Restoration Centers Relationships
Restorative work begins with relationships. When harm happens, restorative work helps us to find ways to repair and to move forward together.
Truth and reconciliation practices around the globe have taught us that restoration requires:
1. Acknowledge: Name the harm that has happened
2. Accountability: Take responsibility for your role in what happened
3. Amends: Work with the people harmed to identify what is needed to repair the harm
4. Action: Take actions to repair the harm in alignment with what the people who were harmed have requested
Lately, I see examples of restoration everywhere. Earlier this month, for example, Dartmouth University discovered that it had been teaching with the human remains of Indigenous people as late as 2022. (https://home.dartmouth.edu/news/2023/03/dartmouth-conducting-review-nagpra-compliance) It is likely that the University obtained the remains as a result of graverobbing done in the name of “scientific discovery” that served justify theft and dehumanization of Indigenous people in the Americas.
When Dartmouth made the discovery, it acknowledged the harm that happened and the President of the University shared his deep regret. The university took immediate action to make amends by moving these human remains off campus. They also offered a healing space for students harmed by learning and handling the remains, cleansing and blessing ceremonies co-created with Native American people the university had relationships with, and pledged to ensure they only teach with “ethically sourced” human remains in the future. They also shared a way Indigenous tribes could contact the university to arrange for the return of the remains. Native American students have said that “ justice requires a person or entity to be held accountable.” (https://apnews.com/article/dartmouth-college-native-americans-remains-5c0305757739110e7cc8630df9b3a46c)
This example of restoration is a good one - the University worked with Indigenous folks they have relationships with to determine what was needed for repair. I also see opportunities for more accountability. What would it look like for the individuals who mislabeled the remains and those who taught with the bones of these ancestors to step up and acknowledge their role in causing harm? Could the University do the heavy lifting of finding the Indigenous tribes that these ancestors belong to and do the work to return them, instead requiring the tribes to do all the labor? What would it look like for the University to admit that it never should have had the stolen human remains in the first place?
People in our organizations benefit when there is true accountability. True repair is grounded in the needs of the person harmed, and the obligation for repair lands with the person who did the harm. When we take full responsibility for repair when we cause harm, we can rebuild relationships and find our way back to each other. #restorativepractices#relationships