image Visit coronavirus.govVisit disclaimer page for the latest Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) updates.
View ACF COVID-19 Responses and Resources

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe formed an Elder’s Judiciary Committee (EJC) to establish a formal tribal court system prior to their Federal recognition in 2007. The EJC developed the basic foundation for the tribe to adjudicate cases using Federal procedures, but the community expressed a need for an alternative model for dispute resolution that better reflected one of their core cultural tenets – restorative justice. The Mashpee Wampanoag implemented a Social and Economic Development Strategies grant from fiscal year 2014-2016 to incorporate traditional peacemaking dispute resolutions processes into the court system known as peacemaking.

The grant created a Mashpee Wampanoag Peacemaking Model specific to the cultural values of the tribe. This model preserved ancestral wisdom and maintained peacemaking as a vital component of tribal culture.

To create this model, the EJC began building a coalition of community advisors, such as clan mothers, spiritual advisors, and chief’s circle members, for its development and implementation. The group developed the core peacemaking guidelines including dispute resolution techniques, referral and intake processes, record keeping, and tribal utilization. Once these guidelines were set, 18 tribal members were recruited and trained to become peacemakers and implement the model.

While the implementation of the Mashpee Wampanoag Peacemaking Model is ongoing, more tribal members are turning to this alternative dispute resolution model. Eight cases have been filed thus far, with two actually going through the Peacemaking process. Both parties must enter the process voluntarily. Guided by two peacemakers, one female and one male to maintain balance, the parties are able to explain how they perceived the issues and as a result, have joint ownership over the outcome of the case. The tribal council now advocates peacemaking, and will be adding it to the employee handbook as an alternative option to automatic termination. Peacemaking has also been added to the juvenile codes which are now being developed as an alternative to appearing in court. A Peacemaking model is also being explored for ICWA cases transferred to Tribal court.

Peacemakers have remarked that it was empowering to develop and implement this model. The ability to reincorporate traditional adjudication methods into tribal law has expanded opportunities for resolutions firmly rooted in the Mashpee Wampanoag’s cultural values.

Key Results

  • 18 peacemakers trained
  • 6 cases filed
  • 3 individuals and 1 group utilized peacemaking court
  • 9 partnerships created
  • 72 community members trained in peacemaking skills
  • Peacemaker brochure, manual, reporting forms, and oath created
  • “Some Wampanoag were born to be peacemakers. They’ve already done it all their lives.” – Peacemaking spiritual advisor


October 2, 2017
Last Reviewed: June 26, 2019