Akak'stiman: A Blackfoot Framework for Decision-Making and Mediation Processes


94 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography
ISBN 1-55238-044-0
DDC 362.1'089'97307123




Reviewed by David Mardiros

David Mardiros is a lawyer and anthropological consultant in Terrace,
British Columbia.


The current attempts in the criminal justice system to model the
sentencing of offenders on traditional Aboriginal models of
“restorative justice” has received a lot of attention of late.
Descriptions of how traditional processes for resolving conflict
actually function are rare. This book provides valuable insight into the
functioning of such a traditional system that, the authors argue, is
applicable to many of the problems Aboriginal people face today in
creating and operating business and administrative structures on

Although this is a short book, the authors outline quite effectively
how the Blackfoot of southern Alberta have made and enforced their laws
during the annual gatherings surrounding the Sun Dance ceremonial. The
book provides a summary description of traditional Blackfoot
society—consisting for most of the year of autonomous bands of closely
related families that were highly mobile and fiercely independent—and
how it was able to develop a sophisticated system of functionaries and
mechanisms to deal with the disputes and managerial issues that
inevitably arose when large groups formed for the annual religious
observances. The descriptive material is supplemented in the appendixes
by oral historical material, an extensive set of chapter notes, and a
useful bibliography. As a result, the work is a fine précis of an
extensive body of knowledge about Blackfoot society and decision-making

The book is less successful, however, when it attempts to illustrate
how these social, political, and organizational techniques can be
applied to the modern bureaucracy surrounding health-care
administration, child protection, and business enterprises. While the
techniques described in the traditional context were effective for
building consensus by ensuring that all have a role, and a stake, in the
process, the reader is left to speculate how this would actually work in
the current context where there are systems of reporting and fiscal
accountability that are externally imposed and part of a different
cultural milieu. Perhaps the authors will produce a second volume that
will explore these issues in greater detail.


Crowshoe, Reg, and Sybille Manneschmidt., “Akak'stiman: A Blackfoot Framework for Decision-Making and Mediation Processes,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 17, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/10132.