A timely communication from the Native American Rights Fund (NARF)…
“It is with heavy hearts that NARF mourns the sudden passing of Barbara Smith (Chickasaw) who walked on November 11, 2015. Barbara had just completed her three two-year terms as a member of NARF’s Board of Directors. Barbara was an attorney and a tribal court judge and truly believed that indigenous peacemaking practices were in the best interest of all tribes in order to have healing for their respective communities.
“Barbara first came to know of NARF and work with us through our Indigenous Peacemaking Initiative. She shared her wisdom, grace, warmth and humor with us in many ways. We honor Barbara’s life by sharing her own words with you.
” ‘Historically, the judicial system in America is the end of the resolution process for the problems of people. However, in my journey to peace, I have come to believe that the judicial system should actually be the beginning of a healing process with the end being a peaceful resolution. As I make this journey in search of peace, I am learning and discovering who I am and why I am.
” ‘I have always known my Indian heritage. I have always been proud. Until recently, I didn’t realize how thin the knowledge of my history has been. As I rediscover my own cultural base and I find that it brings to me a ‘quiet inside,’ I realize how important a strong, positive cultural base is to every individual. I do believe strong cultural knowledge is necessary for personal healing in conflicted situations.
” ‘When I began this journey, I thought I knew who I was. But, I didn’t understand why I was.
” ‘I have come to believe that there can be no societal healing in conflicted situations without having healing for all affected parties, not just for the party before the court. There are many people affected by a legal conflict, and they all need healing.
” ‘As time passes, it becomes apparent to me that healing does not come with mere passage of time. Acquiescence to a non-responsive legal system only creates an additional avenue for disappointment and anger. Healing cannot occur unless there is some degree of peace within all the people affected by the conflict.
” ‘And, I don’t believe there will be healing with the perpetrators unless their victims begin a search for their own peace. The peacemaking process must address both sides of healing simultaneously.
” ‘Every person affected by the conflict needs to be involved in a circle of healing. To find peace, the hurt and anger inside must be quieted. If there is a quiet inside, the anger is gone. It appears that a search for peace is a search for each person’s quiet inside.
” ‘Just imagine what it would look like if attorneys were working toward a peaceful resolution instead of for a win. Attorneys have great persuasive powers with their clients. They could and should be working to help their clients bring a hurtful situation to a peaceful resolution. They could and should be counselors of healing.
” ‘It would be in the best interest of their clients. If attorneys were trained with a healing base instead of an adversarial base, they might take a role as part of the Peacemaking process and help their clients find their way to healing and resolution. However, they would need to have a legal base founded in peace.
” ‘A Peacemaker must have a personal ‘quiet inside’ in order to lead other people to peaceful resolutions. Perhaps the peace starts with the Peacemakers not with conflicted people.”