A groundbreaking partnership between South Dakota prosecutors and Lakota elders to divert some cases into a new court which uses Native culture and aboriginal peacemaking principles that stress healing over punishment, is being hailed as a model. Officially launched last spring with twice-monthly meetings, the Oyate or peoples' court now hears cases every week. “We stress the seven Lakota values: compassion, generosity, humility, sincerity, courage, perseverance, wisdom,” said Jonathan Old Horse, one of nine elders who sit on the court. Cases are generally limited to nonviolent crimes and to participants without long police records. Participants must take responsibility -- in writing -- for their actions and agree to follow a custom course of action that might include classes, apologies or paying restitution. “Other tribes have come to see what we’re doing,” said Old Horse. “And see how they might implement it in their territory.” And prosecutors say this could be a model for other jurisdictions.

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