When Things Happened

Silke Hansen

CRS Mediator, Denver Office

[Full Interview]


What questions do you ask to get this going?


Just, "What's the conflict here?" Usually I am there because something has happened or somebody has issued a petition. So I just say, "Okay, so tell what this is about." One of the questions that I have learned is, "When did this happen?" I am thinking of a case of police use of force in Indian country. As I met with the minority community, I heard horror stories of the kinds of beatings that had taken place and abuse of citizens and so on. The first time, I was overwhelmed. They were all terrible. Then I found out that some of them had taken place 15 years ago. "It happened to my son who is now in college." That doesn't make it any less important. I am not minimizing the relevance of that, but I did learn to ask, "When did this happen?" instead of just assuming. My mindset at first was like, "Tell me what happened." I would hear the stories assuming that it had happened at least within the last year. But what I am hearing isn't just what happened in the last year, but the whole history of this. So when I asked, "When did it happen?" in that case, I tried to make sure that they didn't feel what happened twenty years ago wasn't important, but as we get closer to the actual joint meeting, it's important to know what the long term history is and what's happened more recently.