- Valmaine TokiValmaine TokiFaculty of Law, University of Waikato
In many jurisdictions, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States and across the Pacific, offending rates for Indigenous peoples continue to be disproportionate to population size. For example, in New Zealand, Māori comprise over half the male prison population yet constitute only 15% of the national population. In Canada and the United States, where Indigenous people constitute 3.6 and 1.7% of the population, respectively, imprisonment rates are also disproportionate.
Notwithstanding attempts to address these statistics, the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in prisons continues. However, Te Kooti Rangatahi, a marae-based (traditional-setting) “Indigenous court” for youths, has demonstrated some initial success as a unique initiative. This “court” integrates tikanga Māori (Māori culture) into the judicial process, with the aim of facilitating the reconnection of young people with their culture and involving the wider community. Te Kooti Matariki, an Indigenous court for adults, employs tikanga but within a mainstream court. A comparative perspective with the Navajo Common Law and Navajo Nation Tribal Court system demonstrates that the inclusion of Indigenous concepts into Western legal systems is not novel and should not in and of itself prevent the extension of Te Kooti Rangatahi and Te Kooti Matariki’s jurisdictions.