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
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?