Indian Time - A Voice from the Eastern Door

Big Read initiative aimed at getting neighboring communities talking about social issues in Native communities


The Akwesasne Library in April is participating in a National Endowment for the Arts “Big Read Month” campaign aimed at getting neighboring communities engaged through reading.

Akwesasne and SUNY Plattsburgh libraries have been participating by giving away free copies of “The Round House” by Louise Erdrich with the hope of getting people discussing issues facing Native communities. There are several copies left in Akwesasne, but most have been given out, said library assistant Charity Lazore.

“What the Big Read is based on, all the situations and topics brought up in this book, it’s based in a Native community but it could be in every community,” Lazore said. “There’s domestic violence, a rape, family dynamics ... you take all those issues and make talking points out of them.”

The Seven Dancers Coalition is also participating. They hosted a talk with a sexual assault survivor in Akwesasne and had the author sign copies of the book. They did a similar event in Plattsburgh. She also noted that the Native North American Traveling College has gotten involved.

“It takes all these issues and puts them out in the community,” Lazore said. “The book itself is based on a family, there’s a mystery, murder, it’s trying to solve all that.”

She said not all of the discussions they hope to start are necessarily based on the heavier subject matter.

“It can be as simple as there’s a cooking scene in the book, so a group can say ‘let’s have a cooking contest.’ It can be something as simple as that that ties in.”

Seniors book club at Office for Aging is reading “The Roundhouse” for April.

“There’s a birthday party in the book, so at the end of their discussion they will have sort of a birthday party to commemorate the end of the book,” Lazore said.

She said Julia Devine, the coordinator for the Center for Community Engagement at SUNY Plattsburgh, has been a big part of getting people involved with the Big Read and offering free books in both communities.

“What’s been really nice is that office has reached out to the community ... everybody gets the negatives, there’s lots of issues we all have in common and Julia has really done a fantastic job of tying in different issues and things all with a positive spin. There’s some really heavy issues and she’s brought them to the forefront,” Lazore said.

She said people who take one of the free books can choose to either keep it, return it or pass it around.

“What we’re really pushing is a read, share and return,” Lazore said. “You are welcome to keep the book.

“If you really liked it, share it with your neighbor.”

More information about the event is at The site includes artwork by local artist David Fadden.


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