I had lunch last week with a friend who asked me about my work. I gave her my elevator speech explanation of Restorative Justice, and she replied: “I believe in it. I just think you need a better name for it.”
Boy, I couldn’t agree more. I told her I’ve wracked my brain to think of a shorter, more direct word or phrase that fully encompasses the concept of mutual accountability, forgiveness and unity. The closest English word I can think of is atone because it combines two words: at & one, and RJ is a process that brings people together. Atonement, however, has nearly Biblical proportions like the words Shoah or Apartheid so I hesitate to apply it to school discipline.
“Maybe,” I said, “I need to look to other languages.” A native Chinese speaker, my friend immediately offered jiàoyǎng, a compound word that means to teach and support or raise. Its Chinese characters even look like a house with many inputs piled on top. But I fear it would be too hard to type or pronounce for most people.
So when I read the attached article from Daily Good website, I knew I had my answer. As author, Mark W. Sorenson explains in his essay, Peacemaking the Navajo Way, K’e is a Navaho word that sums up what the term restorative justice cannot.
“Navajos have been using a peacemaking system to resolve conflicts long before contact with Europeans. Built upon K’e, the fundamental idea is to restore relationships and harmony, rather than to assign guilt and punishment, through the use of four foundational values: Respect, Relationship (K’e), Responsibility, and Reverence.”
Mr. Sorenson’s essay first appeared in Spirituality & Health magazine and was featured on DailyGood.org February 11, 2017. I encourage you to read his entire description of Navaho Peacemaking and the holistic way of being that defines Navajo life and culture. His explanation of the Navajo peacemaking process mirrors the Circles process I learned from circles expert, Kay Pranis, and I teach in my training seminars.
Read the entire essay here and tell me if you think K’e is the word my friend and I were looking for! If you are interested in learning more about restorative justice and using the Circles Process, sign up for one of our upcoming trainings. Whatever you choose to call it—restorative justice, jiàoyǎng, K’e or any other name—this approach to discipline and peacemaking changes lives. Check out our website to learn more.