Native American jurisprudence has evolved since tribes began to regain their sovereignty, returning to traditional values of respect, community support and responsibility, and collective healing — for victims, perpetrators and the circle of lives they touch.

Read the full article Tribal judge works for Yurok-style justice at the Los Angeles Times website.

cover of reportA new report by the Indian Law Resource Center, entitled Restoring Safety to Native Women and Girls and Strengthening Native Nations, includes some good discussion (with citations) about tribal courts using peacemaking and other tribal traditional dispute resolution mechanisms (pp. 66-72) and also documents the use of Circle Sentencing by the Kake Tribal Court in criminal cases with an eye toward similar further developments (pp. 84-85).  You can download the full report at the Indian Law Resource Center website.


What is Peacemaking?

circle of peoplePeacemaking provides a safe structure where people can talk together to resolve conflict. It is a community-based process that addresses the concerns of all interested parties. This process uses traditional rituals, such as the group circle and Clan relationships, to involve parties that are in a conflict. A circle can involve supporters, elders and interested community members. Within the circle, people can speak from the heart, and together identify and agree upon the steps necessary for healing. Read more:



  • Does circle sentencing reduce Aboriginal offending? New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Crime and Justice Bulletin, Number 115, May 2008. Jacqueline Fitzgerald.
  • Navajo Peacemaker Court : impact and efficacy of traditional dispute resolution in the modern setting. 1990 thesis. William Bluehouse Johnson. (not available online, NILL catalog record)
  • Will the Circle Be Unbroken? (2005). Jane Dickson-Gilmore & Carol La Prairie. (limited availability at Google Books; NILL catalog record) Explores factors for the developing and sustaining restorative justice projects in contemporary Canadian Aboriginal communities. Compares and contrasts efforts in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States with those in Canada.



If you enjoyed this page and would like to learn even more about peacemaking, please visit the peacemaking resources bibliography at the National Indian Law Library. The page includes

  • More Articles on Peacemaking
  • Conference Materials on Peacemaking
  • Materials from the Swift Bird Project
  • Other Materials at the National Indian Law Library