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Indigenous justice systems and tribal society

Melton, Ada Pecos
June 4, 2015

Source: (1995) Judicature 79 (December). Reprinted online by Tribal Court Clearinghouse.

Melton states that dual justice systems exist in many contemporary tribal communities. Melton describes one of these systems as an American paradigm of justice. The other he calls an indigenous paradigm. In this paper he compares and contrasts the significant characteristics of each of these paradigms of justice: the American paradigm is adversarial, legalistic, and punitive; the indigenous paradigm is holistic, inclusive, restorative, and reparative. Attention is also given to key structures of indigenous systems: family forums; community forums; traditional courts; modern tribal courts. Melton concludes with comments on preserving indigenous systems in the face of competition between the American paradigm and the indigenous paradigm in tribal communities.


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