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The case for aboriginal justice and healing: the self perceived through a broken mirror

Blue, Arthur W
June 4, 2015

Source: (2001) In The spiritual roots of restorative justice, ed. Michael L. Hadley, 57-79. With an introduction by Michael L. Hadley. SUNY series in religious studies, ed. Harold Coward. Albany, New York, USA: State University of New York Press.

The Blues point out the disproportionately high percentage of First Nations’ people incarcerated in Canada. In response, they argue for the merits of aboriginal justice ideas and practices, especially aboriginal and not Euro-Canadian justice for aboriginal peoples. As the basis for their argument and for aboriginal justice, the authors discuss key elements of the worldview of First Nations’ peoples. This worldview emphasizes the holistic interrelatedness and interdependence of all parts of existence, such as the spiritual and the material, the animate and the “inanimate,â€? and animals and humans. Therefore, key ideas and values of living within this worldview include harmony, mutuality, relationship, and responsibility. Moreover, in this worldview, the individual human self achieves true humanness through development of an awareness of the self as “otherâ€? (as when a person looks in a mirror and sees the reflection of himself or herself), where the “mirrorâ€? or identity of that self comes from being embedded in his or her cultural tradition. The interaction of Euro-Canadian cultures with aboriginal cultures has led to severe and damaging identity crises for aboriginal people as groups and as individuals. With all of this in mind, the authors argue that aboriginal justice, based on a different worldview, is characterized more by restoration of harmony, mutuality, relationship, and responsibility, thereby promoting conflict resolution and healing. In contrast, Euro-Canadian justice is characterized more by punishment and retribution. The Blues then describe traditional practices that express and effect these realities and values: the sweat lodge; the vision quest; the pipe ceremony; and the sentencing circle (which is specifically related to aboriginal justice).


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