Community Organizing for Effective Mediation

Bob Hughes

Former CRS Mediator, Atlanta and Seattle Offices

[Full Interview]


Well, the tribal officials knew I was coming. They asked that I come and I said, "Yes, I would come." I had to go find the others, the residents on the island. I had a description of where they lived or where the incident took place, that sort of thing. One or two names were known, and the others were not.


So did you just go up and start knocking on doors?


Exactly. I went to the area where I understood that they were talking about. This was a sharp contrast to the kinds of mediation that I was doing. Here, my task was to organize. I became a community organizer in order to have a bona fide, representative party composed of persons who would represent the interests of the people on the island. That needed to include those who were creating problems, as well as others who might provide some answers and positive leadership. That was what I was aiming at. A person that I made an early contact with was the pastor of a very small fundamentalist church, and I never did know where he lived. He was off the island and he was never involved. So it was the one church, the pastor, the one resident clergyman on the island who became a key person. There were two people who were identified by the tribal fishermen as people that they had particular problems with, more than once. Let's say Landowner A and Landowner B. After visiting with them, I had the issues from the Native American standpoint and the issues as identified by the landowners. The brandishing of weapons was one of the issues by both sides, I believe. Anyway, I came to meetings with them. I also talked to the State Department of Fisheries Enforcement personnel who had jurisdiction of that area and with the Marine Patrol of the Pierce County Sheriff's Office, to get information that they might have about this situation, confirming that they had been called and that they had not been involved beyond just responding and then leaving. I was talking to the sheriff, too.