Matthew Fletcher has published “Anishinaabe Law and the Round House” in the Albany Government Law Review.
Here is the abstract:
This paper addresses the Indian country criminal justice system’s difficulties through the context of the Great Lakes Anishinaabeg’s traditional customs, traditions, and laws, and their modern treatment of crime. Louise Erdrich’s The Round House expertly captures the reality of crime and fear of crime in Anishinaabe Indian country, and offers a bleak view of the future of criminal justice absent serious reform in the near future.
Congratulations to Louise Erdrich. Her work is getting a great deal of attention around the country. Finally.
Here is a great quote from Librarian of Congress James Billington about why Erdrich was chosen for this award:
Librarian of Congress James Billington said in a statement that Erdrich’s novels have uniquely explored the cultural challenges faced by Native Americans and mixed-race Americans.
“[H]er prose manages to be at once lyrical and gritty, magical yet unsentimental, connecting a dreamworld of Ojibwe legend to stark realities of the modern-day,” Billington said. “And yet, for all the bracing originality of her work, her fiction is deeply rooted in the American literary tradition.”
From the MSU Press Website:
Bawaajimo: A Dialect of Dreams in Anishinaabe Language and Literature combines literary criticism, sociolinguistics, native studies, and poetics to introduce an Anishinaabe way of reading. Although nationally specific, the book speaks to a broad audience by demonstrating an indigenous literary methodology. Investigating the language itself, its place of origin, its sound and structure, and its current usage provides new critical connections between North American fiction, Native American literatures, and Anishinaabe narrative. The four Anishinaabe authors discussed in the book, Louise Erdrich, Jim Northrup, Basil Johnston, and Gerald Vizenor, share an ethnic heritage but are connected more clearly by a culture of tales, songs, and beliefs. Each of them has heard, studied, and written in Anishinaabemowin, making their heritage language a part of the backdrop and sometimes the medium, of their work. All of them reference the power and influence of the Great Lakes region and the Anishinaabeakiing, and they connect the landscape to the original language. As they reconstruct and deconstruct the aadizookaan, the traditional tales of Nanabozho and other mythic figures, they grapple with the legacy of cultural genocide and write toward a future that places ancient beliefs in the center of the cultural horizon.
What seems like dry legislation can leave Native women at the mercy of their predators or provide a slim margin of hope for justice. As a Cheyenne proverb goes, a nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground.
If our hearts are on the ground, our country has failed us all. If we are safe, our country is safer. When the women in red shawls dance, they move with slow dignity, swaying gently, all ages, faces soft and eyes determined. Others join them, shaking hands to honor what they know, sharing it. We dance behind them and with them in the circle, often in tears, because at every gathering the red shawls increase, and the violence cuts deep.
Unfortunately the article isn’t available online, but it includes snippets of an interview with Louise Erdrich, a discussion of The Round House, and some comments by both Erdrich and Professor Bruce Duthu on the problems with the current criminal jurisdiction framework on reservations. Here’s further information about where to find it.