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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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Restitutional Law

Tribal Punishment


Sentencing Circle

Visual representation of nature's laws

Definition: One of the 10 categories of Nature's Laws developed by the Nature's Laws Project Team and defined as "Conflict resolution; Medicine therapy; Sentencing circles; Restitution through victim confrontations; Talking circles."

Aboriginal law started with the assumption that all offences are against the community, just like Western law, but it applied a different concept in measuring the results of crime. It recognized that crime has more than an indifferent impact on people…crime radiates out from the victim to family to village to community, leaving a trail of sorry and pain behind it. It insists that the results of crime must be negotiated between the offender and the victim if the larger community is to heal the damage done. It expects that reparations will eventually be negotiated between the offender and the victim so that closure can be made to the event and the rent in the social fabric can be mended. Restorative justice or restitutional law is the outcome.

Restitutional law recognizes one aspect that our Western criminal system has apparently forgotten…the personal damage of crime. By taking charge of the process of crime, from the arresting personnel (police), to the place where the offender is dealt with (the court) to way a case is described (R. vs. Criminal), to the representative of us all (the crown prosecutor), to the judge (Madame Justice X of the Supreme Court of Canada), to the punishment meted out (the jail, the fine), it is all administered and paid for by the government on behalf of everyone in the state. This system suggests that the personal element is not significant…that a thief who stole my car is only beholden to the state, not to me. Not only does this place crime in an impersonal setting, it removes the personal damage that crime brings, and makes the criminal responsible only to a faceless system. The thief doesn’t have to admit to my face that he cost me a job, endangered my family or caused my insurance rates to go up. Worse still, the thief continues to live in my community, and periodically I must deal with the thief in one way or another.

Indigenous law had consistently utilized the concept of peacemaker; in Cree, peace is peyahtikeyimon, a word that includes within it the notion of stillness, quietness and acceptance. The Tsuu T’ina people southwest of Calgary have established a Peacemaker Justice system, modeled on the Navajo and Apache system in place in the United States since 1920. These examples derive from the concept of peacemaker within Native culture both here and around the world…Ross, commenting on the maori system noted "… there was less concern with whether or not there has actually been a breach of the law and more concern with the restoration of harmony" (Returning, 19).

Upsetting The Balance
Interviewer - Earle Waugh, PhD.


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