Peacemaking News

Peacemaking - Claudette White Obit

It is with incredible sorrow that the National American Indian Court Judges Association announces that Judge Claudette White, Board of Directors for Region 2, has walked on. Judge White served on the Steering Committee and eventually, the Board of Directors beginning in 2019. During her time on the Board, she helped inform and guide ongoing training related to administering justice in tribal courts during the pandemic. She succumbed to COVID-19 on February 6, 2021, after a brief hospitalization.

 Judge White has been an instrumental figure in Indian Law and tribal courts. She was a graduate of Arizona State University College of Law with a certificate in Indian law. After law school, Judge White began her judicial career as Chief Judge of the Quechan Indian Tribe where she served for 12 years. She later served as Chief Judge of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. Judge White recently stepped away from the bench when she was elected to the Tribal Council for the Quechan Indian Tribe. In between her work on the bench, she was an expert in tribal courts, advocacy, and government. She was featured in the acclaimed documentary, Tribal Justice, where she invited cameras into her courtroom to capture traditional and restorative justice practices. She was also an active member of the California Tribal-State Court Forum. NAICJA President Richard Blake described her as a “passionate advocate for tribes and courts.” He continued, “she presented herself as shy, but it was very apparent that she carried powerful knowledge and wisdom that were beyond her years. Indian Country, NAICJA, and the tribal justice community lost a true warrior. Fly high and dance freely, Claudette.” 

"A Conversation with Abby Abinanti" as published on Root & Rebound

"Abby Abinanti is an enrolled member of the Yurok Tribe and has been Chief Justice of the Yurok Tribe since 2008. She served as a San Francisco Superior Court Commissioner for approximately 20 years and is the first California native to be a member of the State Bar and to be appointed to a state judicial position. Abby was a key collaborator in developing Root & Rebound’s Tribal Reentry Advocacy project and is currently the Chair of our Board of Directors." To read more regarding 'her views on justice, mass incarceration, and her partnership with R&R', please click here.

The Honorable Tim Connors Speaks at
Seminar in Dublin, Ireland

DUBLIN, IRELAND - Recently, 22nd Circuit Court Judge Tim Connors presented peace-making as practiced by Native Americans at a seminar on mediation in Dublin, Ireland.  An article written by Mary Hallissey, with the Ireland Law Society Gazette, was published January 28, 2020 on the  Please follow the link here to view the article.
Judge Connors - Dublin Ireland

Supreme Court Justices, Tribal State Federal Judicial Forum Honor Peacemaker Patrick Wilson

LANSING, MI, January 16, 2019 — Members of the Michigan Tribal State Federal Judicial Forum ("Forum"), including Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget M. McCormack, convened today at the Michigan Hall of Justice in Lansing to honor Peacemaker Patrick D. Wilson, of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Tribal Court. Chief Justice McCormack was joined by Justice Megan K. Cavanagh, the Court’s new liaison on tribal issues, and her father, retired Justice Michael F. Cavanagh, in presenting Wilson with a resolution from the Supreme Court for his instrumental work on the Forum and his assistance in starting the Washtenaw County Peacemaking Court—the first state court of its kind in Michigan.

"The work of the Forum is important to all Michigan citizens because it affects how our court systems best serve Michiganders, and the peacemaking process is an essential part of this work," said Chief Justice McCormack. "Peacemaker Wilson is truly a visionary, and I applaud him for helping to bring this approach to justice to the state level."

Forum members in attendance included Judge Timothy Connors, of Washtenaw County Circuit and Peacemaking Courts; Peacemaker Margaret Connors, Washtenaw County Peacemaking Court; William Petoskey, Washtenaw County Peacemaking Court; and Chief Judge Jeffrey Nellis, Mason County Circuit Court.

Representing the Little River Band were Tribal Ogema (or "Chief’) Larry Romanelli, Tribal Court Chief Judge Daniel Bailey, Associate Judge Angela Sherigan, Peacemaker Martha Howell, Court Administrator Deborah Miller, and Court Clerk Laurie Willis.

Peacemaking is a traditional Native American approach to problem solving that focuses on healing and restoring relationships between parties in disagreement. It aims to improve the traditional courtroom experience in a process whereby everyone is part of a comprehensive solution. Parties meet in a circle with trained peacemakers. 

Retired Justice Michael Cavanagh cofounded the Michigan Tribal State Federal Judicial Forum with Tribal Judge Michael Petoskey, of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, in 2014 to provide an ongoing venue for judges from all three jurisdictions to convene jointly to improve working relations and communication. It is comprised of judges representing each of Michigan’s 12 federally-recognized tribes, 12 state court judges, and federal judges and officials. 


Honoring Peacemaker Patrick Wilson - Photos by Deb Miller

Washtenaw County Peacemaking Court and Community Partner Michigan Theater Bring Michigan Debut of Dawnland

Dawnland PanelPhoto provided courtesy of Cynthia Price, Legal News

On November 13th, 2018 panelists engage with the audience for nearly two hours after the Michigan debut of Dawnland. Dawnland documents the first governmental Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the United States. It is a dual narrative of the work of Maine’s Commission and the communities and families who have been damaged by governmental policies of removal of their children. Commission member Sandy White Hawk, originally from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota was featured prominently in the film, led the Panel discussion with Peacemaking Court Judge Timothy Connors. Whitehawk is the award winning founder and director of First Nations Repatriation Institute.

“Colonization and our subsequent federal and state policies have been a process of dismembering: dismembering of community, dismembering of spirituality, dismembering of language, dismembering of culture. This is a beginning step of remembering, so that we do not continue to make the same mistakes from the past, but to instead take a path that learns from those mistakes. Only then can we ensure a better future for all of our children, all of our families, and all of our communities. It is also first step towards healing for those so deeply hurt by those mistakes. It is our individual and collective responsibility to assist, when asked to, in that healing process.” said Connors.

In the photo above seated from left to right, Sandy White hawk, Chief Judge Allie Maldanado of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Minnesota Supreme Court Justice and Native American Anne McKeig, Choctaw tribal member and UM professor Bethany Hughes, Ojibway Tribal member Bradley Nedeau from the upper peninsula, Tribal member Anthony Davis and Cultural Resource Advisor for Little Traverse, Native American student at UM Samora Jackson, Washtenaw County Trial Court Judge Timothy Connors.