According to CBS News,
A clearly delighted and surprised Erdrich, who’s part Ojibwe, spoke in her tribal tongue and then switched to English as she dedicated her fiction award to “the grace and endurance of native women.”
Only fifteen or so women have won the adult fiction prize since 1952, and Erdrich is the first American Indian woman to ever win it. “This is a book about a huge case of injustice ongoing on reservations,” she said. “Thank you for giving it a wider audience.”
When the short list was released last month, Indian Country Today wrote,
Erdrich’s story, though fictional, is especially timely considering recent news about the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and revelations of rampant sexual abuse on at least one reserve. It’s the second in a trilogy begun in 2008 with The Plague of Doves (a Pulitzer Prize finalist, also published by HarperCollins), and unfolds in the aftermath of the rape of Geraldine Coutts on her North Dakota Ojibwe reservation in 1988. Her 13-year-old son, Joe, takes revenge into his own hands as he watches, helpless, while his mother succumbs to the emotional injuries wrought by trauma…. The murky jurisdiction—determining whether the attack has occurred on tribal, state or federal land—impedes investigation and prosecution in the novel, even as it reflects the reality faced by many victims of violence in Indian country.
Erdrich beat out beloved and decorated Junot Díaz, (This Is How You Lose Her) and Dave Eggers (A Hologram for the King), in what the New York Times called an “unusually competitive” field.