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Indigenous practices focused on repairing harm and rebuilding peace in communities have been revived by some indigenous communities and adapted for use in the court systems.

. Survey of Tribal Court effectiveness studies.
Alaska Native tribes have used sentencing circles and other cultural traditions to address problems involving tribal members for centuries. This way of dealing with disputes in a restorative and reparative manner eventually gave way to an adversarial process when Alaska was purchased by the United States. Alaska Natives have always had a unique relationship with the federal government; there is currently only one reservation in Alaska and limited other forms of Indian country in the state. In 1971 the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was signed into law, extinguishing all unsettled Alaska Native claims to land by placing title to land in the control of Alaska Native corporations. Subsequent cases have determined that land transferred to Alaska Native corporations via ANCSA cannot be considered Indian country for the purpose of establishing tribal courtjurisdiction.(excerpt)
. Tribal jurisdiction over social and minor crimes: The only feasible resolution for institutional racism in Alaskan criminal law enforcement.
Alaska Natives face well-documented impediments to criminal justice and village public safety.' Federal, state, and non-governmental investigative committees consistently report systemic racial injustice. Recommendations universally support localization of governance, either by enabling existing tribal entities to self-help or by extending the mechanisms of the State into rural communities. Despite over forty years of academic consensus, Alaska's racial injustice persists largely unremitted. Failure to adequately address the sources and symptoms of racial disparity is in part a factor of changing political administrations, evolving resource considerations, and competition between state and federal legal regimes. Remedial measures undertaken by the State suffer from chronic underfunding; meanwhile, tribal entities lack the resources or legal authority to engage in self-help. Geographic and cultural barriers exacerbate insufficient resources and obstruct necessary reform. (excerpt)
Aboriginal Corrections Policy Unit. The Four Circles of Hollow Water
This long document consists of a collection of various materials exploring the experience of the Hollow Water First Nation (the Ojibwa people in Canada) in responding to problems of sexual abuse among its people. More specifically, the Hollow Water Community Holistic Circle Healing (CHCH), an initiative begun in 1985, is a coordinated community response to the sexual abuse in Hollow Water. The holistic healing circle is intended to restore balance by empowering individuals, families, and communities to respond in a constructive and healing way with problems of sexual abuse. The four circles in the title of the document refer to the following scheme for understanding the variety of experiences and for organizing the presentation of the materials in the report: the Ojibwa circle; the offender circle; the victim circle; and the Hollow Water circle. The section on the Ojibwa circle covers Ojibwa tradition and change in interaction with Euro-Canadian culture and government, including Christianity and Indian residential schools. The next section deals with treatment of sexual offenders in relation to non-Aboriginal approaches and Aboriginal offenders. This leads to the section on victims and their traumatization as a result of sexual abuse, as well as examination of treatment of victims, with emphasis on the Hollow Water Community Holistic Circle Healing approach.
Aboriginal Healing Foundation. Residential Schools and the Intergenerational Legacy of Abuse.
"Unresolved trauma continues to affect individuals, families, and communities. Intergenerational or multigenerational trauma happens when the effects of trauma are not resolved in one generation, allowing patterns of abuse to continue. The patterns of abuse that are passed from one generation to the next include not only physical and sexual abuse but also low self-esteem, anger, depression, violence, addictions, unhealthy relationships, fear, shame, compulsiveness, lack of good parenting skills, body pain, and panic attacks. "Breaking the cycle of abuse that began in residential schools is essential if Aboriginal communities are to be healthy, loving places in which children can be raised with love. Stopping abuse and helping families learn how they can support their own well-being is the dream of many Aboriginal people, and it is what the mission statement of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation is all about." (excerpt)
Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council. Circle Sentencing: Involving Aboriginal Communities in the Sentencing Process
Circle sentencing or circle courts arose in Canada in the early 1992 out of a decision from the Supreme Court of the Yukon in the case of R v Moses. In that case the presiding judge, Judge Stuart, advocated a significant change in the Canadian sentencing process. Judge Stuart was of the opinion that a significant and immediate improvement could be achieved within the judicial system by increasing meaningful community involvement in the sentencing process, before during and after the sentencing takes place. In attempting to implement this Judge Stuart consulted the local Indian community and the concept of circle courts was developed. Circle courts were adopted by a number of more traditionally oriented first nations people in Canada, but have subsequently been adopted in Canadian urban settings and are also now used in the United States. (excerpt)
Alcoze, Thom and Robyn, Linda. The Link between Enviromental Policy and the Colonization Process and Its Effects on American Indian Involvement in Crime, Law, and Society
Present criminal justice literature does not recognize the connection between the environment and criminal justice issues as they pertain to American Indian people. This chapter is an essential piece that attempts to fill the void in understanding native issues relating to criminal justice, law, and society. For the most part, native peoples have been denied equal access to economic power in the past throughout the United States and Canada, particularly in the area of environmental resources. management. This is particularly important given the historical and contemporary connectedness of indigenous people to the land. Indigenous people have been uniformly excluded or at least marginalized when it comes to the passage of laws upon their lands. When laws are passed and decisions made that adversely affect native lands, resistance by native people occurs. In times past, native resistance to this intrusion has had violent consequences, including victimization through loss of land base, autonomy, and resulting poverty. When native people resist, oftentimes they are arrested and experience the odyssey of a journey through the criminal justice system. (excerpt)
Bargen, J. Critical View of Conferencing
A critique of two new criminal justice initiatives, sentencing circles in Canada and family group conferences in Australia, is presented. Sentencing circles in Canada involve a process whereby community members recommend the sentence in cases involving other members of the same community. Family group conferences in Australia allow persons directly affected by crime to actively participate in dealing with the consequences of crime. Both collective and individual accountability for offending behavior. Both initiatives are evaluated in terms of their implications for aboriginal and indigenous communities.
Baskin, Cyndy. Holistic Healing and Accountability: Indigenous Restorative Justice
Writing from an Aboriginal perspective in Canada, Cyndy Baskin draws certain fundamental contrasts between Western-European and Aboriginal approaches to understanding and dealing with wrongdoing. For example, a Western-European approach, as seen in the dominant society and its criminal justice system in Canada, focuses on the offender and his or her individual responsibility for wrongdoing, and emphasizes punishment of the offender as the most appropriate response. An Aboriginal approach emphasizes a collective responsibility for dealing with wrongdoing and seeks healing to restore peace and balance among the community, offender, and victim. In this framework, Baskin discusses her work with Aboriginal sexual offenders using culture-based restorative justice aims and processes, such as circles.
Bopp, Judie and Bopp, Michael. At the Time of Disclosure: A manual for Front-line Community Workers Dealing with Sexual Abuse Disclosures in Aboriginal Communities
As indicated in the title, Judie and Michael Bopp developed this manual to assist front-line community workers, especially those in Aboriginal communities, to deal more effectively with issues around sexual abuse disclosures. It is not a comprehensive volume covering all aspects of sexual abuse. Rather, it focuses on a specific aspect of this very complex and critical social problem, namely, the disclosure phase. The manual is intended to help community workers understand more clearly the many factors which must be considered when dealing with disclosures of sexual abuse and to ensure that the needs of everyone affected by the situation are being addressed. In the manual the authors offer information on the following topics: a brief introduction to community-based approaches to dealing with abuse; guidelines for facilitating disclosures of abuse and investigating allegations; issues and needs of those affected by abuse (e.g., the victim, the victim’s family, the abuser, the abuser’s family, the community, and the justice system); and suggestions and guidelines for planning the healing and restoration of balance after a disclosure of abuse.
Buller, Ed. Aboriginal Community Healing Processes In Canada.
Issues of abuse within families and particularly Aboriginal families have been brought to the surface in Canada over the last decade. In response, a growing number of Aboriginal communities are developing holistic models of treatment for Aboriginal victims, offenders, families and the community as a whole. The approach taken is one that addresses the root causes of criminal activity and proactively engages offenders, victims and families to break the cycle of abuse. These initiatives work within the current criminal justice system while bringing a unique alternative to imprisonment that can lead to stronger and safer communities. Communities engaged in these healing approaches have seen benefits in terms of significantly reduced criminal activity and several other social benefits. There is not one universally recognized definition of community healing. Some have described healing as being “about collective approaches to change that enhance Aboriginal cultural identity. It is about family and community crisis intervention, integrated human services, political cooperation and public participation in processes of planned change and institution building.”i The Four Worlds Centre for Development Education concludes that healing “ may therefore be strategically described as a process of removing barriers and building the capacity of people and communities to address the determinants of health.(excerpt)
Clifton, Deborah and Claes, Rhonda. Needs and Expectations for Redress of Victims of Abuse at Native Residential Schools
This paper is intended to provide a review of the needs of victims of abuse in residential schools, and the outcomes they seek from the process of redress. Our goal is to obtain as complete and accurate a picture as possible of the needs and expectations of residential school survivors. Residential schooling was an aspect of colonisation that had a particularly destructive effect on First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, families, and individuals. Several generations of native people over the past one hundred and fifty years attended residential schools. Many children were subjected to horrific physical and sexual abuse, sometimes lasting over periods of year, and many of them died. Far more children experienced a standard level of brutality, in an environment characterised by forced labour, poor and inadequate food, harsh discipline, little or no medical attention, the absence of family and community ties, and a complete lack of emotional nurturing. Only a small minority got an education -- academic or vocational -- out of the experience. All students were dependants in a system which expounded an unquestioned belief in the moral and intellectual superiority of white culture, and vilification of all aspects of native life. Long awaited recognition that this experience produced profound, and profoundly negative, impacts has given rise to this report. We do hope we've presented a clear picture of what the problems are, because a clear picture does provide a foundation for action. Our recommendation, none of which incidentally, haven’t been made before, point to some of the many actions that would recognise, and perhaps in small measure alleviate, a massive grief and long standing injustice. (excerpt)
Costello, Nancy A.. "Walking Together in a Good Way: Indian Peacemaker Courts in Michigan"
The Peacemaker Court, established by the Grand Traverse Band in 1996, allows disputes that would otherwise be handled by judges and attorneys to be settled by tribal members who simply "talk things out" with the help of a peacemaker. The ultimate goal of the peacemaking process is to heal the minds, spirits, physical beings, and emotions of all parties involved, including the wrongdoer, the victim, and their families. By so doing, the harmony of the tribal community is restored. (excerpt)
Cunliffe, Emma and Cameron, Angela. Writing the Circle: Judicially Convened Sentencing Circles and the Textual Organization of Criminal Justice.
Trial court judges who work in remote northern Canadian Aboriginal communities use judicially convened sentencing circles to gather information and develop sentencing recommendations in some intimate violence cases. Proponents claim that judicially convened sentencing circles are a restorative justice practice that heals the offender, his community, and the survivor of the violence. Proponents also look to sentencing circles as a tool to fmd a just outcome that minimizes Aboriginal men's incarceration. We use a methodology developed by feminist sociologist Dorothy Smith to consider whether the institutional priorities being established and approved by courts in sentencing circle cases provide adequate protection for Aboriginal women against recurrent intimate violence in their communities. Finding that Aboriginal women's experiences of violence are largely excluded from the realm of institutional concern, we suggest that judicially convened sentencing circles present a deceptively simple solution to the complex and longstanding problem of Aboriginal people's experiences with the Canadian criminal justice system. It is therefore important to counter the discourses that claim that judicially convened sentencing circles have the potential to restore Aboriginal communities. This article counters that discourse in two ways: first, by identifying that Aboriginal women's experiences and knowledge are being excluded from the judicial construction of Aboriginal communities in these cases; and, second, by reasserting that any solution to the problem of intimate violence must be part of a broader effort to overcome poverty and the legacy of colonialism within Aboriginal communities. (author's abstract)
Dutil, Jean-L.. "Restorative Practices Seen by the Court"
Quebec, Canada, Dutil discusses a number of principles and practices in Aboriginal communities in Quebec – principles and practices blending Aboriginal patterns and Euro-Canadian criminal justice. Using examples from actual incidents of crime, he refers in particular to sentencing circles and their similarity to traditional Aboriginal responses to wrongdoing (those traditional responses being based on Aboriginal values and philosophy).
Eagle, Harley. Restorative Justice in Native Cultures
Harley Eagle is of Dakota and Saulteaux ancestry. He lives on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota among his Oglala Lakota relatives. From this indigenous perspective, and from his experiences in community work on the reservation, he writes about restorative justice in native cultures. After rehearsing some of the history of conflict between native peoples and Euro-Americans in North America and its harmful effects on native peoples, he states that it is necessary to keep in mind this historical context when practitioners engage in restorative justice work within indigenous communities. When dealing with present conflicts between people and in communities on reservations, the historical context means the conflicts often actually have a long history of family disputes that have never been healed. People involved in the conflict have forgotten traditional values, customs, and practices for dealing with conflict. Restorative approaches tap can into traditional ways, encourage native peoples, and lead to constructive results for individuals, relationships, and communities on the reservations.
Editor. Video Review: The Meaning of Life
The inmates at Canada's minimum-security prison Kwikwexwelhp are part of a program modeled on Aboriginal spirituality practices of healing a person's soul first. The inmates, who are a mix of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, learn how to be their own agents through productivity and acceptance of their crimes and their pasts. The prison works in partnership with a local Aboriginal community called Chehalis to connect the inmates with a life outside of the prison system. Many inmates find a chance to reconnect with their Aboriginal heritage and explore native expressions of spirituality without being forced into a mold of white Christianity, although the embrace of native spirituality is considered optional. Both the staff members and the community of Chehalis encourage transformation, while also affirming the inmates' personhood, worth, and abilities.
First Nations Court opens in North Vancouver
from the article by Todd Coyne in the North Shore Outlook: The judge is out of her usual judging clothes and the court sheriff wears no gun. It’s not immediately apparent — not at first — if these are just oversights, but when Judge Joanne Challenger turns from the convicted man to the packed public gallery and asks for any suggestions on sentencing and the hands go up, it becomes clear: First Nations Court is different. It began in North Vancouver in February, modeled on a similar program in New Westminster that allows anyone who identifies as aboriginal and has been convicted of a crime in provincial court to have their sentence decided in a court that gives special heed to First Nations history.
First Nations court seen as path out of vicious cycle
from the article by Mike Youds for the Kamloops Daily News: Local bands have asked for a First Nations court to be established in Kamloops, delegates heard Thursday at an Aboriginal justice forum at TRU. The forum focused on the Aboriginal sentencing principles of Gladue, recently reaffirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada, while hosting Justice Marion Buller Bennett of First Nations court in New Westminster.
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