Presenter Geri Wisner, Muscogee (Creek) prosecuting attorney.
By ROSELYNN YAZZIE
FORT HALL — The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Victims Assistance Program provided judicial and community training October 10 and 11 in recognition of Domestic Abuse Awareness Month.
The first day was specifically geared toward judges, court staff and the Judicial Council.
After breakfast, Victims Assistance Program Manager Audrey Jim welcomed the participants and said she wanted to provide the training for the staff to fulfill their main goal of working together for the betterment of the community and program.
VAP’s, Matt West, offered the prayer for the event and introduced the lead facilitator, Geri Wisner, who he commended for her many years of dedication to work with Native issues.
“I hope she gives you something to think about that you can work and build upon,” said West.
Judicial Council Chairman Diane Yupe speaks. Howard Doore in the background.
Wisner is from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and is a former United States Marine. Wisner has experience as a tribal prosecutor for the Pawnee Nation and Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma, she served as a judge with the Bureau of Indian Affairs Court of Indian Offenses, she is the Executive Director of the Native American Children’s Alliance and she runs the Wisner Law Firm. Wisner often presents at conferences sharing her expertise in criminal justice issues in Indian Country.
Wisner explained in school history people were taught about 1492 forward, but the Native people were here long before that, and the fact is tribes had a process of justice since the beginning of time.
She said, “Before the constitution, before anything else tribal people had a sense of justice. We had processes of justice.”
Those are the things she looks at now as a prosecutor.
“We are sitting on top of a plethora of knowledge and resources and that is all within our elders,” she said. She asked, what did they do back in the old days when the kids acted up and how did they resolve issues among our tribal people? She said that’s the box you can look at so people are not limited to jail or a fine. She said that’s the Western ideology way of thinking, instead you can see if the kids could use help from mentors, like elders who are knowledgeable in medicine or prayer. Whatever it may be unique to the tribe. She said therefore, knowledge can be carried on and it will be a win-win by being passed down to someone who needs it.
She has five tribes she currently prosecutes for in Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. She has a council of elders who she regularly consults with within the tribes and talks about what they need to do to help the people and to bring about a sense of justice.
She grew up on the reservation and had an innate responsibility that one day she wanted to help tribes, to take care of children and elders.
Wisner’s mission was to find out what is going on, what is working, what is not working in the community. She wanted everyone to get on the same page to come up with a solid solution for the future of the community.
Wisner told the audience she wanted to lead the presentation as more of an open conversation and they would discuss the following: Role and responsibility of judges in domestic abuse ex parte and permanent protection orders; judiciary bias and ethics; challenges in issuing and dismissing, victim and batterer dynamics and batterer accountability and intervention programs.
The second day of the event will be open to the entire community where the discussion will consist of dynamics and severity of domestic violence in Native communities; domestic violence and its effect on children; law enforcement, tribal court and victim advocate organization’s response and commitment to victims of domestic abuse.