Navajo Peacemaking: An Indigenous Restorative Justice Practice

Our Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order (#19) encourages each and every Secular Franciscan to be an agent of peace in the world:

Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.

St. Francis of Assisi customarily greeted everyone with the intentional words, “May the Lord give you peace!”

This month is American Indian Month in Minnesota, and brings with it an opportunity to learn about one approach to peacemaking from one of the indigenous peoples of our nation. You can learn about the philosophy and practice of Navajo Peacemaking as it is practiced on Diné Bikéyah. Navajo Peacemaking was used by Diné for millennia so that numerous beings could coexist in peace. Learn the process and components of Navajo Peacemaking and how it centers Diné knowledge and teachings. Navajo Peacemaking can be applied to resolve conflict, restore balance and wellness, respond to and heal trauma, and achieve Hózhó, the Diné philosophy of harmony, in various settings. Consider the use of Indigenous restorative justice practices with Indigenous populations to resolve conflict and maintain harmony.

The Presenter is Dr. Paulina Whitehat, PhD, a Diné, a citizen of the Navajo Nation of northern Arizona. She is a Research Associate in the Center for Equity Promotion (CEQP) in the College of Education at the University of Oregon, where she earned a Ph.D. in Special Education and Clinical Sciences. She worked with the Northwest Indian Languages Institute (NILI) to develop and provide professional development for classroom teachers and school administrators regarding educational policy and Native language revitalization. Her research is focused on redressing the effects of adverse events so that individuals with/out disabilities have opportunities to experience academic, professional, and personal success and positively contribute to their community. The primary focus of her work is on effecting educational policies and countering the effects of poverty, disabilities, and trauma experienced by Indigenous students and other individuals who are historically underrepresented in school settings.

This is an online event on May 24th, from 2:00 – 3:30 PM, and requires registration.

There is much shared history between the Navajo Dine’ people and the Franciscan friars. Franciscan friars supported the Navajo Dine’ nation in establishing their tribal government, expanding the reservation land base, starting the first tribal census records, creating a written Navajo language, educating Navajo children, and sharing the Catholic faith. You can read more about this history, and the recent controversy regarding the “Navajo Cathedral” that is St, Michael’s Mission, in a recent National Catholic Reporter article, Navajo Catholics upset after Franciscans transfer historic mission to local diocese.

(art credit: Navajo Beauty Way Teachings by Dine’ Navajo “Wayne”, 2015)

Are you feeling called by your Catholic faith to be a maker of peace in communities, families, or in individual persons? Are you studying for or working in a profession of dialogue, conflict resolution, or peacemaking? Or maybe you find yourself in that role within your own community or family? Are you considering whether the Secular Franciscan Order (O.F.S.) would bring and grow the spiritual dimension in your daily life and work? We would love to hear from you! E-mail the St. Cloud Fraternity of Secular Franciscans at

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