few thousand people. Most of the settings in Absaroka County are rural.

Sound familiar?

Despite all of this, Hardin residents can share an even closer relation to the “Longmire” Netflix drama series. Marcus Red Thunder, a technical advisor to the show, has lived in Hardin for the past six years with his wife, Melissa Holds the Enemy. Red Thunder, along with Craig Johnson, the author of the Longmire books, and A. Martinez, who plays the character of Jacob Nighthorse on the show, attended the annual Western Writers of America convention.

The convention took place at the DoubleTree hotel in Billings on June 20-23 with events ranging from the screening of documentaries, to informational panels or writing workshops. Red Thunder and the other Longmire members headed a panel on June 22 called “From Stage to Page” with Kirk Ellis, the president of the Western Writers of America, as moderator.

The panel’s focus was the Longmire books, translated into the show, and how the actors drew inspiration from them. Though the character of Jacob Nighthorse was not present in the books, Martinez explored the nature of the character on the series.

“He’s a ruthless businessman and a political radical with the [reservation],” Martinez said. “But he has such a beautiful poetry with his words.”

Red Thunder also explained the nature of his role in the shooting of the show. As technical advisor, his job was to make sure any of the episodes that took place on the reservations were accurate. This included the using right names, customs and ceremonies. Red Thunder said this was a hard job, but a fulfilling one.

“[We need] to make sure they get it right. It’s going out to the entire world, so it’s kind of stressful,” he said. “But this is the spirit we want to portray.”

Marcus got to know Johnson and his wife while living in Sheridan, Wyoming and became the inspiration for the character of Henry Standing Bear, played on the show by Lou Diamond Phillips. Though he had no involvement in the casting for the character, Red Thunder spent time with Philips to help him get into character for the show.

The Longmire books are becoming more popular in Native American schools, according to Red Thunder. The students are able to closely relate to the characters and settings in both the books and the show.

According to Red Thunder, the books are responsible for getting more Native children to be interested in both reading and preserving the culture with which they grew up.

“There are beautiful songs, dances, and ceremonies still going on today,” he said.


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