"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more when it is in context."
— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project
SEBASTOPOL– Screening of California Humanities-supported documentary film Tribal Justice at the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival. Tribal Justice is a feature documentary about a little known, underreported but effective criminal justice reform movement in America today: the efforts of tribal courts to create alternative justice systems based on their traditions. In California, two formidable Native American women are among those leading the way. Abby Abinanti, Chief Judge of the Yurok Tribe on the northwest coast, and Claudette White, Chief Judge of the Quechan Tribe in the southeastern desert, are creating innovative systems that focus on restoring rather than punishing offenders and stopping the school-to-prison pipeline that plagues their young people. Abby Abinanti is a fierce, lean, elder. Claudette White is younger, and her courtroom style is more conventional in form; but like Abby, her goal is to provide culturally relevant justice to the people who come before her. Observational footage of these judges’ lives and work provides the backbone of the documentary, while the heart of the film follows the offenders both in and out of court. Tribal justice follows the lives and cases of four local tribe members as they pass through both the tribal and state justice systems. These and other stories unfold, engaging viewers in a vision of justice that can actually work. Audiences gain a new understanding of tribal courts and their role in the survival of Indian people.