Building on a traditional Native American approach to justice, the Center’s peacemaking programs focus on healing and community restoration rather than punishment.
Although traditional peacemaking varies across Native American tribes, it generally brings together disputants, along with family members, friends, and other members of the community to speak about how a disruptive event affected each person. The purpose is not only to resolve the immediate dispute, but also to heal the relationships among those involved and restore balance to the community.
The Center’s peacemaking model consists of the following components:
Referrals to the peacemaking program come from a variety of sources, including the local justice system. The program also accepts referrals from community members who are involved in disputes that have not entered the formal justice system. Eligible cases include school bullying, truancy, minor assaults, shoplifting, and many other issues. The program will accept both first-time offenders and those with prior criminal records.
Participation in the peacemaking program is voluntary. In cases involving victims, the prosecutor is responsible for explaining the process to the victim and obtaining consent to proceed. The victim is invited—but not required—to speak with the program staff to learn more about the process and decide whether to participate in the peacemaking sessions. With consent from defense counsel, the program staff also meets with the defendant and explains the peacemaking process. The peacemaking program trains community members to lead the peacemaking sessions.
Throughout the process, participants are encouraged to include family members, friends, and others who were affected by the dispute. All participants have an equal opportunity to speak about how the dispute affected them personally. Typical outcomes include apologies for harm done, commitments to resolve future disagreements using peaceful means, and proactive steps to address underlying issues through employment and education.