The Cedar Bough Native American Program, which closed in 2016, was a private, independent residential treatment facility for tribal youth. For nine years, Cedar Bough provided high-risk/high-need youth, many who had been involved in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, with culturally-competent mental and behavioral healthcare services. Using traditional practices like equine therapy, drumming circles, and smudging, the Cedar Bough program sought to strengthen participants’ tribal identity and connection to Native culture. Program staff worked in partnership with a variety of supportive adults, such as therapists, case workers, child welfare workers, tribal representatives, and family members, to support, empower, and meet the needs of each participant.
Before European contact, indigenous peoples used a diverse range of traditional approaches for resolving disputes and addressing conflict. These practices reflected the unique culture, customs, and traditions of each tribe and were instrumental in maintaining the health and stability of tribal communities. Some tribes have continued using traditional justice practices uninterrupted, but many tribes were forced by the federal government to adopt a western adversarial justice system during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Today, many of these tribes are seeking to return to traditional justice practices as a way of reasserting their sovereignty and strengthening their communities. Traditional practices often draw on the wisdom of elders, who can connect tribal members with the culture and traditions of the past. Elder panels, for example, bring together respected elders and vest them with the authority to resolve disputes or impose appropriate consequences for harmful behavior. Peacemaking programs rely on elders and other respected community members to sit with parties to a dispute and help them find a resolution that is focused on healing and restoration. Traditional practices can include any number of cultural traditions, including sweat lodges, drum circles, canoe journeys, ceremonies, and many others.