Monday, July 29, 2013

Navajo Peacemaking and Mediation


   We are always looking at ways we can improve out mediating skills and look to other method of alternative dispute resolution.  Living in the Southern Arizona it was only a matter of time before we investigated Navajo Peacemaking.  Among other material, I have read Navajo Peacemaking Guide (A Guide to the Peacemaking Program of the Navajo Nation), Judicial Branch of the Navajo Nation, September 2004 , Navajo Nation Peacemaking – Living Traditional Justice by Marianne O. Nielsen and James W.  Zion.  We may actually know James W. Zion from when we both in Connecticut.  In the introduction to Navajo Nation Peacemaking, the authors say, “Peacemaking is a form of conflict resolution that is rooted in Navajo culture and practices but has been modified to take into account present-day issues and resources.  Depending on the individual, it can be practiced as a way of life or simply as an alternative to the court process.  It is not mediation, and it is not alternative dispute resolution.  It has been called “reparative justice and “participatory justice.”  I do not totally agree with this analysis.  They may be thinking more of court mediation or evaluative mediation.  The steps of Peacemaking are very similar to what we do in mediation. 

   The Peacemaker opens with introductions of the parties and states the canons of conduct which will govern the session. The session should then follow the steps below:
1.  The peacemaker may allow an opening prayer if the parties do not disagree.
2.  Each party should be permitted to make opening remarks which should include his or her statement of the controversy, and what he or she desires as relief.
3. The peacemaker should make certain that the participants understand the exact nature of the controversy and the desired relief. The peacemaker accomplishes this by asking questions to clarify points of discussion. To help resolve issues, the peacemaker should ask questions to determine what the problem is and what is the cause of the problem. If they know what the problem is and what the cause is, then, they can choose a plan of action, or choose ways to resolve the issues.
4.  Once the Peacemaker is satisfied that the nature of the controversy and desired relief has been adequately stated, the Peacemaker allows open discussion of the subject matter. At this point, the Peacemaker may allow other persons to join in the discussion, keeping in mind the canons of conduct.
5. During the discussions, the Peacemaker ensures that the principal parties are permitted full opportunity to address comments presented by the other party or by other interested persons.
6. Discussions continue until all parties have had an opportunity to speak to the subject matter.
7. Once the discussions are completed, the Peacemaker then points the discussions toward a resolution and allows the discussions of remedies in the same manner as indicated above.
8.  Once the discussions on the controversy and the desired relief have been completed, the peacemaker then points the parties toward a specific resolution, allowing full opportunity for discussion and input.
9.  Should the parties reach an agreement, the Peacemaker provides a final summary of the agreement and immediately reduces it to writing. The Peacemaker may defer the written resolution for a period not to exceed 10 days after the session. The written resolution should be acknowledged and executed by the principal parties.
10. The session should close with a prayer.

    The sessions should be conducted in an informal manner with the Peacemaker maintaining proper decorum and control. The Peacemaker should conduct the peacemaking session in a harmonious and respectful manner. The Peacemaker will ensure the following:
1.  The sessions are conducted free of adversity and hostility.
2.  All participants display courtesy and respect toward one another.
3.  The Peacemaker may expel any person from the peacemaking session if such person's conduct violates the spirit of Navajo peacemaking.
4.  The Peacemaker should ensure that all sides to the controversy are heard, allowing all parties and other interested persons the opportunity to speak to the issue(s) at hand.

    We don’t use a prayer in our mediation but I am thinking seriously of using a poem by Ofelia Zepeda, a Tohono O’dham Nation poet and author of "A Tohono O'odham Grammar."  One possibility is:
An unusually cold December day right around Christmas;
clouds, mist find solace in the canyons of the Santa Catalina Mountains.
White moisture quietly moving amid the cactus.
Truly, clouds, wind, and rain are the few elements
that can touch the saguaro from head to foot. 
Oblivious of spines, needles.
Rubbery hide surrounded, soothed by elements.
Contact triggers stored heat of remembered summers.
Moisture beads roll forward, unstoppable.
From the city below
we see mist rising, mist rising
   The following Navajo words used in Peacemaking are illustrative of the process.
Hóz==hjí K’é Náhooleeh[íi - A person who helps restore harmony using positive techniques
Hózh= Náhóodlee[ - To become good or position again
Hóz==hjí nahat’á - Good or positive way planning
K’é Bee í[ni da’anish - Working together through kinship or good relationships
Hane’ - Dine Journey Narrative or story

     Although Navajo Peacemaking was not as different from what we do as I thought it would be, it reinforces that our mediation is an excellent process and it gives us some ideas on how to improve it.
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