TMCC, SKC Create Peace Maker Program

Nov 15th, 1999 | By | Category: 11-2: Teacher Education, Tribal College News
By Dorreen Yellow Bird

One of the weaknesses of the tribal courts on reservations is the lack of training. Turtle Mountain Community College in Belcourt, N.D., and Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Mont., are working with University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) to develop curriculum to train tribal court staff through a program called Project Peace Maker. The curriculum will eventually be available to other tribal colleges as the basis for developing their own peace maker programs.

The project will benefit both the tribal court and UCLA. It will help tribal courts give staff some guidelines to help them become more effective. Project Peace Maker will provide experience for the staff of UCLA that will broaden their experience with tribes and tribal courts, and it may lead to future law students at UCLA.

Many of the people who work in court systems are not trained, said Carol Davis, vice president of Turtle Mountain Community College. On reservations, court staff may be former police officers, secretaries, and others who receive minimal training from the Department of Justice or Bureau of Indian Affairs. Untrained staff creates problems in the court and tribal system, resulting in a backlog of unheard cases.

Project Peace Maker addresses this problem by providing legal training. When the program is developed, students will receive two-year associate degrees in tribal law, Davis said. “ We don’t want the program to be a dead end for the students so we are articulating with other schools,” she said. This means students can use their two year degree as the foundation of a bachelor’s degree elsewhere. The next step may be degrees at the tribal colleges for pre-law, she said.

To launch the program at the tribal colleges, UCLA received a grant from the Department of Education’s Fund for Improvement of Post-secondary Education (FIPSE). Turtle Mountain Community College is initially offering one course per semester. The program has funding for a part-time instructor and, with the help of UCLA, they are looking for more funds for full time instructors. A summer program at UCLA is slated for next year to train ten people. Project Peace Maker will meet the needs of the community, and that is what the tribal college is all about, Davis said.

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