Peacemaker Administrator Anna Francis-Jack discusses tribal history and how The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Washington State have launched and grown their peacemaking program. (May 2012)
The following is a transcript:
ROBERT V. WOLF: Hi, I'm Rob Wolf, director of communications at the Center for Court Innovation. During a visit to the Colville tribes in Washington State, I had a chance to interview a number of different people about peacemaking, which is a traditional Native American approach to justice. In earlier podcasts, I spoke with two elders and a client about their experiences with peacemaking, and in this podcast I talk with Anna Francis-Jack, who coordinates the program. One of the first things we talked about was the building we were sitting in, which allowed Anna to talk a bit about her tribe's history.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
ANNA FRANCIS-JACK: Yes, of course.
WOLF: Why don't you say where we are actually.
FRANCIS-JACK: We are at the Nesperse Long (sp?) house, which is one of the very last living legend of the Nesperse that went to war, and we were exiled here as—my forefathers were exiled here as prisoners of war.
WOLF: And approximately when was that?
FRANCIS-JACK: Late 1800’s.
FRANCIS-JACK: So some of the tribes refused to talk to us because—well refused to talk to my forefathers because they had blood on their hands, because some of the tribes here on the Colville reservation never went to war. That's one of the intergenerational family traumas that still goes on today.
WOLF: And this was a war against the whites, against the government?
FRANCIS-JACK: Yes, yes. but because of who the chief Joseph Nesperse were, when they came here they weren't quite welcome, so at one point I called myself an Indian without a country because you know, we are still here despite all the odds. This is the only Long House on the Colville reservation that practices tradition. We chose our religion, we chose our language—well not me personally but my family, my forefathers, ancestors, and the ones that came before me. It's what I was born into.
WOLF: Why don't you tell me how did your program get off the ground? You found some peacemakers and you trained them? You trained each other?
FRANCIS-JACK: They gave me a resolution that authorized the creation of the peacemaking circle program, and a list of elders.
WOLF: And this was from the tribal council?
FRANCIS-JACK: Yes. So I began from there and I did a mail-out, of course. I managed to get like 15 people to inquire. We started having meetings. I went off to Green Bay to the traditional peacemaking, and I went to one of Fillmore Blue House's presentations there and then I came back, and then I started putting together information and sharing it with the elders, and then they would come and they would give me things. And so everyone was doing research on peacemaking.
WOLF: And trying to look at traditions.
WOLF: A traditional way of resolving conflict and dealing with criminal behavior or misbehavior.
FRANCIS-JACK: Yes, but first we had to figure out exactly what peacemaking was, and then they could relate it back to their different tribes within this specific Colville reservation, since we're a confederation—we have 12 tribes. And as I explained earlier, it's the prayer, it's the smudging, it's the talking, healing circle, and it's the elders coming together, you know, with the best needs of the client in mind at all times, trying to make him feel welcome, trying to make him feel equal, trying to make him feel at ease, trying to make him trust. They have to search within themselves to find that place that they can say, okay, I did this. I can be responsible. I can stand up and I can tell the elders yes, I did this, yes, I was wrong. And maybe initially they just may mouth it but somewhere later on down the line, they actually start conveying it. It's not just words anymore.
WOLF: So just to be clear, what you said before and what you just reiterated was that it starts, there's a prayer involved, and then there's the ceremony, the smudge ceremony if someone wants to do that, and there's a talking piece which can be handed around and whoever holds the talking piece then speaks?
WOLF: So what are some, what are the typical issues or offenses that are brought to a peacemaking circle?
FRANCIS-JACK: Peacemaking was originally formed to handle juvenile cases but we don't have an active juvenile code. But the peacemaker was still created so don't ask me why.
WOLF: But you do work with juveniles, so where do they come from? Or do you not work with juveniles?
FRANCIS-JACK: No, we work with young adults. Our very first case was a juvenile just turning 18, so you could call it a cusp. When he committed the offense he was a juvenile, but when he finally made it to court he was 18 years old. He had four offenses against him that involved a person that found themselves with three other people, where they entered a house and eventually shot off a gun, which has three or four adults and also some minors in the home.
WOLF: I know you've also spoken about dealing with serious assaults.
FRANCIS-JACK: Yes. Majority of our cases now are domestic violence and the last two that we had, they referred both the man and the woman because it takes two to heal over this very serious offense. It goes against how we want to look at a person holistically, we want to heal them inside out, but it needs to be both the man and the woman, because the offense was against one another.
WOLF: Is there a protocol for how long a session lasts or how many sessions you have, or is that something fluid that is decided upon case by case?
FRANCIS-JACK: It takes its own life. It depends on where the person is at in their personal life. Some of them are really into alcohol and you know, the dysfunction in the home. Others have already been working on themselves and have only seen us four times and they're on with their life. Others have—I know one client who has been with us going on 10 months now. His attorney wrote me a letter saying that he had known this boy, turned into a man, for over two decades, representing him in a court. He said I'd like to really thank you for what it is that you and the elders do because I haven't seen or heard from him since he joined peacemaking.
WOLF: So he's been staying out of trouble, in other words.
FRANCIS-JACK: He's been staying out of trouble.
WOLF: So, it's a very intimate process, isn't it? People—I mean what I've learned today is, you know, among the things that peacemakers do, they'll relate their own stories about their own, perhaps, troubled past or conflicts in the past, to offer instruction or to offer some kind of model to the client, or example.
FRANCIS-JACK: I guess to mirror. We mirror back what we've gone through, and a lot of them realize that they're not in this on their own. There's somebody that cares for you. There's somebody that prays for you. There's somebody that's there for you. There's somebody there that can listen. There's somebody there that will pick you up once you fall. If you fall down, and if you do your drugs or do your alcohol, pick yourself back up because we've all been there. We've all—well a majority of us, some of us have never—I'm, you know, but it's each and every elder that has, like Matthew was saying, it's each and every elder that offers their little piece of information that makes it so much more full, that you know, that little pieces altogether make a much more impact on the client. And we're not there to preach, we're not there to condemn, we're not there to judge—which is their biggest fear. I consider each one of them a success when they walk through that door, because they've overcome all their fears and all their self-judgment, all their put-downs in their head, and all their old tapes. And they say, I'm gonna try it anyway.
WOLF: That's the voice of Ray Diel who is a peacemaker with the Navajo nation, who was with us on the Colville reservation. Towards the end of our conversation, I asked Anna about the first peacemaking case, the one she'd mentioned earlier about the 18-year-old charged for being with a group that had discharged a gun in a home. She said he dropped out of peacemaking, but then returned awhile later, ready to serve both the jail sentence imposed by the court, and participate again with this group of elders in peacemaking.
FRANCIS-JACK: And he tells me, I want to go back to your peacemaking. I told him, well, you can't ask me. He said why not? I said because it's the elders you have to ask forgiveness from. I said because they were there for you then. But I didn't tell him I had already asked them, and that's what they told me to ask him. (Laughs)
WOLF: That's good, right. And so is he in now? Is he back?
FRANCIS-JACK: Yes, he's in now and he's about ready to graduate. He's taking care of everything now and he's getting married. His significant other is coming to his sessions and she was even sitting in my office Tuesday. It seems like she said he was in jail doing his time.
WOLF: Doing time that he owed previously?
FRANCIS-JACK: Yeah. So he's taking care of his business and clearing his path, which is what we asked him to do. You need to clear your path. If you're going to be starting on a road with this significant other and getting married, it needs to be clear. And he's also the one that asked one of the elders to sweat with him, because he wanted to have that as part of his healing.
WOLF: And to sweat is another, is a religious—
FRANCIS-JACK: To go into the sweat house and pray, and ceremony, and ritual and do all the things that are significant. And they did, they did it. And I think his, he's gonna be a future peacemaker because Matthew's always telling everybody, you know when you come into peacemaking, after you graduate here you're a peacemaker.
WOLF: So you don't have to be an elder, per se, you have to be an older longstanding member?
WOLF: You can be a young person, that makes you an elder as well?
FRANCIS-JACK: Yes, it does.
WOLF: Or that makes you a peacemaker, I mean. I think I would have to conclude with that happy note, that I've been speaking with Anna Francis-Jack, who is the coordinator of the peacemaking program at the Confederate Tribes of Colville. So I'm Rob Wolf, Director of Communications at the Center for Court Innovation. To find out more about peacemaking and the Center for Court Innovation please visit our website at www.courtinnovation.org, and you can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes. So thanks very much, and thanks for listening.