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Tribal Justice

2017
Distributed by Bullfrog Films, PO Box 149, Oley, PA 19547; 800-543-FROG (3764)
Produced by Anne Makepeace
Directed by Anne Makepeace
DVD , color, 87 min.
High School - General Adult
Alcohol Abuse, Criminal Justice, Drug Abuse, Native Americans, Rehabilitation, Social Work, Sociology


Reviewed by Douglas Reed, Department of Political Science, Ouachita Baptist University, Arkadelphia, AR

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
 
Date Entered: 7/10/2018

How can a community provide justice and fairness to its members? Do alternative approaches to litigation deliver better results for a diverse society? Tribal Justice addresses these questions.

Uncovering the inner workings of the little-known tribal court system, the film highlights two tribal judges who seek restorative justice for litigants in the Yurok Tribe of northern California and the Quechan Tribe of southern Arizona and California. These community courts serve as a bridge to the broader legal system, helping litigants understand and navigate the system within the context of their tribal and cultural values as opposed to the adversarial milieu of a traditional court. Through her wellness tribal court, for example, Yurok Tribal Judge Abby Abinanti guides a drug offender down a path of accountability and sobriety. The film also shows the progress Quechan Tribal Judge Claudette White has made in her community despite significant setbacks. Her wise counsel equips families to stay together. Driven and determined, Abinanti and White defy the status quo, making believers out of former skeptics who had questioned the unconventional wisdom of tribal courts.

Timely and compelling, Tribal Justice underscores the pervasiveness of substance abuse in disadvantaged communities and the need to re-invent a justice system that tackles it with lasting results.

Screened at numerous U.S. and international film festivals, Tribal Justice earned awards in 2017 at the American Indian Film Festival (Best Documentary Feature), Charlotte Film Festival (Best Documentary Feature and Social Justice Award), Cinetopia Film Festival (Directing Award), and the Montreal First People’s Festival (Grand Prix Rigoberta-Menchu). In 2018, it was Best Documentary in the American Film Award competition and was among the Best Documentary nominees at the Riverside International Film Festival. Tribal Justice aired nationally on PBS’s POV in 2017.

Highly recommended for academic and public libraries, Tribal Justice is an excellent resource for courses in legal studies, multicultural education, and sociology as well as professional development for attorneys, judges, community advocates, and educators.