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Peacemaking: From Conflict to Harmony in the Navajo Tradition

Rubin, Ted
June 4, 2015

Source: (2001) Juvenile Justice Update. 7(1): 1-2, 14-15-16.

After describing the overall legal structure within which tribal courts operate, this article examines how juvenile crime is addressed within the Navajo Nation and how the Nation is incorporating traditional ways, such as “Peacemaking,” into its juvenile justice services. Located in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, the Navajo Nation consists of 25,000 square miles and is larger than nine U.S. States. Its population of approximately 250,000 comprises more than 11 percent of the total Native American population. The Nation has nine trial court locations in seven judicial districts. The Navajo Tribal Code directs that Navajo common law and tribal statutes enacted by the Navajo Nation Counsel are the laws of preference for court actions. Otherwise, Federal law, if applicable, is used. Lastly, State law may be applied. “Peacemaking” embodies the philosophy and principles of Navajo common law and principles of restorative justice. It is used commonly in disputes between neighbors, husbands and wives, and parents and children, and with problems due to alcohol abuse, sexual misconduct, conduct that causes disunity in a family or community, and small business matters. Currently, it is used infrequently in juvenile delinquency or child dependency/abuse cases. The Navajo Nation’s legislative judiciary committee is now considering amending the purpose clause of its Children’s Code to urge the application of traditional methods in working with children and youth. This committee, as well as the Judicial Branch of the Nation, wants to expand Peacemaking with both delinquent and dependent/abused children and their families. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


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