The documentary Tribal Justice explores tribal courts in two Native American communities in California and their efforts to integrate traditional models of justice into a modern justice system. Filmmaker Anne Makepeace documents the efforts of Abby Abinanti, chief judge of the Yurok tribe on the north coast, and Claudette White, chief judge of the Quechan tribe in the southern desert, as they work to create alternative systems of justice that focus on rehabilitation, restoration and reintegration into the community rather than punishment and prison.
Native American communities have been resolving disputes by finding ways for offenders to right wrongs and restore balance for generations, and more than 300 tribal courts across the United States are now integrating culturally relevant practices that focus on healing to wellness.
In this lesson, students will examine the tribal justice model used in the Yurok tribal court and its impact on defendant Taos Proctor. Proctor is one strike away from a 25-year sentence when he is deferred to Chief Judge Abby Abinanti’s court. Through Proctor’s journey, students will come to understand the important role community plays in healing and wellness and how the collaborative process of talking circles can help to establish networks of support, resources and accountability that extend beyond the courtroom.
Check out POV's film page for Tribal Justice.