Arts & Entertainment

PBS: Louise Erdrich tackles crime issues in 'The Round House'





"LOUISE ERDRICH, author of "The Round House": I was really haunted for years by the background, the political background of this book.

But I didn't want to write a political diatribe of any sort. So I waited and waited to have some character come to me and speak to me about this situation.

JEFFREY BROWN: So, if it started with this issue, then let's explain the issue, because -- and it's not giving away much of the novel to say there is this jurisdictional problem, right, of law, who's a native, who has jurisdiction over crimes.

But what is it that you wanted to explore? Explain the problem.

LOUISE ERDRICH: Well, there is a legacy of violence against Native women that has gotten worse and worse over time.

And, historically, the underpinnings lie in the complex nature of the land tenure on Native reservations. Each piece of land has a different jurisdictional authority. A lot of this -- there's attempts to solve this.

One of the most recent was sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy of the Senate Judicial Committee, and their recommendation was termed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act in 2012.

So there have been attempts, but there is a kind of fear of restoring some pieces of sovereignty to Native tribes. And the statistics are that one in three Native women are raped. About 67 percent of those rapes fall under federal jurisdiction and are not prosecuted. Something like 88 percent are believed to be committed by non-Natives.

And the tribes have no jurisdiction over non-Natives. So part of the fix is to restore some sovereignty, some jurisdiction over non-Native people only in these situations."

Get the Story:
New Erdrich Novel Deals With Crime and Jurisdiction on North Dakota Reservation (PBS Newshour 10/26)

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