Healing Begins When we Acknowledge Past Harms

Healing Begins When we Acknowledge Past Harms

A reflection by Brenda Nolan, SNEUCC Restorative Justice Task Team 

Paula Blumenthal and I are pleased to serve the SNEUCC Restorative Justice Team (I as Chair, she lending support) although we both attend West Falmouth Preparative Meeting (Quaker). We are part of a small group focused on restoration/ transformation outside our faith community. Through this, we are learning about our own histories and that of our Wampanoag neighbors. We are seeking ways to see and acknowledge the harms committed by our ancestors and passed to us, with the ultimate goal of finding paths to healing and living together while caring for our individual and collective well-being and that of the earth upon which our lives depend. 

As we engage this work, we realize we must invest in the development of caring, intentional, and mutually rewarding relationships. We understand that we, as white women, are often blind to harms we perpetuate and cause as a result of our participation in the domination culture into which we were born.  We are committed to restorative justice and as a result we especially seek to become aware of the ways in which cultural appropriation occurs as we and others embrace these processes.

The principles and values that shape restorative practices emanate from and remain at the core of indigenous communities, yet these communities seldom benefit when others use and profit from use of these practices. This is a modern manifestation of ways in which the dominant culture has engaged in the erasure, genocide, and exploitation of indigenous communities.     
People from the global majority need to be at the table front and center for justice to occur and be sustained, whether related to climate, race, economics, ability, gender, or other components of social and/or restorative justice. Broken treaties, erasure, genocide, loss and poisoning of their homeland and their impacts continue in the United States and the rest of the world - anywhere colonialism and acts of creating wealth at the expense of people and the earth take place. In the U.S., Native People, as the first harmed, have experienced and seen the devastation to the earth on which they lived in harmony for thousands of years. They are still here. They need to be acknowledged and the teachings and wisdom of their elders need to be heard. 
Native Peoples in Canada and the United States wanted courts to use restorative justice practices with their communities because they were being decimated by the legal and criminal systems of the colonialized powers that had already stolen their homeland, removed their children from their families and communities, and did not understand or value their traditional ways of living with creation. If the needs of Native People are not at the center of restorative justice, and the dominant culture uses their sacred practices in a surface manner that is not rooted in the living spirit, the dominating culture is once again appropriating that which they do not understand and is not theirs to own; just as the Romans culturally appropriated Christianity that eventually led to the Doctrine of Discovery, the stealing of Native Land and Native People and Native Africans into the service of creating wealth for white Christian men. 

Native Elders understand the interconnectedness of humans to the earth, the plants and animals, our ancestors, each other, and our responsibility to the well-being of each other and seven generations hence.  When all acknowledge that our life is love and depends upon our being in caring relationship with the earth, creation and each other, we can begin to heal and stop the recreation of harms that separate and divide us.

The earth will regenerate. Humanity on the other hand may be at the brink of extinction. What that looks like for our descendants depends upon what we do now. Will we who benefit from the domination culture answer the call to love and care for one another?  Or will we continue to think of each other as being more or less deserving than others?  Whether humans continue on this earth or not, the quality of our lives depends upon how we individually and collectively answer that call. 


brenda nolan.jpeg
Brenda Nolan

Brenda is Chairperson of the SNECUCC Restorative Justice Task Team.

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