On Justice

Root & Rebound
9 min readJun 23, 2020
Abby Abinanti, Chief Justice of the Yurok Tribe.

“The more I consider the condition of the white men, the more fixed becomes my opinion that, instead of gaining, they have lost much by subjecting themselves to what they call the laws and regulations of civilized societies.”

Tomachichi, Creek Chief

Dear Human People,

Our story, the story of Tribal Nations in this country, is important to you. Because, if you do not know our story, you can not right yourself or help to right this country that your ancestors have created. Each of you will have to define for yourself, your family, your community — what is justice? What does it look like? And what is my role?

How can you not hear them weeping? Those you have hurt, or ignored while they were hurt in your name, and those whose hurt has continued from the ancestors. The ancestors who were lied to, murdered, prevented from protecting the beings left in their care, their homelands, families, and communities by the overwhelming hatefulness of a belief system based on a collective expression of values defined in evilness and greed.

If you are reading this you may have a strong belief that things are “not right” in these stolen lands. Many of you are not in relationships with any tribal people. Many of you believe that you personally are not racist, have not contributed or continued to benefit from the race-based decision making of this country. But in believing these myths, you have forgotten your origin story, your ancestors' trials and the decisions made to steal, murder, plunder this land for you and your children and your children's children.

The legacy of colonization and genocide of Indigenous people dates back to 1492, when Christopher Columbus arrived in the U.S. After the brutal American-Indian Wars, (massacres) indigenous populations declined sharply from 5–15 million people to just under 250,000 people (History.com, 2018). When enslavement began in 1619, the histories of brutality and domination ran parallel and continue to manifest in today’s criminal legal system.

And you can design a better system, as we have done here in the Yurok Tribe. The Yuroks found that U.S. justice systems did not reflect or support traditional Yurok values of responsibility, cooperation and community. So we are creating a modern-day Yurok system of justice, the Yurok…

Root & Rebound

Restoring power & resources to the communities most harmed by mass incarceration through legal advocacy, public education, policy reform & litigation.