Indigenous Restorative Justice: Approaches, Meaning & Possibility

By Hewitt, Jeffery G. | University of New Brunswick Law Journal, January 2016 | Go to article overview

Indigenous Restorative Justice: Approaches, Meaning & Possibility


Hewitt, Jeffery G., University of New Brunswick Law Journal


ABSTRACT

This paper seeks to generate further understanding of Indigenous knowledge, methods, and laws relating to Indigenous restorative justice as a means to consider how we might better resolve various forms of disputes and reinvent versus revise Canada's criminal justice system. It also considers some of the ways in which funding and programming decisions of the state might obscure and perhaps even deepen the disparity in the relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples. Through various means, such as the use of indicators to support government agendas as well as theories of retribution and proportionality, the criminal justice system continues to be a site of ongoing colonialism. This paper considers how we might engage in decolonization by making more room for the holistic healing found within Indigenous models of restorative justice.

CONTENTS

I.    Coyote Gets a Name
II.   Overview
III.  Defining Restorative Justice & Diversion
IV.   Biidaaban: Some Context for Restorative Justice Initiatives
V.    Debwewin as Common Ground
VI.   Painting Pictures by Numbers
VII.  Restorative Justice & Indicators
VIII. Colonialism Came ... And Settled In
IX.   Coyote's Imagination, the Canadian Criminal Justice System &
      Punishment
X.    Addressing Overrepresentation through the Criminal Justice
      System?
XI.   Some Reflections

I. COYOTE GETS A NAME (1)

In a time before the people came, plants grew in abundance. Trees stood close to each other and grew so high they touched the clouds. One day, messengers called all of the four-legged, winged ones, crawlers, diggers and swimmers to gather at a great lake by the forest. When the animals congregated, a voice spoke. It was a powerful voice that travelled through all of the plants and trees--the original surround-sound. The animals were told people would arrive soon and would want to know what to call them. Everyone at the gathering was instructed to return to the lake at sunrise, when one by one they would be invited into a great lodge and given a name.

Upon hearing this, Coyote jumped up and down with excitement. He spent the remainder of the day bragging to all who would listen that he was going to get a new name. Coyote decided he would be called Grizzly Bear, leader of the mountains. But as he meandered through the forest greeting other animals, he changed his mind and insisted on the name Salmon, chief of the swimmers. Further on, he declared he would be known as Owl, master of the night sky. As dusk came to the forest, Coyote met up with his little brother, Fox. Fox told Coyote that all of the animals were already calling him a new name. Coyote's chest swelled with pride. Fox told his big brother that he was being called Fool. Hiding his hurt feelings, Coyote laughed and told Fox that it did not matter because he would be the first into the lodge and would be given a spectacular new name that would be the envy of all.

Ignoring Fox--as usual--Coyote ran through the forest telling everyone he was staying up all night to be first in line at the lodge. As the moon rose, Coyote lounged around a fire. Soon, his eyes grew heavy and Coyote slept, dreaming of names. He woke with a start and realized the sun was high. Panicked he loped to the lodge and without waiting for an invitation, ran inside. He asked to be called Grizzly Bear, but that name was taken at dawn. He proposed Salmon. It too had already been given. Coyote hung his head when he was told that Owl was also gone.

The voice told Coyote his name was the only one left. If he were named Grizzly, the people would look for him in the mountains, but not in the plains or forests. If he were named Salmon, people would look to catch him in the water and not see his beautiful, bushy tail. The name Owl would mean Coyote's gorgeous coat would be missed in the sunlight while people looked to the trees at night. But most importantly, Coyote was told to keep the name Coyote because it came with two gifts meant only for him. …

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