Can Peacemaking Work Outside of Tribal Communities?

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Can Peacemaking Work Outside of Tribal Communities?

Can Peacemaking Work Outside of Tribal Communities?

 

Anna Jack, peacemaker administrator with the Colville Tribes, and  Brett Taylor of the Center for Court Innovation.Anna Jack, peacemaker administrator with the Colville Tribes, and Brett Taylor of the Center for Court Innovation.
Practitioners from Tribal and State Courts Express Enthusiasm for Testing the Approach in State Courts

FORT McDOWELL YAVAPAI NATION, SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ., Dec. 6, 2011—Twelve practitioners and policymakers from both tribal and state courts participated in a roundtable about Indian peacemaking with an eye toward introducing peacemaking in non-Indian settings.

The roundtable was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, in collaboration with the Center for Court Innovation.

Barbara A. Smith, supreme court justice of the Chickasaw Nation.Barbara A. Smith, supreme court justice of the Chickasaw Nation.Peacemaking is a traditional Native American approach to justice. While the exact form peacemaking takes varies among tribes, it usually consists of one or more peacemakers—often community elders—who gently guide a conversation involving not only those directly involved in an offense or conflict but family members, friends, and the larger community. Most forms of peacemaking follow a few simple rules. Among them, according to Barry Stuart, the retired chief judge of the Yukon Territorial Court, are “don’t dump and run”—in other words, participants must stay until the end and listen respectfully to all speakers. Other rules include “speak the truth” and “no shaming or blaming,” Stuart said.


While conventional Anglo-Western criminal courts generally focus on determining a defendant’s guilt and sentence, peacemaking is restorative, focusing less on punishing the individual and more on mending relationships and healing the community. It does this by creating a safe space that nurtures participatory skills and new connections.

Peacemaking also differs from mediation. Barbara A. Smith, a justice on the Supreme Court of the Chickasaw Nation, said that the difference between western mediation and Indian peacemaking is that “mediation is about an issue; peacemaking is about relationships. … The key is the peacemakers go in not with the thought of solving the issue. Instead, it’s about helping everyone learn to talk to one another” so that they can resolve the problem themselves.

Stanley L. Nez, peacemaker liaison in the Aneth Judicial District of the Navajo Nation, said peacemaking has deep roots in Indian culture, religion and outlook. Native Americans value harmony and interconnectedness, he said, noting that harmonious relationships among humans are just as important as a harmonious relationship among the basic elements of the universe—“earth, air, water, and fire.”

Barry Stuart, the retired chief judge of the Yukon Territorial Court.Barry Stuart, the retired chief judge of the Yukon Territorial Court.David D. Raasch, an associate judge with the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribal Court, said a peacemaking session is less structured than a courtroom, where procedures are dictated by case law and legislation. Peacemaking is “like opening the floodgates on a dam. The water can flow where it will flow,” he said.

All participants agreed that peacemaking is perpetrator, victim, families and the community at large to address the damage caused by an offense and put safeguards in place to reduce the likelihood of recidivism.

“We say all the people in the circle are now probation officers because they can call together another circle if the [offender] does something wrong,” said Michael A. Jackson, the keeper of the circle in the Village of Kake and magistrate in Alaska District Court.

By the end of the roundtable, which took place over a day and a half, participants seemed to agree that it was possible to adapt the key components of peacemaking for use in a non-tribal setting, including a state court.

The peacemaking roundtable is one of several initiatives sponsored by the Center for Court Innovation’s Tribal Justice Exchange. Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Exchange encourages state and tribal practitioners to consider the question: What lessons can state and tribal courts learn from each other? The hope is the answers will help strengthen both tribal and state court systems by expanding knowledge of proven strategies and fostering mutual understanding.

The peacemaking roundtable was moderated by Brett Taylor with assistance from Aaron Arnold and Erika Sasson. The roundtable will be summarized in a report, scheduled to be completed in early 2012, that will serve as a resource for those interested in creating peacemaking programs in their communities, tribal and non-tribal.

Read an article from the Marshall Independent about roundtable participant Julie Marthaler's plans to create peacemaking-inspired 'circles' in southwest Minnessota.

The Peacemaking Roundtable brought participants from both tribal and state justice systems toArizona for a daylongThe Peacemaking Roundtable brought participants from both tribal and state justice systems to
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Roundtable Participants

Lauren B. Abramson
Executive Director
Community Conferencing Center
Johns Hopkins Medical Institute

Justin A. Barry
Chief Clerk
New York City Criminal Court
New York State Unified Court System

Alex M. Calabrese
Presiding Judge
Red Hook Community Justice Center
New York State Unified Court System

Raymond Deal
Peacemaker Liaison
Shiprock District Court
Navajo Nation

Anna Jack
Peacemaker Administrator
Colville Tribes

Michael A. Jackson
Keeper of the Circle, Village of Kake
Magistrate, Alaska District Court

Julie Marthaler
Circle Coordinator
Southwest Health and Human Services, Minnesota

Stanley L. Nez
Peacemaker Liaison
Aneth Judicial District
Navajo Nation

Michael D. Petoskey
Chief Judge
Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians

David D. Raasch
Associate Judge
Stockbridge-Munsee Tribal Court

Barbara A. Smith
Supreme Court Justice
Chickasaw Nation

Barry Stuart
Chief Judge (retired)
Yukon Territorial Court, Canada

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