A Reboot of the Peacemakers project

By Ardith Van Riper

     The Ho-Chunk Nation Judiciary and the Native American Rights Fund presented a Peacemakers educational session on March 7 at the Tribal Office Building near Black River Falls.  The HCN Trial Court System is looking to offer an alternative to resolving disputes and conflicts through a traditional model of Peacemaking.  Unfortunately, the project experienced multiple delays, including the COVID-19 pandemic, and is now moving forward.

     The educational workshop began with introductions by Chief Judge Jo Deen Lowe, prayer, and project review by Associate Judge JoAnn Jones.  The session was part of the certification of a potential Peacemaker.

     The Ho-Chunk culture and tradition is a way of life passed down through generations.  Our ancestors were indigenous to the Midwest.  They not only did things to survive but to excel.  Rules of conduct for living in this society existed to maintain order, designate specific responsibilities and obligations.  These were taught by leadership and family elders who modeled the behaviors and shared their knowledge.  These are the roots of Peacemaking.

     Attorney Brett Lee Shelton, Oglala Sioux Tribe, from Native American Rights Fund facilitated the session.  Per his presentation, Peacemaking is “a traditional Native American approach to problem solving that focuses on healing and restoring relationships between the parties in disagreement, and others.”

     Attorney Shelton explained the intent of Peacemaking, expectations, and nationwide success of Peacemaking.  Peacemaking is different than court, and it permits the community members to establish a working relationship with the Formal Systems and Circle Peacemaking.

     In the Ho-Chunk Peacemaking Circle, the Peacemakers are grounded in Ho-Chunk traditions and lifeways using their knowledge and drawing from the customs the Ho-Chunk culture’s customs and traditions to settle disputes.  The resolution of a problem focuses on healing and restoring harmonious relationships between parties.

     Around noon, Wild Bearies L.L.C. catered the lunch.

     After lunch, the group discussed implementing guidelines and debated anticipated challenges or barriers. 

     Those interested in becoming a Peacemaker need to submit a letter of interest to the Peacemaker Court Coordinator at Peacemakers@ho-chunk.com.  The letter may include name, address, phone number, email, additional information explaining experience in a leadership role, motivation to become a Peacemaker, how you would apply Ho-Chunk philosophy, and state how you would remain objective during Peacemaking sessions.