From what has been said, it is clear
that the whole community is involved either directly or
indirectly in any disruption of communal balance. At a basic
level, then, it is everyone’s business if someone violates a
code. Fundamentally everyone has moral judgment, and
everyone is required to express it.
Yet there are huge differences in the way a community
will respond to a social imbalance. As indicated, personal
matters, such as adultery, or the destruction of one’s
personal items requires the one who is the target to take
matters into his/her hands. To do less is to be regarded as
a weakling or to be morally twisted. It is up to the
leadership to step in and make sure that the vengeance meted
out does not create more havoc in the community. The result
is that personal issues like this are usually mediated by
someone close to the offended individual. The goal is to
prevent violence and to re-establish harmony within the
Larger issues, such as contentions between leading
families clearly requires the involvement of the most
influential people in the community. Traditionally the Chief
would use his influence to being about reconciliation and
redress, sometimes even paying himself to maintain harmony.
Issues like murder requires the whole community, with
members from the community that have any knowledge of the
people involved called upon to discuss the case in council.
The decision has to be taken to bring redress, which can
mean any number of options. However, the goal was not
punishment or harm to the offender, but reconciliation with
the family of the deceased and the re-assertion of balance
within the community.
Medicine people of both sexes traditionally played a
important role in adjudicating offences, first because they
have access to information of a personal and spiritual sort
for the people involved, and they are trained to handle what
Westerners call emotional and psychological expressions.
They also are party to the history of conflicts between
families and individuals, conflicts that may be up to seven
generations back. This is evidence that is needed to make a
solid judgment about any case. Since medicine people come
from families that may be involved in such cases, judgments
were made about the reliability of their evidence. Such
judgments entered into discussion among those who are
involved in talking and healing circles. Finally, medicine
people also know whether bad medicine has played a role in
the affair. If it has, the outcome will require their
services in order to set the community back in balance.