Oswego Reading Initiative explained by Cornell University professor

On Thursday Oct. 2, Eric Cheyfitz from Cornell University came to speak to students on U.S. Federal Indian Law and Violence Against Native Women in Louise Erdrich’s “The Round House.”

“The Round House” was the 13th book chosen from the Oswego Reading Initiate program, which aims to help bring to light issues and provide thought-provoking conversations from the readers.

The auditorium was filled with students’ notebooks and the like to hear to hear the lecture by Cheyfitz. Cheyfitz talked about “The Round House” and how it expressed the difficulties with Native Americans and American laws.

Going on to describe past problems that native people faced, Cheyfitz then described federal Indian Law, the official name by the U.S. government when dealing with Native Law, as really a myth by the lack of power in which it is enforced or even allowed. It was found that many state and federal courts did not care about he crimes committed on the reservations.

“The federal government cut funds on the reservation for basic law enforcement, leading an increase to about 20 times more than on non-native lands,” Cheyfitz said. “With 80 percent of sex crimes on women, like rape, being committed by non-native men, one would think that Indian courts would be allowed to try and prosecute a rapist.”

It is known that rape on native women is very high, and most of the times it is interracial, and could be considered a hate crime.

Efforts to help Indian Reservations from federal employees are low when dealing with non-Indians. Even if these people are caught and prosecuted, it is only considered a minor crime when in Indian courts. Only a federal employee can change this from a minor crime to a major one.

The question was asked where is there justice?

“’The Round House’ is a great book to bring to the public the lack of effort by the federal government and the conflicting legal system,” Cheyfitz said.

He went on to describe how the book expressed the practices of Indian Law, and the reasons for rape that would come about, as well as the kinship between people and the community.

After Cheyfitz was done with his lecture, he allowed the students to ask questions based on the reading and about native culture. One student asked about the traditional ideas of justice in the book and in native tribes.

“Justice is equivalent to the notion of balance,” Cheyfitz said. “Crimes committed were met with ideas on how to bring the criminal back into the tribe, to bring back the tribe to peace and balance.”

Samantha Kaye was one of the students who attended the talk.

“The lecture was very informative. Cheyfitz was very passionate about talking about Native Americans, and it was just great to hear from an expert in the field,” Kaye said.

The reading initiative asks students annually to read a certain book during the summer months.