Looking Back at Restorative Justice in Indian Country—A Conference of the Law School’s Andrew Center for Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice in Indian CountryThis year’s restorative justice conference was special—not only because a late-winter snowstorm seemed to have no effect on attendance, but also because it was the first annual conference to be hosted by the newly created Andrew Center for Restorative Justice at Marquette University Law School.

The theme for this year’s annual restorative justice conference, under the leadership of Ret. Justice Janine Geske, was Restorative Justice in Indian Country: Speaking the Truth, Instilling Accountability, and Working Toward Healing. With Native American Heritage Month now concluded, the Andrew Center would like to reflect on and draw attention to the continuing importance of our 2023 conference.

As part of this year’s conference, Justice Geske ensured that the wisdom, traditions, and voices of Native Americans would guide the conference organizing and planning. She received important early support from Marquette University’s Council on Native American Affairs. In addition, Jacqueline Schram, Director of Public Affairs and Special Assistant for Native American Affairs in the university’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, among others, was instrumental in the conference’s success.

The conference began with a Flag Ceremony by the Mohican Veterans and a Drum Ceremony, as a sign of thanksgiving and welcome. The conference also featured speakers including Shannon Holsey, President of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, as well as JoAnn B. Jayne, Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation. This year’s conference presented several panel discussions, which included Native American legal experts and educators who spoke and answered questions about harms suffered by Indigenous Peoples in the United States, Indigenous restorative justice practices, and restorative justice within Native American tribal law and the emergence of restorative justice within the U.S. legal system.

Perhaps more importantly, the Andrew Center hoped to encourage reflection about what restorative justice is and is not, and how it ought to be practiced in a way that is respectful to participants and the cultural ancestors of the practice. An excellent guide about restorative justice came from one of the panelists, Mark Denning, a cultural speaker and educator. “What does restorative justice look like?” asked Denning. “Victims are the focus; the harm that occurred is the second focus, and the focus on how to go about repairing that harm,” he answered. Denning also offered a contemplative question, asking: “But what’s the model: restore to what? What was it before harm was done?”

As we at the Andrew Center for Restorative Justice continue to learn more about the Indigenous roots of restorative justice, we also strive for our homepage to be a place where all may come to do the same. And so as Native American Heritage Month draws to a close, we invite you to visit our page, and to watch this year’s annual conference.

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Restorative Justice Week 2023


Marquette Law School Andrew Center for Restorative Justice hosted South Division High School’s restorative justice class to kick-off Restorative Justice Week (November 19 to November 25). Andrew Center Director, Mary Triggiano, and Amanda Coyle, Restorative Practices Coach at Milwaukee Public Schools, collaborated on the day-long event which included a facilitated a restorative justice circle for eighteen high school students. Two 10th grade students co-facilitated the restorative justice circle discussion with Director Triggiano. Participants from the high school included Dr. Francis Mutonya, Mr. Kenny Griffin, and Mrs. Joanna Rizzotto. Marquette Law restorative justice student, Mary Claire Griffith along with other law students, gave the high schoolers a tour of Marquette Law School Eckstein Hall. Pat Kennelly, Director of the Center for Peacemaking at Marquette University, joined the circle over lunch, describing his Center’s work in community. Stephanie Nikolay, Director of Admissions and Recruitment at Marquette Law School, gave a detailed presentation on law school admissions to the students.

Restorative justice views crime and conflict as harm to people and relationships, which is a different philosophy from the traditional justice system. It is a victim-centered approach that emphasizes the victim’s voice and needs, offender accountability and community engagement. Restorative justice can have transformative and healing potential for participants.

The Andrew Center for Restorative Justice promotes restorative justice to law students and the community. Our restorative justice work acknowledges with gratitude and respect the deep roots restorative justice has in indigenous peacemaking and conflict resolution. Please visit the Andrew Center for Restorative Justice’s webpage for up-to-date information on the Andrew Center and its work. The Andrew Center is planning events for 2024. Please join us!

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When Claude Got Shot

Marquette Law School’s Andrew Center for Restorative Justice hosted a viewing of the Emmy award winning documentary When Claude Got Shot on February 1, 2023. The next day, February 2, the Center hosted a “talk back event” with Andrew Center Director Janine Geske moderating a discussion with co-producer and impact campaign advisor Santana Wilson Cole, and Claude Motley.

Claude discussed his experiences of being shot by Nathan King and his journey after the shooting which led to his restorative justice advocacy. Santana shared her experience filming the documentary, her relationship with Claude, and empathy towards Claude’s shooter, Nathan. Claude’s friend, Brad Lichtenstein directed and produced When Claude Got Shot. Santana joined the documentary team as an intern. The film highlights Claude’s journey and Nathan’s criminal justice proceedings.

Claude’s journey began when Claude returned to his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for a high school reunion only to become a victim of gun violence. When two cars pulled up, Nathan, a 15-year-old, attempted to carjack Claude. Nathan got out of his car and while attempting to carjack Claude, shot Claude in the jaw. Claude fled in his vehicle, not realizing he was shot. The next day another victim shot Nathan while he was attempting yet another carjacking. As a result of those injuries, Nathan ended up being paralyzed from the waist down. Nathan and Claude ended up being treated at the same hospital, at the same time.

Claude and Santana described how the film follows Nathan’s juvenile court proceedings, which resulted in Nathan’s eventual transfer to be tried as an adult. Claude discussed how he was torn between his empathy and his anger. Nathan was given numerous chances to avoid being tried as an adult but absconded twice which resulted in his transfer to adult court.

Claude gave an impact statement asking the court to give Nathan a lighter sentence; however, despite that, the Judge gave him 12 years. Claude recalled conflicting emotions at Nathan’s sentencing. Most impactful for Claude was when Nathan was taken into the custody of the State and Nathan’s mother was prohibited from giving Nathan a hug because he now belonged to the State.

Claude eventually realized he wanted to sit down and talk to Nathan to express his forgiveness so; he reached out to Professor Geske. Claude was inspired by going through the restorative justice process with Nathan and, since the documentary, Claude opened his own non-profit for restorative justice reform in Charlotte, North Carolina. He wants to be a father figure for those struggling and wants to help others find peace. Despite push back from the community, Claude maintains his resilience in trying to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves.

Despite Santana’s anger toward Nathan for hurting Claude, she empathized with Nathan during the victim offender meeting. Santana reasoned that Nathan was only a kid, a kid who truly struggled, who likely felt alone, who did not have positive role models in his life, and who was lost. She has been inspired to advocate and assist juveniles as much as she can.  Santana advocates and helps educate communities on the impacts of gun violence.

Professor Geske ended the talk-back session with discussing Santana’s new projects all involving racial impact themes. Santana is currently managing and advising for multiple impact campaigns, filming, and directing her own short film, and writing a comedy series.

In 2021, Marquette University Law School established the Andrew Center for Restorative Justice, recognizing the generosity of Louis J. Andrew, Jr., and Suzanne Bouquet Andrew. The Andrew Center is intended to continue into the future the work of the Hon. Janine P. Geske, former justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, who led the Law School in establishing its former Restorative Justice Initiative in 2004. Restorative justice seeks particularly to help support victims and communities in the process of healing from the effects of crime.

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