[page 53]







Larry A. Gould



Introduction: A Statement of the Problem



In their discussion of the fundamentally different concepts of sovereignty in European-based development and Native American tradition, Boldt and Long (1984: 537-547) identify European-based concepts such as authority, hierarchy, and ruling entity as being in conflict with the Native American concepts of spiritual compact, tribal will, and customary/traditional world view. This systemic conflict sets the stage for both individual and organizational conflict, particularly among those Native peoples who must work in both the Native and European-based legal systems and cultures.


This paper focuses on one aspect of the conflict, that of the cultural dissonance[1] [page 54] faced by a sample of Navajo Police Officers resulting from the enforcement of two, sometimes competing, forms of social control within their own community. Those forms are the traditionally-based Navajo Common Law along with some of the traditional methods of conflict resolution and social control and the European-based law which has been imposed on the Navajo Nation since the arrival of Europeans in the Four Corners area of the Southwestern United States. Previous research (Gould 1996) suggests that officers with greater spiritual ties to their families and community tend to approve of traditional means of social control such as peacemaking more often than do officers having a lower level of spiritual connectedness.


It is not uncommon for police officers to face both internal and external strife while performing the duties with which they have been charged. Police officers are required to operate within the organizational culture of their department while at the same time working within the culture of the communities they serve. Generally the police subculture is based on the time-honored notion of ‘professionalism,’ that emphasizes crime control over crime prevention, thus isolating the officers from the communities and the people they serve (Christopher Report 1991). Additionally, professionalization requires reliance on cognitive skills and the need to take in information and process it through the five Senses rather than relying on Intuition or traditional methods of knowing (Hennessy 1994). The resurgence in the Native American communities of the traditional models which emphasize healing over punishment thus places the police officers, particularly those officers steeped in the European-based system of social control, at odds with much of the community.


Skoog (1996) has identified three models of policing which may exist in the Native American community: (1) the crime control model, (2) the community policing model, and (3) the political sovereignty model. Conceptually these are three distinct models; however, in reality there is generally some overlap between some of their features.


The crime control model emphasizes public order, the absolute power of the law to ensure public safety, with minimal input from citizens and the demand of respect for police priorities, policies and procedures (Trojanowicz and Carter 1988: 8). Skoog (1996) notes that, should such a model be adopted by a Native American community, it would appear to be indistinguishable from any smalltown police department in which administrative control is in the hands of a few local political leaders, who may or may not reflect the grassroots concerns of the [page 55] community and its citizens. There tends to be both internal pressure from nontraditional members of the Native American community and external pressure from federal and state agencies to adopt this model of policing in Native American communities.


Community policing models are currently receiving much attention in mainstream police literature (Trojanowicz and Burqueroux 1990; Goldstein 1987). It is significant that the Manitoba Aboriginal Justice Inquiry in Canada called for the adoption of “a community policing approach, particularly in Native communities” (Hamilton and Sinclair 1991: 600). The community-based model of policing seems to have great applicability to Native American communities because of its capacity to be far more culturally sensitive than the crime control model, due to its focus on local control and emphasis on conflict resolution (Skoog 1996).


The political sovereignty model is the most politically radical model of the three. Under this model, Native American communities would have their own courts, which could adjudicate any and all issues occurring within their jurisdiction, and the police would form one part of an integrated criminal justice system based on Native American values (Skoog 1996).


Of the three systems illustrated by Skoog (1996), the one that is most at conflict with the values and traditional structure of Native communities is the crime control model. As noted by Luna (1997), the concept of ‘professionalization’ dominates policing in the United States. The development of standardized codes and protocols, and the standardization of training and structures of administration are widely perceived as worthy goals. However, there are many problems with a ‘professionalized’ policing approach as it is attempted in Indian Country. Professionalized policing is based within an adversarial context, with the police officers holding the ‘thin blue line’ against wrong-doers, for the benefit of an uninvolved community. This approach is based on quick response to calls for service and on a hierarchical system of management and decision-making. This structure and these emphases, by their nature, are difficult to apply in most Native American communities (Luna 1997). Law enforcement, in the way it is most commonly conducted in the United States, is a foreign concept to most Native American communities. The concept of ‘professionalized’ policing, with its emphasis on technology, specialized police activities and restricted use of police discretion, does not conform with the style of peacekeeping most commonly used in traditional or rural communities (Luna 1999).


While policing and the justice system in general are a mixture of the three policing models in the Navajo Nation’s administration of justice, the most prevalent of the three used is the crime control model. The prevalence of the [page 56] crime control model creates an environment that is ripe for both individual and organizational conflict. The focus of this research is on individual conflict, more correctly referred to as an individual anomic state (Hilbert 1986).


The questions explored in this research concern the ability of the Navajo Police Officers to reconcile these two very different approaches to the treatment of problems coming to the attention of the police department, by examining the effect of their methods of enforcement on their feelings about their own coimectedness to Navajo spirituality. Additionally, this research explores the ‘cultural cost’ to the officers, when they choose to use the more formalized methods (European-based) of social control as opposed to the more traditional methods being reintroduced on the Navajo Nation, mostly commonly illustrated by the resurgence of peacemaking. As noted previously ‘cultural cost’ or ‘cultural dissonance’ refers to the cultural/spiritual conflict resulting from having to operate on a professional level within two fundamentally different systems of social control. Cultural cost can come in many forms, one of the most important being ostracization by family, friends or colleagues, either for being ‘not Navajo enough’[2] or for being ‘too Navajo’. In this case being ‘not Navajo enough’ would generally refer to an officer who tends to rely heavily on European-based forms of social control and is thus criticized by more traditional Navajo people, while being ‘too Navajo’ refers to officers who tend more often to rely on traditional methods of social control, and thus are criticized by other law enforcement officers.


It is suggested that, in part, the cultural cost to the police officers results from the conflict between the two general types of legal system: the European-based adjudicatory (in this case the crime control model) system with its emphasis on arrest and punishment (Skolnick and Fyfe 1993; Skolnick 1975) and restorative approach with an emphasis on healing and making the people involved whole again (Bluehouse and Zion 1993; Dumont 1996; Snyder-Joy 1996). Adjudication with an emphasis on punishment and crime control - the European system - is the primary system that is linked to the modern state. This system is [page 57] most often based on the use of power and authority, involving adversarial methods of coercion and force to control the behavior of individuals (Yazzie 1994; Dumont 1996). It is often based on an adversarial approach to resolving issues, which puts the different parties in a conflictual position. This is the system, a crime control police model of justice, that was imposed upon Indian Nations toward the close of the nineteenth century. The police model reinforces undue federal governmental authority (Yazzie and Zion 1995), which creates a sense of second class citizenship within the Indian nations. This feeling of second-class citizenship is particularly felt by the police officers at Navajo. “The second form of justice, the original form developed by indigenous peoples, is restorative justice” (Zion 1997).


The specific points of conflict, according to Boldt and Long (1984), stem from the European concept of authority based on a belief in the inherent inequality of men. In the European-based societies individual autonomy was regarded as the foundation for the successful acquisition of private property and achievement through competitive pursuits. Social control in terms of authority was deemed necessary to protect society against rampant individual self-interest, and thus authoritative power was believed essential for maintaining the integrity of a sovereign society. This also meant that hierarchical power structures were necessary to ensure the distribution of privileges and the maintenance of order from the most authoritative to the most powerless (Dumont 1993; Brown 1982).


The European-based concept of authority, hierarchy and power is fundamentally different from the Native American concept of sovereignty or responsible and egalitarian governance (social control). In traditional Native American society self-interest is inextricably intertwined with the tribal interest (Dumont 1993; Boldt and Long 1994; Brown 1982). One of the strongest tenets of European- based forms of social control is the idea of the social contract, a concept of how authorities should more humanely exercise the right to govern others and devise egalitarian methods of extending authoritative rule from the ruler to the ruled (Dumont 1993). In most traditional Native American societies, it is believed that no human being rightfully has control over the life of another (Boldt and Long 1984). In Native American belief systems, social control is often viewed as a “spiritual compact, while the European-based means of social control derive from personal authority, hierarchical relationship and the concept of a separate ruling entity.” (Dumont 1993; Boldt and Long 1984)


Peacemaking, a form of restorative justice, is an example of one of the traditional Native American forms of social control. Restorative justice is dissimilar from adjudication in that it views crime and offending as a conflict between individuals, a conflict out of which healing or making the individuals involved whole again is one of the major goals. Peacemaking is often confused [page 58] with typical forms of European-based dispute resolution. The goal of Peacemaking is to seek reconciliation between the parties, and to repair the injury that occurred as a result of the dispute, through the active participation of victims, offenders, and the community (Hudson and Galaway 1996).


Following more than a century of suppression of traditional Native American forms of social control, the resurgence of Hozhooji naat’aanii, Navajo Peacemaking, is a part of major changes taking place in the Native criminal justice system in North America (Zion 1997; Belgrave 1995). The re-institution of Peacemaking began in 1982 as the result of a conscious effort on the part of the judges of the Courts of the Navajo Nation (Bluehouse and Zion 1993).


Zion (1997) posits that restorative justice is, in part, a response both to the inadequacies of federal, state and local adjudication in handling Native American problems, and to the effects of colonialism. Thus indigenous peoples use restorative justice for both an immediate purpose (a case at hand) and as a method of healing the wounds of internal colonialism (Newman 1983; Duran and Duran 1995), ‘going back to the future’ through the use of traditional means of social control (Austin 1993).


The Courts of the Navajo Nation most commonly handle misdemeanor criminal offenses such as driving while intoxicated, assaults and batteries, and offenses against order (most often disorderly conduct). The courts also handle a large number of domestic violence cases and the resulting civil restraining orders (Zion 1997; also see Synder-Joy 1996 and Skoog 1996 for of court and police jurisdiction).


The Navajo Nation is somewhat unusual in that it uses a system of justice in which both European forms of adjudication and the Native American-based systems operate side-by-side. It is possible that cases may shift from the European-based adjudication system to Peacemaking, or begin in Peacemaking by choice of the parties, either remaining there or going into the adjudication system for enforcement by the court (Zion 1996).


The values found in Peacemaking and other forms of traditional Native American means of social control are at odds with the core values comprising the European-based means of social control. For example, in traditional Navajo thought one doesn’t correct the actor: that would be a violation of the ‘it’s up to him’ values; one corrects the action. This is certainly one of the main points of the cultural dissonance faced by the Navajo police officer. Another point at which dissonance occurs involves the issue of judgement. In the Navajo culture, it is generally accepted that passing judgement (arrest) on somebody else is a behavior for which there are always consequences. This means that making an [page 59] arrest creates a cultural dissonance which leads to some of the cultural costs previously mentioned. It is also important to note that, for some officers, not making an arrest also leads to cultural dissonance with its own set of subcultural costs, such as loss of respect from some of the less traditional officers, other law enforcement agencies and non-native courts.


At this point a brief look at the history of the Navajo Police Department may help in understanding how the individual officers are socialized into the subculture of policing. It is generally accepted (Skolnick and Fyfe 1996; Trojanowicz and Bucqueroux 1990) that police agencies have their own sets of sub-cultural rules that are learned by new officers from older officers and that those rules are often enforced through the use of peer pressure.



A Brief History of Navajo Policing and Its Connection to the Crime Control Model


The first Navajo Police Force was organized in August, 1872. It originally consisted of 130 officers commanded by Chief Manuelito. This organization lasted only two years, after which the responsibility for policing was given to the Law and Order Branch of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It was not until 1936 that the modern Navajo Police services was established. In 1942 the agency consisted of six subdivisions, each headed by a Chief of Police. In 1953 the Department was centralized at Fort Defiance, Arizona, with Captains in each district. It is important to note that this kind of centralization, and thus the reduction of local input, is an important aspect of the crime control model. In 1959, a Detective Division was created and in 1960 a Liquor and Vice Squad, as well as a Traffic Division, were activated. The creation of specialized units is part of a pattern of growth in any police organization and leads to greater professionalization of the department; however, it also reduces local input. This increases the likelihood of the adoption of the crime control model. Each special unit has to justify its existence by evidencing productivity. The easiest method of evidencing productivity is through arrests and investigations, or in other words using the crime control model.


The first formal training for Navajo Police Officers was held in 1967. The Navajo Nation is the only Indian Nation to have its own training academy. Academy instruction currently consists of 26 weeks of training at Toyei, Arizona. The Department is currently headed by a Chief of Police. There are seven officers with the rank of Captain heading: a Patrol Division, a Special Tactical Unit, a D.A.R.E., a G.R.E.A.T. Gang Unit, Police Recruitment, Training, and Fiscal Management. Additionally, there is a Captain at each of the seven police districts. Currently the Navajo Department of Law Enforcement has [page 60] approximately 282 commissioned officers, and 200 civilian support staff.


In 1989 the Criminal Investigation section, another new unit of the Department, assumed the responsibility for criminal investigations from the BIA. This change enlarged the Department’s responsibility to include the investigation of non- criminal deaths, vehicular homicides, misdemeanor property crime, and misdemeanor assaults/batteries, and to provide preliminary investigative assistance to the FBI on more serious cases.[3] It should be noted that, while the police officers receive intensive training which is comparable to that received by other police officers in the State of Arizona, their enforcement and investigative authority are restricted by the Major Crimes Act (18 U.S.C.A. 1155).[4] The restriction of the authority of the officers tends to result in over-enforcement of some laws by some of the officers. As discussed later, despite the fact that the Navajo Police Officers are, in this writer’s opinion, highly trained, professional and capable officers, there is a perception that they tend to spend a lot of time attempting to prove themselves to other police agencies.



Hypothesis and Operationalization of the Research


The general hypothesis of this research was that the cultural background and orientation of the officers, in terms of their own spirituality as measured by self- expressed connection to traditional ceremonies, would have an effect on the level and type of dissonance felt by the officers. The cultural dissonance is expected to increase for those officers who express greater levels of traditional Navajo spirituality. The cultural dissonance is also expected to increase for those officers expressing very little or no connectedness to traditional Navajo spirituality. Specifically, those officers expressing greater levels of spirituality [page 61] would be at greater risk of the type of cultural dissonance that results from being at odds with their own Navajo culture. These officers would be more likely to be faced with the prospect of being ‘too Navajo.’ In other words, these officers would be more likely to suffer cultural dissonance as the result of having to enforce a European-based set of social controls that would put them at odds with their own Native-based culture. Furthermore, these officers would be at greater risk of ridicule from other police officers, both within and outside the Navajo police force. The second group of officers, those expressing very little or no connectedness to Navajo spirituality, are also at an increased risk of cultural dissonance. In the case of these officers, increased dissonance occurs as the result of being ‘not Navajo enough.’ They enforce European-based laws much like other police officers in Arizona. The result is that they are told that they are not really Navajo or that they have rejected Navajo ways. This leads to an increase disconnectedness from family, friends and their own community. In sum, they tend at times to be treated like outsiders by their family, friends and the community in which they work, which results in a disconnectedness or cultural dissonance.






(a) Sample development


The sample used in this study was developed using a combination of convenience and snowball sampling techniques.[5] Through contact with two Navajo Police Officers taking classes at Northern Arizona University, the researcher (interviewer) was placed in contact with two other Navajo Police Officers, both of whom were willing to be interviewed. The two interviewees recommended to the interviewer other officers who might be interested in participating in the study. The interviewer, independently, made contact with other Navajo Police Officers, either through their contact with Northern Arizona University or through personal contact during visits to the Navajo Nation.


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(b) Interviews (data collection)


The information used in this study was collected through the use of both a quantitative closed-ended interview instrument[6] (the specific questions are set out in Table 1) and intensive interviews in which the interviewer used a semi- structured interview schedule. This methodology uses closed-ended questions as the starting point for additional discussion which is then followed up with probing questions. It was not uncommon for the unstructured questions to lead to other unplanned but pertinent questions and answers. The interviews lasted from three to eight hours, depending on the location and circumstances of the interviews. Several of the interviews took place while the interviewer rode with the officer on patrol; others took place over the phone and yet others were conducted in person while the officer was off duty. All of the interviews were conducted in private and, when the interviews were interrupted, they were continued at a later time, and sometimes other places.



Table 1. Specific questions asked of each respondent


1.          Have you ever recommended that a victim seek a resolution through Peacemakers?

2.          Have you ever recommended that an offender seek a resolution through Peacemakers?

3.          Have you ever recommended that a family member of a victim seek help through Peacemakers?

4.          Have you ever recommended that a family member of an offender seek help through Peacemakers?

5.          If you as a police officer could direct individuals to Peacemakers rather than place them in the courts, would you do?

6.          Would you like to see links between the police department and the peacemakers so that the police could formally direct individuals or parties to a dispute to peacemakers?

7.          Do you believe that Peacemakers could be used to resolve issues in domestic violence cases?

8.          Do you believe that Peacemakers could be used to help chronic alcohol abuse cases?

9.          Do you believe that Peacemakers could be used in juvenile cases?

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10.        Do you participate in traditional ceremonies?

11.        Do you know anybody that has used Peacemakers to resolve a problem?

12.        In your estimation was Peacemakers successful?

13.        The Navajo Court judges have acted appropriately in handling cases that you have sent before them.

14.        Do you trust the peacemakers to appropriately resolve complex issues?

15.        On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being too strict in enforcement and 1 being too lenient in enforcement how would you rate most of the Navajo Court judges?

16.        Do you trust the peacemakers to appropriately resolve complex issues?






(a) Sample description


The sample consisted of 25 commissioned officers from the Navajo Nation Police Department, which was about ten percent of all the sworn officers. Males constituted 19 (76%) of the sample, while females accounted for 6 (24%) of the respondents. The average age of the officers was 33.68 years. The average age of the male officers was 34.63 (sd = 7.2), while the average age of the female officers was 30.66 (sd = 3.44). The average time on the job for all officers was 62.40 months (Sd 36.12), with a minimum time in service of 23 months and a maximum time in service of 145 months.


The respondents were from across the Navajo Nation, with 7 (28%) from Window Rock, 6 (24%) from Tuba City, 4 (16%) each from Kayenta and Chinle, and 2 (8%) each from Shiprock and Crownpoint. The average level of education for all respondents was 14.28 (sd = 1.33) years. Females reported a slightly higher average (mean = 15.33, sd = .81) than males (mean = 13.94, sd = 1.31).



(b) Qualitative reporting


The effect that European-style policing might have on the spirituality of the Navajo Police officers is important to this study in terms of how this relationship might on act the officers’ feelings about themselves. For the purposes of organization of the paper, the comments of those officers who clearly fell into the categories of ‘not Navajo enough’ are reviewed first. Those comments are followed by comments of officers classified as being ‘too Navajo’.


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(i) not Navajo enough


It will be recalled that these are officers who more often rely on arrest and other forms of European methods of social control in their duties as police officers. In the case of these officers, it was expected that increased dissonance would occur as the result of being ‘not Navajo enough.’ They would enforce European-based laws much like other police officers in Arizona. As a result they would be told that they were not really Navajo or that they had rejected Navajo ways. This would lead to an increased disconnectedness from family, friends and their own community. In sum, they would tend at times to be treated like outsiders, by family, friends and community, which would result in a disconnectedness or cultural dissonance.


One of the first comments comes from an officer of more than 15 years of experience. This officer related a story of a rape that had occurred in his district. During the investigation of the rape the officer learned that the family of the offender had approached the family of the victim and offered to provide compensation by giving an unspecified number of cows to the victim’s family. The officer viewed the offer of the cattle by the offender’s family as an obstruction of justice and the acceptance of the cattle by the victim’s family as a subversion of the investigation. The officer felt that after the exchange was made there was little cooperation from the victim or her family concerning the development of further evidence and there was also little desire on the part of the victim or her family for furtherance of the investigation. The officer was clearly upset by the outcome of this case. He suggested in the interview that


this type of behavior is one of the reasons that Navajos don’t have the respect of whites and that, furthermore, it was one of the reasons that the Federal District Attorney was less than enthusiastic about prosecuting cases on the reservation.


When questioned about his spiritual connectedness to traditional Navajo values or traditions, the officer made it quite clear that he had never had a ceremony performed for him, had never been to a ceremony, and had never helped in the preparation of a ceremony. The officer did not express an adherence to any other religion. He stated: “Folks who rely on traditional Navajo ways only create problems for themselves and are an embarrassment to the Navajo people.” The officer went on to state that he had been frustrated in several of his investigations by Peacemakers and other traditionalists.


It should be noted that this officer probably serves as an example of the extreme end of the not Navajo enough to too Navajo continuum. He felt that the [page 65] traditionalists, including the Peacemakers, were looking backward to a time that never really existed and that they were an obstruction to true Navajo sovereignty. In sum, this officer had much in common with non-Navajo police officers: he relied on his cognitive skills, preferring to take in information and process it through his five senses rather than intuition. This means that he was ‘bound in reality’ (Hennessy 1994), in this case European-based reality, and was unlikely to be convinced by anything but reasoning based on solid fact.


It was during this interview that the author began to develop the concept of not Navajo enough and too Navajo. The officer expressed a great deal of concern when he told the author that some of his family, many of his friends and many of the people he served had told him that he was not really a Navajo.


While the example given above is extreme, other officers expressed similar concerns. Many of the officers who would be placed toward this end of the continuum expressed concerns about the current move of the Navajo Nation toward increased use of Peacemakers and other traditional methods of healing, conflict resolution and problem solving.


As one officer stated, “If the victims or offenders want to use traditional ways that is their decision not mine. The regular [Europeani law is simply more straightforward.” This officer also expressed concern that the use of traditional methods of correcting problems or providing methods of social control was viewed by white police officers from other agencies as backward. This officer had not attended a traditional ceremony since he graduated from the police academy and he had only attended a few ceremonies prior to becoming a police officer. He professed a discomfort with traditional methods because they did not seem to provide the necessary punishment for the offenders.


Several officers expressed concern that traditional methods were disruptive of due process and that the ‘justice’ was not equitable for each victim. As one officer noted:


When somebody commits a crime, it is a crime against everybody, not just the victim. We need to prosecute the offender so that the victim has his day in court. If the victim relies on traditional methods then there is no record of the offense and no guarantee that the offender will be punished.


This officer had been educated in a town bordering the Navajo Nation and both of his parents had attended boarding schools. He had never attended any traditional Navajo ceremonies, either as a child or as an adult. Along similar lines, another officer stated:

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Even the current Navajo judges are too traditional. They are afraid to find people guilty, even with overwhelming evidence. They find ways to let people go. They want the offender’s family to take care of the problem. They [the judges] are afraid of the consequences of judging people. The judges are just too traditional in their views and Peacemakers is a joke [sic]. This is not right because the law is not served like that.


This officer had occasionally attended ceremonies, but mostly because his wife went to them. It is interesting to note that this officer was highly critical of medicine men and blamed one of them for killing his brother. It appears that the brother had been sick for some time. When the brother did not show much improvement after a visit to a doctor, the family sought the help of a medicine man. The brother’s condition continued to deteriorate under the care of the medicine man. The officer blamed the medicine man for interfering in the proper treatment of his brother. This officer also commented that he was no longer close to his family because of his rejection of traditional ways. As he mentioned, “I still visit them a lot, but there is a distance there, we don’t have much in common.”



(ii) too Navajo


Again it will be recalled that cultural dissonance is also expected to increase for those officers who express greater levels of spirituality. These officers would be at an increased risk of the type of cultural dissonance that results from being at odds with the police culture in general and specifically at odds with the crime control model. These officers would be more likely to be faced with the prospect of being ‘too Navajo’. In other words, these officers would be more likely to suffer cultural dissonance as the result of having to enforce a European-based set of social controls that would put them at odds with their own Native American culture. Furthermore, these officers would be at greater risk of ridicule from other police officers, both within and outside the Navajo police force.


When specifically questioned concerning their feelings about Peacemaking and other traditional means of social control, it was found that many of the officers felt a spiritual loss when having to make an arrest. This played against their feeling of having to prove themselves in the eyes of other local and federal agencies by making arrests. As one officer put it:


It would sure be nice if we could send some of the juveniles and domestic problems directly to the Peacemakers. The problem is that unless we arrest people some of the other [page 67] agencies like the sheriffs, DPS and FBI think we are soft or just taking care of our own.


Another officer commenting on the same subject said:


Don’t you think that it hurts to arrest people? Our religion talks about healing and making things right. Arresting and jailing folks ain’t never going to heal nothing. I was raised by my parents to respect people, but what are you going to do?


Yet another officer commented:


I don’t think that in the case of juveniles, that arresting them is going to do any good, but that is all we have. They are not going to learn respect or spirituality by being arrested. They only learn to not trust elders and others. Of course it hurts me when I have to send one to jail or a regular court. I want them to learn respect.


Several officers commented on the general trend of the training that they had received at the Navajo Police Training Academy and the emphasis on European- style law enforcement. One officer commented: “I can’t fault my training. I think that it was good, but there was no part where law enforcement and healing were brought together.” Another officer said that she felt that at times she was having to make some difficult choices concerning the conflict between the things that she learned as a child and young adult, and those things being taught in the academy concerning how to treat people. She said: “I became a police officer to help people and I am not sure any longer that arresting them is the only solution.” Several of the officers commented that it was easier to rely on European-based means of social control as opposed to Navajo means. A male officer noted: “Using the law [Europeani that we learned in the academy is most times simpler than using traditional Navajo ways.”


These officers were much more likely to be involved in traditional Navajo ceremonies than were the officers described in the previous section. These officers were more likely to mention Peacemakers as a solution to some problems.


Many of the officers who expressed a strong spiritual connectedness felt that Peacemakers could be of help as a long term solution, expecially to domestic and juvenile problems. Several stated that they would like to see the development of links between the police and Peacemakers in these two areas. Statements such as: “Healing is important in domestic cases”; “Arrest is not a solution to either [page 68] domestic or juvenile problems, but working with the peoples’ families and elders like in Peacemakers might work”; and “Juveniles need help from their elders, not arrest by the police”, were common.


It is also interesting to note that most of the officers did not feel that Peacemakers could be effective in handling chronic alcohol abuse. Closer questioning found that the officers tended to feel that people with a chronic alcohol problem had lost, as one officer put it, “the seed of self-respect necessary for Peacemakers to work.” Another officer felt that Peacemaking might work but that it would first be necessary to get the attention of the person by ‘drying them out.’ Another officer reported that he felt that a chronic alcoholic might get more help from working with other reformed drinkers, but he did not feel that Peacemaking alone would work. Several of the officers reported that they felt that arrest was the only hope, because the chronic alcoholic not only had lost self-respect but had also lost the respect of the community. As one officer stated: “Navajos don’t like to deal with people who have lost respect for themselves. They just don’t have respect for these kind of people anymore. If they don’t respect them, they can’t help them.” The feeling was that, without the respect of the community toward the person, the efforts of the Peacemakers would not be effective.





Faced with having to work and live within the confines of two very different and often competing sets of collective consciences, those officers perceived as being too Navajo and those officers perceived as not being Navajo enough reach a state of cultural dissonance (an anomic state) in which they have difficulty.


This research suggests four overall findings. The first is that, for most situations in which enforcement actions become necessary, the officers who expressed a stronger cormectedness to traditional Navajo ways still tended to rely more on the European-based law than on the tribal common law; however, these officers expressed interest in an increased relationship with the Peacemakers for most types of offenses except chronic alcohol abuse. The second overall finding suggests that those officers expressing stronger ties to traditional Navajo ways tend to believe more often that Peacemaking and other traditional methods of social control could be useful, and that these same officers more often suffered from a sense of dissonance as a result of maintaining social control through the use of European-based methods. These officers more often expressed a sense of loss of their spirituality as a result of the internal conflict that resulted from the dissonance. It was noted in the interviews that the reliance on European-based legal structures (the formal court system) rather than on more traditionally-based [page 69] programs such as the Peacemakers has not, for many of the reporting officers, come without some personal cost in terms of a feeling of cultural loss. Those officers expressing a stronger attachment to traditional Navajo ways more often noted that their decisions to rely on European-based systems rather than the traditional systems tended to violate their sense of the community healing process. Most of the officers reporting a violation of their own sense of the healing process were able to rationalize their decision to rely upon European- based approaches by relying very heavily on their academy training and by modeling their efforts on other law enforcement agencies.


The third overall finding was that those officers who tended to practice the European-based professional model of policing and the crime control model of enforcement often felt that they did not have the respect of other Navajos. While this was a problem for most of the officers at this end of the continuum, some of these officers felt that the only way to achieve self-determination was to abandon the traditional methods of social control or to restrict these methods to very narrow categories of use.


The fourth overall finding was that the feeling of being too Navajo or not being Navajo enough was moderated to some extent by some specific situations such as the type of investigation, the seriousness of the crime (with the exception of drunken behavior) and the individuals involved.


In sum, the literature (Skolnick and Fyfe 1993; Skolnick 1975) suggest that simply being a police officer puts a lot of strain on the individual, while Skoog, (1996) and Gould (1997) support the findings of this study which suggest that there is a significant added burden to being a Navajo police officer. In addition to having to deal with the normal conflicts that are part of a police officer’s duties, the Navajo police officer must attempt to walk the fine line between two cultures which have conflicting and competing value systems.





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[1] Cultural dissonance is a term that has been previously used by this writer to signify an anomic state in which individuals are faced with having to operate within the confines of two competing cultures. The anomic state results from situations in which following the rules of one culture put the individual at risk of violating the rules of the other culture or when the individual does not have a clear concept of what is and what is not proper and acceptable behavior (Hilbert 1986). Many individuals can successfully navigate the conflicts of having to pay heed to the collective conscience of the two competing cultures. Those who have difficulty are faced with a situation or series of situations in which to some extent feels lost or continually conflicted; loses self identity; is perceived by family, friends, associates and community to be operating outside of the generally accepted cultural norms and is thus ostracized; and/or is faced with a situation in which [page 55] to act in accordance with one set of cultural rules puts them at risk of punishment for violating the rules of the other culture.

[2] The terms ‘not Navajo enough’ and ‘too Navajo’ were first used by one of the respondents in this study. Other respondents, also, used these two or very similar terms. While not part of this study, the commonality in the use of the terms and the way in which they were used suggests a shared understanding among the respondents of the terms. There is third category of officers who have for the most part been successful in managing the conflicting demands of the two cultures and there is often an overlap in how the officers feel about themselves and how their feel they are perceived by the community. The overlap is often a result of differing situations and differing actions by the officers

[3] The Federal Bureau of Investigation has primary responsibility of the investigation of crimes on any federally governed land, such as National Parks, National Forests, Bureau of Land Management and land governed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs

[4] The Major Crimes Act (18 U.S.C.A. 1153) provides for “federal jurisdiction over seven crimes committed by Indians in Indian country” (Canby 1988: 105). The crimes covered by the Major Crimes Act were murder, manslaughter, rape, assault with intent to kill arson, burglary, and larceny. There have been subsequent additions to the act so that kidnaping, carnal knowledge of a juvenile, incest, arson, assault with a dangerous weapon, burglary, and robbery are now included. Public Law 280 (67 Stat. 588), passed in 1953, granted some states criminal and civil jurisdiction over Indian Lands (Snyder-Joy 1996)

[5] The author recognizes the problems with both of the two methods used; however, efforts were made to develop a sample that was representative of the demographics of the Navajo Police Department in terms of gender, time-inservice, and location of assignment

[6] The results of the closed-ended survey are reported in Gould 1996. The focus of that report was on the opinions of the Navajo Police Officers concerning the effectiveness of the Navajo Peacemaker Division. For the present report the focus of the data collection is on the open-ended questions