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Nature's Law
Spiritual Life, Governance, Culture, Traditions, Resources, Context and Background
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The Navajo Approach to Reconciliation
Making Room

The Goal of "Justice"

The United States
 Experience

Ensuring Space Is
Left Open In Canada

An Apache
 Paradigm

The Informal
System of Justice

Customary Law

Canada, Too, Has
 Deep Differences

The Indigenous
 Justice Process

The Navajo
 Approach to
 Reconciliation

Visual representation of nature's laws


In the Navajo approach, if the parties have committed themselves in prayer, vented their perceptions and feelings, talked out the problem and relationships, and received the guidance of the naat'aanii, reconciliation is the final phase in which people have moved to the end of the cognitive-affective, head-to-heart process.

At this stage, parties in peacemaking reach consensus on what should be done to resolve the problem. The primary consensus is about relationships—where people stand with each other at the end of the process. There may also be consensus about restitution or reparation to a victim (which can be symbolic only, often in the form of a payment of cattle or jewelry) or what needs to be done to correct past bad actions in the future. In the traditional context, that can mean that a family will watch over an offender or make certain that person keeps his or her promises. In more modern contexts, it can commit people to Western therapy, counseling or treatment, or other kinds of action to follow up on the realization that cognitive dissonance has led to false thinking.

Sometimes, Navajo curing ceremonies can be a plan reached by consensus. A plan is a major Navajo justice concept. It is associated with naat'aah, or planning, which is a practical process of turning intuition reached through prayer and reflection into talk, and the "talking out" of peacemaking into a concrete plan of action.

At the end of the process, hozho or harmony should be achieved, and people will describe it with the phrase hozho nahasdli. The translation is to the effect that now that the process has been completed, the individuals involved in it are in good relations and, indeed, all reality is in good relationship, with everything in its proper place and relating well with each other in hozho.

Navajo dispute resolution is process oriented and the process is important of itself. That builds on relationships and what is known as solidarity. The parties make their commitment to the process in the opening prayer and, if successful, it concludes with new relationships of respect in which the excuses are exposed as being false and there is a new commitment to an ongoing relationship. The process does not involve coercion or punishment. Navajo thought rejects force and ordering others around. Navajo thought is highly individualistic, with great respect for individual integrity and freedom, yet the process guides people to realize that freedom is exercised in the context of the group and relationships with others.

Will there be freedom in the Recognition Act for a recognized First Nation to utilize a justice system that is as different from the Canadian system as the Apache is different from the American?

In seeking recognition, the people of each First Nation will certify their acceptance of the system of justice set out in their Constitution, and that they are satisfied with the degree of participation in ratifying changes which they have provided for themselves.

Shouldn’t that be good enough? Have we created enough space for this to happen?

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