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Peacemaking in Red Hook

Raymond Deal, Traditional Program Specialist, Shiprock District Court, Navajo Nation and Gloria Benally, Program Coordinator, Navajo Nation, train future Red Hook Peacemakers

After an intensely trying period in Red Hook in the weeks following Hurricane Sandy, building, strenghtening, and healing relationships between residents and organizations has become crucial. This past weekend, we took a step towards preparing the neighborhood for the hard work ahead with a two-day workshop with peacemakers from the Navajo Nation for residents we are training to serve as peacemakers here in Red Hook.

A new project from the Center for Court Innovation's Tribal Justice Exchange, 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. 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.

The Red Hook Community Justice Center was lucky to have been selected as a pilot site to test out how a Peacemaking program can work outside of tribal communities. Here is a quick synopsis of the workshop from Brett Taylor, Deputy Director of the Tribal Justice Exchange:
Our Navajo trainers had our ten peacemakers spellbound throughout the training and imparted incredible amounts of advice, wisdom and guidance to our Red Hook group. Our group asked many great questions and have really started to understand the process of Peacemaking. The trainers were able to use the recent devastation that beset Red Hook throughout the weekend, and I personally felt that much of Friday's session was a peacemaking between the residents and the elements.
 For more on peacemaking, click here.


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