Traditional Practices

Traditional Practices

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.
 

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