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  • Writer's pictureJames Dean

Friction versus Harmony, Can Indigenous Peacemaking Bridge Today's Divides?

Today, the vitriol of online debates, the gridlock in legislatures – civil and political discourse seems perpetually stuck on a one-way street. But what if there was a different path, one built on dialogue, community, and healing? Indigenous peacemaking practices offer a compelling framework for resolving today's conflicts, a peacemaking tradition that dates back to the late 12th century ( c. 1190). Instead of creating friction in the conflict resolution process, indigenous peacemaking focuses on producing harmony and lasting peace.

Traditional court systems often focus on assigning blame and punishment, leaving wounds unhealed and communities fractured. Indigenous peacemaking flips the script.  It's a community-driven process, facilitated by respected elders, that prioritizes restoring relationships and addressing the root causes of conflict. It allows for all parties to share their concerns in a neutral setting, each party listens which spurs dialogue, and understanding.

At the heart of this approach lies the talking circle. Here, all parties involved – from political rivals to neighbors in a feud – gather on equal footing to share perspectives and listen deeply. This fosters empathy and allows everyone to be heard, a stark contrast to the shouting matches that often dominate public discourse in civil protests and debates today.

Take for example the hardships of poverty by connecting community members of different socioeconomic levels in a safe forum meeting face to face to discuss local solutions on-going issues, personal experiences and initiatives for a better future. Watch Video Talking Circles ...

Here's how a new peacemaking approach can bridge the divides:

  • Circle Up, Not Square Off:  Instead of adversarial debates, talking circles create a safe space for open communication.  This allows everyone to be heard and fosters a sense of shared humanity, a crucial first step in finding common ground.

  • Active Listening, Not Just Talking Points:  Indigenous peacemaking emphasizes truly listening – not just to words, but to the underlying emotions and needs driving the conflict. This compassionate approach can foster understanding where division once ruled.

  • Wisdom from the Elders, Not Just Polls:  Elders, respected for their experience and wisdom, can guide the circle discussions and offer insights. Their presence reminds participants of the long-term consequences of their actions and the importance of community harmony.

  • Healing, Not Just Winning:  The focus isn't just on winning an argument, but on healing the wounds within the community. This could involve apologies, reparations, or acts of service that rebuild trust and restore balance.

  • Restorative Solutions, Not Punitive Measures:  Indigenous peacemaking emphasizes repairing harm and finding solutions that work for everyone, rather than simply punishing the "loser." This fosters a sense of shared responsibility for creating a more just future.

While not a cure-all, indigenous peacemaking offers a powerful alternative to our current adversarial systems. Pilot programs utilizing talking circles have shown promise in resolving neighborhood disputes, school conflicts, political and environmental disagreements.

By prioritizing community, fostering dialogue, and focusing on healing, indigenous peacemaking empowers communities to bridge divides and build a more peaceful future.  It's time to consider incorporating these age-old practices into our modern approaches to conflict resolution that are far more cost effective lasting peace solutions.

About Author

James E Dean, author / eBusiness expert is located in Northeast Ohio with over 35 years of experience in Business Development. He is a graduate of Boston University. J Dean leads a team helping entrepreneurs, corporations and non-profits to succeed in a changing world. Questions contact 440-596-3380 or Email


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