Summary: Chapter 3: Justice

Judge Coutts and Joe study old case files, looking for people with motives for harming their family. Judge Coutts focuses on two cases involving the Larks, a white family he once ruled against because their store overcharged Native Americans and encroached on Native American lands. Judge Coutts tells Joe how Mrs. Lark gave birth to twins and rejected the weaker twin, a girl. He explains that Albert and Betty Wishkob, a Native American family, unofficially adopted the girl, Linda. After Albert and Betty died, the Larks sought custody of their now-adult daughter, trying to grab the Wishkob family’s Native American allotment. Judge Coutts ruled against them again, and Linda Wishkob’s siblings led a boycott of their store. Judge Coutts adds that the Larks are dead now, but their son, Linden Lark, blames him for the failures of the Lark family. 

Joe reads about another case involving Vince Madwesin, Angus Kapshaw’s stepfather and the same tribal policeman who had interviewed Geraldine at the hospital. Madwesin once ejected a drunk from a sacred ceremony held at an old round house near Reservation Lake. Suddenly, Joe realizes that the old round house is where the attack on his mother happened.

Analysis: Chapter 3: Justice

This chapter reinforces the difficulties of tribal land, law, and justice and focuses on the complicated and conflicted laws that apply to people on reservations. Joe and his father study old cases which Judge Coutts had presided over. Each case they examine reveals the complicated nature of justice between the federal government and Native American lands. The case of the Larks’ convenience store and its tendency to overcharge Native American customers reveals the racism within that family. It also suggests that this racism isn’t limited to an isolated incident but is rather a common pattern built within the structure of a shared community. The second case they examine reveals the Lark family’s failed attempt at annexing the Wishkob land through a flimsy attempt to regain guardianship of their abandoned and now adult daughter Linda. This act is steeped within unconscious racism much like the first case, and the failures of the Lark family spark suspicions within Joe and his father as to who the attacker may be. Meanwhile, it is implied that the two have deduced that the round house, a culturally important location, is the scene of the crime. Staging Geraldine’s attack at the round house is an affront to the community, so if this is in fact true then the Larks have once again encroached on a safe space within the community to assert their dominance over the land. This will lead to further complications in who exactly has jurisdiction over the investigation and how it may proceed.