Heidi Burgess and Dana Johnson conducting the interview. Please give us some background
information about what your work entailed while you were at CRS. When did you actually begin
and what was your title while you were there?
When I first started I was a field representative. That was my first
title. A field
representative was a staff person throughout the six-state region. I worked all over the region
sometimes over the nation. It depended on where a major difficulty would happen to be
would farm you out to that particular region or that particular area. CRS
is an agency
with ten regions. At that time field representatives worked in about five basic areas. Doing
resolution. At that time, the director took the position that if we could improve economic
education, housing, administration of justice, and other areas, we would resolve a lot of conflicts
When did you start?
1971, as a field representative. We were the foot soldiers, who
were out doing all these types of things. But, there was not just an emphasis on conflict
resolution, but on
total specialties, housing, economic development, so forth.
Sounds like a general problem solver.
Well, basically that's what it started out to be. We hoped to refine our problem-
solving skills by becoming expert more or less in the area of conflict resolution. As a result, we
train more in-depth on how to resolve conflicts and riots, and various other types of disputes.
we did; that's what we looked at. As a result, we had to be pretty good. We took all kinds of
kinds of in-service training, and of course, practica. As a result, we got to be pretty good,
the experience each of us might have already had. We had staff members who came out of law,
justice, education, and business as well as many other disciplines and educational experiences.
a multi-faceted organization.
Where was your background?
Political Science education. We had people with all kinds of degrees
Masters, and of course, regular BA's. Our strength lay in the experiences of the staff coming into
agency....ex-police chiefs and patrolmen for example. We needed people with police expertise,
so we had
a few cops who came into the agency who could give you an in-depth understanding of a
How long were you at CRS? (on tape)
27 years. And I found it to be one of the most rewarding and educational
experiences a professional could have. It was hands-on. You always had to think your way
And when did you leave?
I left in 1996 after accumulating 30 years of Federal Service.
You started out as a field rep. Did your role change over the years?
Oh yes. Politically, we were on an up-and-
down yo-yo. The way we were going to approach our task, so to speak, depended on what party
power. We had to be concerned about what the current administration wanted, and of course, the
President may or may not have been aware of our existence, but there was somebody in his
administration, in the cabinet, who did know. Our role fluctuated, so it was a situation where we
had to be
astute, and adjust to the interests of different administrations.
You said you were from a political science background. What were
you doing prior
to joining CRS?
I did three things. I didn't have just one degree. I was in criminal justice: I was a probation
officer, and a
parole officer, a juvenile justice officer, a teacher in junior college as well as junior high school,
juvenile court referee. I was also in the military.
So what was it that attracted you to CRS?
That's a good one. I wanted to get out of just criminal justice per se, because I felt stuck in
justice. I was here in Denver at the Denver Juvenile Court, and I went
over to the post
office to get some applications for federal employment. I just wanted to know what they had; I
had no idea
what was there. As I walked toward the civil service office, I passed by this office that was
"Department of Justice". I said, "Well, I'm interested in something like that." I just went in, to
somebody what was going on. There was only one person there, just a little man sitting behind a
and I said, "Pardon me, Sir, community relations, what is the Justice Department doing in
relations, can you tell me that?" He didn't share too much information with me, but he did give
me a big
stack of papers and told me to basically just read them. I said, "Ok, I will," and as I headed out
he said, "Oh, by the way, we have a position that's open here." I said, "Oh, thank you, can you
more about it?" He said, "Well, the big bosses are going to be in town, and they're going to
people. But, the first thing you have to do is submit an application." So I went back down to the
service office and got my application; that's where I had been headed to in the first place. I got
application and filled it out. I gave it to the man in the DoJ office, and he said, "Well
call you." I said to myself, "Sure." Anyway, I went about my business and went back to my job,
I was a supervisor, I had 14 probation officers under me at the time.
back to my office and looked around and talked to a friend of mine and she said, "Why don't you
up? You have the headquarters number here, there's a card, call them up and see if they're
I said, "Ok, I will." So I called this lady up in Dallas, Texas and she called me right back. To
make a long
story short, I waited and was very patient, and about three weeks later they did call. They asked
come in for a first interview. The person explained to me that they were interviewing dozens and
of people. I must have looked very decent on the paper screening, and then I came in for an oral
screening and I had three of them. I found out later on that there had been 48 candidates. So I
all out and I got the appointment. One guy was very close; he was very angry at the outcome. I
nemesis. He was in one room and I was in another room and the director and everybody was in
That's how they did things in those days. I won, and that was good for me.
Let's move from that background information to something a little bit more specific. I want
you to walk
us through a particular case. Although I want you to think about one
that typifies your work while you were at CRS, we understand there's no real "typical case".
I think one of the most difficult situations I had the opportunity to
work in was a hanging in a small western town. It was a situation where an Indian young man
hanged, and it was alleged to be suicide. The Indian community, of course, didn't believe that the
was suicide. They thought it was murder and this was typical. None of them took the position
committed suicide, and anyone who suggested it was accused of being a liar. That's the position
took. So in the meantime, the American Indian Movement (AIM) wanted to get involved.
risen to the point where everybody brought out their guns. Arms were being flashed around in
confrontations here and there, resulting in deaths. It was very tense. I arrived there in January,
weeks after the initial incident had occurred.
How did you become involved?
We had news media, of course, the newspaper and television. All the news media
flashed this type of situation all over the network and people knew about it. Then, our office
picked it up in
Washington, and I was ordered to go there because of news and because of the tensions that
between the Indian community and the white community.
The Washington office told you about it?
I was ordered to go there by the people in Washington. I went up to Montana by myself. I
was scared as hell.
Did you call anybody before you went, or did you just show up?
Do you want all the techniques of what we do, or do you want me to cut through
some of that?
We'd like some pretty good detail.
Ok, I'm a detail person. One of the things
you learn is that you want contact with as many people as you can. The first person I
called up there was the Governor's office. I didn't know if the Governor was playing a role or not,
learned that the Governor's Chief of Staff was a guy that had taken quite an interest in the
was interested from the point of view of seeing if the state could resolve this conflict.
course, he wanted to know why I was coming in and I told him, and he accepted that. He also
colleague who was Indian. The two of them got together and said, "We'll meet you there in the
the week. How long are you going to be there? I said, "I don't know, I have to contact some
get more detail." I called the chief of police, and I
got in touch with key community leaders.
As you're identifying issues at first, you also want to identify key players, and their roles.
Going into any situation like that one, without having some idea of who the leadership is, is
your life at risk -- very much at risk, because you're walking around like a zombie or something,
you don't know who's who, and what's what. But you know for sure that the police chief is the
Chief. In any city, you know for sure that the mayor's office is the mayor's office. But before
that, you have to understand and learn what form of government a municipality is operating
For example, you may go in there and say, "I'm going to talk to the mayor, and see what's
on with him." The mayor may just be a symbolic individual, so you have to find out if the mayor
or the City
Manager is in charge. So in this situation, the city manager controlled and wielded the
He was reluctant, as most city officials are about the Justice Department coming in.
On the other hand, it's a situation where if they can find somebody else to blame, a
welcome you to come on in. So light bulbs go on in their heads, and they start saying,
on up!" You get to meet all these people.
What's also key in a case like this, in a situation like this, is that you must not only identify
administration leadership or white leadership, but you must also identify Indian leadership, and
hard. You go into the Indian community and you might hear a lot of talk that so-and-so is the
leader or the
boss. You hear all of this stuff, you write that name down, you call, you get him or her lined up,
you learn that this person isn't the leader after all. In some
communities, you won't know who the leader may be, especially in minority communities. It's a
thing; you have to learn something about the culture. You don't barge in there, not having taken
things into consideration.
Did you know that prior to going in, or did you learn by experience?
No, I knew that prior to going in because of my cultural
awareness training. We had some of the best trainers. What happened was we learned
that a certain individual appearing to be the leader was just a buffoon. You tried to dig deep
surface before you put your feet on the ground in any town. You learn to correctly identify the
So you call places like the library and the historical society. You
can be talking to somebody who's giving you the information you want, and before you know it,
another thing that ties in. You want to know about organizations, if there are important
organizations in the
community. Never mind about the majority community's organizations; you want to know about
minority community's organizations. The majority community's organizations are an open book
exception of those organizations that are operating clandestinely (e.g., KKK); you already know
power structure is. All you have to do is identify the founders of the town and some of the
people -- University officials, industrialists, and people that are leaders and historical enthusiasts.
identify the power structure, and that's not hard to do, but you also want to dig deep into the
Now, why do you do that? You do that because you want to know if you're getting credible
from the people who are in the community. You want to be able to do that.
So how do you identify the minority leadership?
What you want to do in this type of situation, you want to identify leadership. Key
players are the same as leadership. You want to make sure you know key minority community
It's not too hard to identify majority community leadership because, heck, you go to the police
chief or the
mayor. Who else speaks for the city? Sometimes, though, there are movers and shakers that run
everything, and of course we won't talk about them right now. Now this person I told you about
that everybody said was the "head leader" in town -- that person wasn't "the leader". But the
ran the town for the Indian community, and called most of the shots, was a little old lady who
one of the community action centers. If she knew you and trusted you, then you would get a lot.
She had a
lot of things going. She even had control over the American Indian Movement, as to whether or
came into town.
So how did you build trust with her?
Well, initially, during the course of our discussions and conversations, she would ask me
individuals that I might have known around the country -- around the United States. Eventually, I
that she had contacted some of these individuals to find out whether or not their perception of me
consistent with what I was telling her. In other words, she wanted to determine whether I was
lying to her
about certain people that we both happened to know throughout the country. It appears that for
part, I came out okay, because she later perceived me as being a "straight shooter," an honest
And as a result, she slowly began to think that I was a creditable person. After she felt that I was
credibility, she began to share certain agendas with me, hoping that she could trust me with her
for the Indian community in the present and in the future.
So I went home from our initial meeting, and about two weeks later I returned. I got off the
drove to the hotel and after being there for about a half-hour, I received a phone call and learned
had planned, for that evening, a meeting at the local Indian center. About four hundred people
gathered in a gym that was part of a poverty program called Opportunities, Inc. The Indians'
life and business life and everything else was run right out of that building, and I didn't know
Everything that they did as urban Indians, they worked it out of there and this woman was behind
it. At any
rate, I had not agreed to any meeting, but I went and spoke to everyone there. And I've learned
that most good leaders will allow input from their followers. That's a trait of an excellent leader
someone who has earned the respect of most of his or her followers.
So then she had already set this up for you when you got into town?
Yes exactly. She knew when I was coming into town, and she told all
"There's a guy from the government coming out here, and we're gonna really do a job on his butt
get him in here. We're gonna expose this bird." So I was in my room, and a guy called
downstairs, asking if he could come pick me up. I said, "Pick me up? Let me get some clothes
And he said, "Alice wants you to meet with her." And I said, "Alice wants
me to meet
with her? Okay." I assumed we would sit down and talk at her headquarters. Well,
when I got there, I saw all these cars parked everywhere, and I said, "Oh. Must be some kind of
something going on." It didn't take me too much longer to find out that I was the game.
I walked into the building and found myself in a gym full of people. There was an old lady
sitting down at the table. She introduced herself, and she had this microphone and she wanted
me to talk.
I'm not scared, and if somebody asks me to talk, I can talk all day. She
told me to talk
to the people and tell them about myself, which I did, and we went into answering a few
questions, and I
just laid it out. I said, "I don't know what the situation is here. I don't have any idea, I just heard
been an alleged suicide." She liked the fact the I used the word "alleged", because they were all
smart people. They were all weighing my words so that they would know whether or not I was
with the typical rhetoric that a lot of bureaucrats had come in and given them. If it had been that
would have been dismissed and thought of as somebody who had just come to placate the mayor,
Manager, and the rest of them. She found out that I wasn't there to placate anybody and that I
a lot about the situation. But I was going to learn more in the days ahead, meeting with the
and mayor and sheriff and going to the scene where the young man was hanged and everything
else. After I got through with the meeting, I went back home and
then the next day I had the meetings with those officials. Then I began to meet periodically with
Alice. I established a relationship with her because she figured out that I wasn't a liar,
and did not cater to the police chief or the mayor in the sense that I was working for them. One
you have to convey to minority communities in situations like that, is that you're not working for
So you had to reiterate that to them?
No you don't reiterate anything verbally. What you do is show
what you do. You don't get up there and talk to people about what you're about. They'll find out
you're about. You see what I mean? They're not interested in hearing you talk about yourself;
they want to
see what you do. So when she found out what I could do and would do
how I did it, I was her boyfriend. I don't mean literally so, but it was a situation where I wasn't
going to let
Nor was I working for her and she knew that. She knew that I wasn't working for her, but she
knew that I wasn't going to lie to them about whatever occurred in a situation. That's how you
No matter what you do in some instances, some situations, you're not going to be trusted. There's
an element of that when you're coming from the Justice Department. People are leery of
officials and Justice Department people. They've had enough experience of getting busted over
by somebody from the established order.
What did you do when you weren't trusted by the communities that
You did your job, you just went about doing your job. You didn't get crippled
because somebody didn't trust you. You didn't become paralyzed because you weren't trusted.
had to go along and do what you had to do. If they didn't trust you, then you had to resolve to let
fall where they may. You try not to have that happen. See, because if you are trying too hard to
you are trustworthy, then you're not trustworthy. People have to take you at face value and trust
you have to show that you're not intimidated by them not trusting you. They have a right to not
trust you, if you think of all the experiences they've had in the past.
So in working through this case, I began to develop a relationship with the
police chief, so I could bring the Indian leaders and the police chief together. We sat down to
key discussion. In this case one of the two powerful men in town was the police chief. The
other was the city manager. The police chief was a "lifer", known by everybody in
town. So you identified quickly that he served two purposes. He was part of the legitimate
structure, and he was a power broker. So you knew that because of his lifetime there and the fact
was police chief, he could get people to do many, many things.
It took weeks, months, to establish a relationship,
because I was going in and out of the city, as well as handling other assignments. The timing
everything as to when you went to a particular town, a particular community. Key things would
come up, sometimes a meeting with the governor or a meeting of all the Indians or a meeting
representatives. The key is constantly working on developing a
developing trust levels. Some people are not interested in trust levels because they go by
authority. If you
go in and say you're in the Justice Department and that you're an authority figure, you're not
going to get
anywhere. Most people resist that, especially so-called militant minorities. They've been
much it's incredible; they don't want to hear that, so you have to work on it.
How did you figure out what your goals were?
We don't say, "Figure
out what your goals are." Flip that over and say, "Identify what the issues are." And that's the
next phase. There was a guy who wanted to know how I got involved in the Justice Department.
told him, "I'm not the issue." You have to identify the issues. In the meantime, you're developing
The first issue is historical?
Well, yes. The first issue is
historical. You've got initial hostility between whites and Indians, so you know that goes back
That's a given -- you put that on the table. The next things you put on the table are the issues of
economics, employment, housing, and discrimination, and identify which one of these things
problem. With minority communities across the board, even today, you can almost always go
those issues of deprivation in some way and form. You realize that, so you pull up another issue
next issue could be Indian treatment in the criminal justice system. In this particular case, was
this an act
of suicide by this young man or was it brutality on the part of the jailers or the police? That's an
you've got to identify...
Were you helping the minority community come up with their issues,
or was that
something that they had already done, and were just waiting for you to further develop for them?
As I said, these folks were very smart; they weren't stupid. They had all of that down before
I came in
there. No matter where you go, when you go into a deprived community, bet your bottom dollar
they're on top of every one of those things. There's nothing new to them. They just want to
you are smart enough to understand, or whether you are some dummy running around for them to
at. They're looking and they're playing the game with you. It stops being a game when they
begin to say, "Hey this man really understands what's going on here. He's got it."
How do you get the Indians to understand that maybe this guy did hang himself? Maybe he did. I
thought that this might be a very difficult case. How do I
understand and bring people together in a meeting of the minds? How do I overcome this
before we all sit down at the table and begin to discuss all the issues and concerns?
The police chief and the city manager and all of these people, were
to focus in on the idea that somebody might be knowing what the hell they're doing here. They
position that I might be able to do something for them. I knew they were going to try to use me,
was fine, I wanted them to do it, because when they try and use me, I'm going to sit them down to
table as a part of my strategy. You give me this deal, I'll give you that deal. But we
didn't say it in that way. We said it by setting up the meetings.
The meetings went on, the people sat down and the mediation sessions began. This is known
"cross-cultural, civil rights, criminal justice issue-oriented mediation." That's basically what it is,
ingredients wrapped into one. I said, "Now we're going to sit here and we're going to go through
mechanics of mediation." We were talking about something that's more in depth, for lack of a
You sit down and you go through all these dynamics. Cultural, historical, and everything
Now, the issue of suicide, how do you deal with that? How do you work with
that? To be honest with you, I didn't. I didn't have to. I was let off the hook during the
because the Indians understood that I was a resource. They didn't want to fowl me up by pressing
issue, so Alice told the rest of them, "Shut up and don't press this issue." Even I began to wonder
wouldn't discuss the issue of suicide, because a lot of people were saying this guy was killed by
and there she was trying to prevent it.
We sat at the table in mediation for four days. On one side we had Alice, the C.A.P. director,
had the Indian tribal organization leader for this group, we had the inter-agency Indian
involved, and we had a representative from the America-Indian Movement. We had all these
sitting at the table. And she had control and respect. She was so respected by all of them, that
they listened. When she said, "Don't mention suicide," or "don't mention this hanging," they
didn't. In this situation, where somebody has been killed, somebody has died, sporadic
violence here and
there, hostilities everywhere, people are riding around in their pickup trucks, (mostly the white
with their guns; it was really tense.
We're at the table and the city manager and the rest of them say, "What do they want? What's
wrong? What's going on here?" And culturally, they don't know. But the police chief
knows that something is really going haywire.
We worked through all these issues. We had about ten issues
on paper they
were passing around the table. The number one issue I had to deal with was
the issue of education. I said, "How in the heck did education get in there?" But that's what they
the paper and they wanted to deal with the issue of education. They wanted to be able to have
Indians on the staff at the schools, more than as teacher's aides. They wanted some bona fide,
Indians with legitimate majors, from any one of the universities in the state of Montana, such as
or from the college in their town. The key people around the table for the
included the chief, and a very influential Catholic priest who was a friend of the police chief.
was the second most powerful man in town, simply because he was a native, and a priest. A lot
Indians were Catholic and he had control in the past of some of the boarding schools. He was
good servant to the white community, the established Catholic, white community. He was well
respected, and what he said went cross-culturally, across the board.
That's what you have to look at. If you're talking about Civil Rights
conflict resolution, you look at all the symbols of cross-culturalism that you can find. You can
try to identify
them and it's gonna make your job a lot easier, instead of working with the frame, with some text
mediation. Anyway, those people were all there. And the surprising thing --
they didn't even discuss the hanging. They just used it to get other things on the table.
How did you decide when to hold separate meetings and then when
was the right
time to bring the majority and the minority communities together?
The timing was important on that. In this situation, you just happened to have people who,
majority community side, weren't hostile to meeting, who didn't object to meeting with the
community. So it was a really easy task to bring them together. There was
grumbling from some of the militant Indian individuals, but for the most part, that was overcome
somebody in the group saying, "Look, we have nothing to lose and we've been trying to address
things for a long time. You simply picked the time and after you've discussed
everything with one side, then you picked the time to meet with the other. There were small
both sides outside of mediation. One thing that you want to do, depending on the
situation, is to make sure that one group can vent their hostilities among themselves. For example,
have a bunch of militant people on one side, and they want to get up and give a speech, a talk,
else, let them talk to themselves and let them cool off, and then have a joint
So you have them talk without the other side there?
A lot of times you do. A lot of times you want
to have one side
overcome their hostility or let it all hang out and then sometimes, it hangs out no matter who is
just have to be cool and let them talk; don't go in there and try to shut them up. Usually if you
don't say anything, someone from their group will quiet the loud individual and that's more
effective than if
you do it yourself. When somebody's up there and they have the floor, the best thing you can do
them speak. Most people, unless they have some real problem, will accept that you are a
Taking yourself outside of this particular place, because you
earlier, were there times when race and possibly your gender, or your age affected your
You mean in this case?
In this case, I'm sensing that it really didn't, that they accepted you for who you
were, based on your abilities. Taking yourself outside of this particular case, was race,
gender, or age a problem or a concern?
Not to my knowledge. Very few times has that happened. I'm not naive enough to think that
people who might not have wanted me there because of my race or gender or whatever. It just
become an explosive issue very often. I think that might have been because
there's one thing that people do respect, whether they trust you or not and that's the fact that you
from the Justice Department because it carries a lot of weight especially with the official
didn't dwell on anything like that going into a situation and being somebody other than who I
was. In thirty
years, I have had very few experiences where somebody has said, "We're not going to meet with
because you're black." I can only remember one time where we were two
African American guys going into a situation that had nothing to do with African Americans and
wanted to try to sell us short. That was way up in Blue Sky, South Dakota. They were
very quickly by a white female who came in and laid it on the line. She was just an outspoken
in that town. That's the only time I can ever recall where race was an issue. You go in, you're
official and if you act like that, you're going to be treated like that.
Can we ask you a hypothetical question, though, going back to when you first went
to Montana and the women said, "My gosh, I wasn't expecting a black man." Do you think if you
a white man, that the reception would have been considerably different? Do you think that your
helps generate trust?
No, it didn't generate trust. She was just surprised they had any of us working. That's all that
didn't have anything to do with whether she could trust a white man or not. Because as a matter
of fact, I
knew she knew quite a few white people that seemed to like her and she seemed to like them.
said it because she just wasn't expecting the person she got. And that's about it.
If we go back to the specific case involving Alice, was there ever a time when you sat down
at the table
with both parties that you felt that one side was only providing lip service, that they weren't really
good faith? Did you ever feel that way?
From an attitudinal point of view, there were a couple of people who I thought might have
shooting their mouths off and didn't really come there sincerely. One was a little timid, about
what he had
to say and what he was going to do and what he was going to promise.
However, there was a full-fledged agreement that came out of this, although some people didn't
was the very best, simply because we did not speak to the issue of the suicide, or death, but the
of the leadership in that community thought it was excellent because they started getting the
picked up and all kinds of services.
I always build in a monitoring mechanism for
any of these
things that get written up in the mediation agreements. Who's going to test this thing? Who's
going to enforce it? Who's going to be sincere enough to see that the garbage trucks
are rolling over to Blue Sky? Who's going to be looking at recruiting Indian teachers for the
district? Who's going to be the one to try to recruit Indian policemen and jailers? Are you going
some? How do you identify those? Then, underneath all of that, in monitoring mechanisms, in
have a full-fledged working, sincere, and functional mediation agreement, you're going to make
you have tentacles coming out of that agreement that will address work issues. What I mean by
you put together a committee. Let's say you are looking at recruiting Indian teachers. You
address all this stuff in the agreement. Subsections, headings and so forth. So when you got the
agreement finished, you have all of the other mechanisms put together to address and speak to
issue or concern.
Then that was the function of the mediator? To be able to come up
agreement with both parties together? That was your job, right, to come to agreement?
Well, let me expand on that a little bit in terms
of what you
actually did in the meeting. Did you actually come up with the drafting of
agreement or did they come up with the agreement?
No, you do that together. In any community they know who the scribes are. The scribes sit
they write. So, you identify the person who can identify the scribes. And over here, well they
figure that all of them are scribes, they just have to look around and grab somebody.
Beyond scribes, though, who's saying..? We know that one issue is education. Who's saying,
"Well, I think we need to get six Indian teachers at the high school?"
We don't deal with that. I do not deal with sitting at the table and talking about numbers. If
you let people work together to make a decision about how many teachers they need, you put it
yourself. Along with the establishment and the minority community, you let them work out the
helps them because they get accustomed to working together. CRS mediators don't have the time
actually more beneficial for everyone involved. In this instance the Blue Sky Action Council is
Going back to the meetings, how did you
reduce tension? If
you've got somebody up there screaming at the other side because they're so mad about all of
issues, that's likely to make people on the other side mad. What did you do to keep the meeting
Well, there were times, when needless to say, I had to exert some kind of authority. I had to
time to time and depending on the situation -- say, "Wait a minute, we're not having stuff like
most of the time I could reduce the tension by stepping in that way.
How do you make a judgment call about when to do that?
Well, it depends on if somebody's threatening violence, and
generally you can tell when that is going to happen. I remember one time in Oklahoma, the white
business council, came in and put their guns on the table in
front of the council and the sheriff. How were we going to deal with that, because the sheriff
them to remove their guns." So, before things got started, I just got vehement. I didn't know if it
to work; I suppose if they had said, "Shut up and get your black butt out of here," I would have
they didn't. I got up and I said, "Hold it! None of this!" I put on my best act like I was mad, my
big as saucers. I was scared of them, but they didn't know I was scared. I was really scaring
said, "Oh. Yes sir. Yes sir." Boy, they went back out to their pick up trucks and got rid of those
The minorities in this situation were Hispanics instead of Indian. That was the only time I ever
saw anybody put their firearms on the table.
Well, is that the only time that you were afraid in a situation?
Oh no, I was afraid a lot of times.
What were the elements that sort of contributed....
Besides the guns.
Those are the only elements. Guns. People like to play with these damn guns, they think
can be solved with that. And so that's what frightens me.
Were you ever put in a position where it was you and the gun?
Can you tell us?
Well I was up on the Pine Ridge reservation and an Indian fellow,
who was with the
Bureau of Indian Affairs Police, pulled his gun and stuck it up my nose.
And said, "Get off the reservation. Didn't I tell you to get off of the reservation before?" He
who I was, you know, and I guess he didn't give a darn. But that's what he did.
What did you do?
Backed off of him, walked away, and then got lost in the crowd. Then I told the
got men sticking guns in people's faces." And he did go over and address the issue. And that
And you were able to stay?
Oh I was going to stay, anyway. Because you see, he had no jurisdiction whatsoever to keep
us off of
the reservation. The superintendent absolutely knew that. His job would have been in jeopardy
if that had
happened. So whatever he told that fella, it was enough to cool things down. And that was the
Were there any times when just the potential for violence
became so much that it prevented you from doing the job that you needed to do?
Oh yeah. Once I was in a courthouse, where AIM people came up to protest the sentencing
couple of their members. When they came into the courthouse and took their seats the judge was
the case. The two defendants were really acting up, and the judge told them to behave or he was
lock them up. He didn't lock them up though; he let them sit there. The judge ordered the
deputies to instruct these guys, but these guys jumped up from their benches and started punching
sheriff's deputies. About two dozen other deputies were in the back room and they came out and
started beating the heck out of all of the Indian deputies. We were standing there as court
we were lucky nobody hit us, because they beat the heck out of everybody in the room. We tried
convince the judge to just lock these guys up and call it off. But the judge was in an evil mood
didn't want to hear it. He wanted to take the position, "We're going to whip these savages' butts
And he was determined to do just that, no matter who they were and where they were from. It
any difference to him. He wanted these guys' behinds beaten. And that's what he did.
came into the room with gas masks and clubs and they sent the blood flying everywhere. Slap.
blood on the wall here. Slap. Splatter blood on the wall there. I guess the only thing you had to
make sure you didn't get any on you. You couldn't do anything about it. That's hard core
Neither myself nor my colleague was going to stop that. All we did was record it and report it
and that was
That's mediation, huh?
Yes. Yes, it is. We're talking about civil rights mediating. Of
course, you know that I'm speaking basically of another time. We don't have too much of that
We don't have Mayor Daly coming out with his clubs and beating the heck out of anybody. That
another time, another era. It still happens, but there aren't as many instances because we're not
in the same fashion as in the civil rights era. We have different types of people running the show
Different age groups and they have different modalities for how they want to resolve a situation.
Where do you see the biggest difference between the model you followed during the civil
rights era and
now, as far as the way that you handle these types of cases. You mentioned that during the civil
it was something common to see sort of the bloodbath going on. Now you said it's changed a
Only in the sense that they stopped doing as much of it. We don't have as many
marches. In a lot of instances the perceived injustices are still there, I'm speaking to the volume
of it. Do
you remember Robert Vortier?
No, tell me.
Robert Vortier found himself in Lamett, Utah one summer and there
were two black
men jogging and the only thing wrong with that picture was that these two black men were
their girlfriends, who were white. There you had a murder and a hate crime. Of course at that
weren't calling it a hate crime. They were just calling it a racist act. Vortier shot these two guys
Wednesday, and on Thursday I was on an airplane going to Lamett. I didn't have to do the work I
do up in Blue Sky, because I knew most of these people by this time. Blue Sky was '72 or '71,
was '77. And I knew all of the people in Lamett. The NAACP, the police chief, the
sheriff and the African American community and all these folks. I had a decent relationship with
folks, and they trusted me a little bit. I think that the most outstanding thing that happened there
was that they really found out what I was worth. That night, about five hundred people
gathered in the local black community center in Lamett. This is where I met most of the minority
This was a time when instead of being a stranger, I knew a lot of the folks, because they had
asked me to come up there. Unlike the last time, the police chief came with me to this big
meeting of five
hundred people. They wanted to know what was going to happen. "Are you going to arrest this
asked, and he said, "He's left town. The FBI's probably out looking for him now." As it turned
was mad. He happened to see two black guys jogging with two white girls. They caught him
brought him back and put him in the jail. But what happened was my credibility was enhanced
when I said
the local police chief would catch him and bring him back. So, the African American
pleased with that, that Vortier was caught and brought back. Of course after that, he was shipped
he was prosecuted and he is still in prison today.
There was one time when two murderers, black guys who decapitated a
woman, were arrested and sent to prison. The white community was upset, and tense as heck.
course, I've learned that when people are tense they'll do all kinds of darn things.
And so we had to figure out what to do. Here the police chief got to be
another friend of mine. We went in and said, "How are we going to stop these guys from riding
shooting people? What in the heck are we going to do about that?" It was a dastardly act these
guys did, but how are we gonna stop it from happening again?" And, see, I had to speak in these
because I had to get them to hear me. You can't try to smooth over this type of thing, because
eventually says, "What in the heck are you talking about? Quit talking in riddles; we've got to
you're saying." So you've got to speak up and you've got to say what you mean and mean what
So the chief and I talked. I asked him if there was anyone who didn't like me,
or didn't want to have me around. Well, he didn't like me himself, and he said that "none of his
to have me around." And I began to wonder myself. I said, "How in the heck am I going to do
this -- just
me out here by myself? They must think I'm a real fool, I must think I'm a real fool." So what
happened was the police chief and I got to establish a relationship. Several years
later I had an occasion to visit this prison where these two murderers were incarcerated. The
wanted to get their rights in the jail. They couldn't have their radios, and they couldn't do this or
that, so I
went down and I had to put my prejudices behind me. The fact was that they were murderers,
But, they were in the jail and they have some rights up until they die. So, I had some people
really mad at me because I was going to see about helping murderers. My answer to them was,
there were some people who got murdered out in the street and nobody decided to raise hell
so why not these men?"
I went down to Draper, Utah, where the prison was. The warden did everything he could do to
keep me from doing what I had to do, until we got into a little verbal discussion. I told him, "I
have to do
what I have to do, and you have to do what you have to do. Now if you want me to call the
General's office and the Bureau of Prisons, I will and I'll go in there one way or the other,
whether you like
it or not." Of course he didn't try to resist anymore, so we went in and I sat down and finally I
got to those
two guys. They didn't know when they were going to die, because they kept getting their
Anyway, a group of black
and Hispanic prisoners got together and wanted to
meet with me. We sat down and went over the things they wanted, their concerns. I said, don't
call these demands, because you're never going to get a thing if you start talking about demands.
don't demand anything. You're not in a position to demand anything. I spent the night down
then I wrote down their issues and concerns. I always made them turn things around in a more
way. I told them, you can't demand things. I let everybody know that. I said, "You've
got some things that you're concerned about, and we can address these issues. Then, maybe we'll
able to maybe effectuate some change. So, why don't we write these things out and work
By getting them to write these things out, I was
able to ease the tensions among the group members themselves. Because they didn't have to go
fighting somebody from another group or another race, they were going to do each other in,
because they had a problem with who was going to be the leader in that situation.
How were you able to detect that internal conflict?
Easy. All you have to do is listen. Once you listen to the discussions, you can
identify who's hostile and who's not, in most instances, and what their concerns are. Then you
the conclusion that, "Hey, these guys are not together themselves, so how can they blame
for any shortcomings that may exist?"
So did you then try to mediate within the group, or let them handle it?
No, no, no. They were going to handle it. Time was fleeting and the issue was too hot for
me to start
doing any mediation.
Is that always how you handle internal conflicts?
It just depends on the elements around and the factors that exist. You're in a prison, you
warden who doesn't want you there in the first place, you have all kinds of hostilities going on, so
identify the main issue and all those things that are side issues. You've got to know, you've got to
to judge what's important as well as the timing of all of this. The fact that they were having
amongst themselves, sure it's important, but something else is more important. They're going to
beaten up and hanged; you can see that. The best thing they can do is just listen for a minute and
a meeting of the minds as to who's going to be the spokesperson. And put a damper on this kind
There are times when you have to do that.
And they responded after you put it to them just like that?
Not only after I put it to them like that, but they knew the handwriting was on the
wall because some of those other groups in there were going to have their way. You learn that
by going into prisons, understanding that there may be multiple groups in there. Some of them
themselves as fighting for white civil rights, black civil rights, Brown civil rights or whatever, so
many different points of view.
In those cases where there was great power disparity, how
did it affect your job?
How did you deal with such disparity with the power in the prison system? You think prisoners
any rights, basically? The prison system is telling them and society tells them that they don't have
First thing you understand is that there are limitations. No matter what you do,
you're not going to get around that. You learn that you don't go around telling anybody what you
to do, especially in prisons. There's hostility enough as it is, and hostility runs out just by the
saying, "I'll show you who's in charge. You may come in here and be the civil rights person, but I
prison." Understanding that, you try to sit down with the warden and determine as to whether or
can get some nice things going like soap, showers at certain times and some of the minimums.
So by asking for a compromise from the majority group, was that your way of leveling the
and sort of reducing the disparity in the power?
No. We didn't deal with the issue of disparity in the power. I knew that they were
convicted criminals, and committed murderers. I'm said, "We are going to work on this and see
if we can
get some favors for them."
What about a less extreme place where you've got a racial minority group, perhaps the case
talking about originally.
That's different, and so you act differently.
Do you try to do anything to build capacity in the low power group or empower the
low power group?
Yes. Well you don't really go in trying to empower a particular
group. You may unwittingly go in and say, "Hey, look, this is what's going on and here's a way
can be better off," if that's perceived as empowering. You want to teach and you want to provide
knowledge if you can. So in some instances, that would be empowering. You have to remember
some prisons are not going to allow you in there -- especially Federal prisons because they're on
level that you are, the Department of Justice. If they don't want to see you in their prison, they're
going to let you in there. Other times, I wasn't allowed into Bureau prisons.
So when you did empowerment on various levels, how was
your work affected by issues of neutrality, impartiality, and objectivity? Were those things that
were at the
forefront when you did this?
Let me just stop you right there by saying, number one, you use the wrong word.
Really, we didn't go around and try to empower anybody. We were out to try to mediate and
come up with strategies that would speak to certain issues that would, in turn, provide the tools
to become empowered themselves. We might also try to have the officialdom at hand to work
and work together with the community or the group that was having a problem to the point where
could be some empowerment. As far as us sitting down and saying, "We're going to place this
you hands," we don't do that.
Well let me phrase the same thing a little differently. Did you ever have trouble
maintaining your objectivity or did you ever have people feel that you were not being impartial?
Yes, that happens throughout a 29, 30 year career. That certainly did. There were
people at one time or another that might have taken the position that, "Hey, this guy is not being
objective. It might have been something I said. Or a mistake I might have made. It very easily
have been a situation where somebody took the position that, "Hey, this guy's that way." As
much as you
try to avoid that, you can't always.
What do you do once that happens?
A lot of times you try to review. You're overly ingratiating, and that's a tip-off right
there that something's wrong here, and this guy, where is he coming from? And then it becomes
awkward. Have you ever made a mistake and tried to clean it up yourself and people were on to
They look at you like you wore a pair of brown shoes with a tuxedo. Did you ever have that
And it didn't matter what you said from then on?
Of course not. It didn't matter. There were some instances. Then it came down to not what
but what you did to make up for it. So that's what happens.
We want to move on from this particular point and talk about the
media and your
perception of the media.
Well, my perception of the media...it has two answers to it. This has a lot to do with
the thinking during certain periods in the agency. Initially, it was a situation where a lot of the
were, for some reason, media people. In other words, they had media backgrounds. I had no such
background. But they were very careful about how you cross your t's, dotted your i's and
which was okay with me, I didn't mind. I was a very decent writer, so I didn't care. I wasn't an
expert, but I
could put together a sentence and punctuate properly. The agency was concerned that when we
involved in the situation that we should maintain a low profile, not let anybody know that we
The director at that time -- what he really wanted was for us to remain behind the scene. This
publicity about what we did, how much we did, or how good we were. You can kind of tell the
way I talk
now, because that brainwashed me. I knew what you could say and what you couldn't say. There
times when you needed to get the word out as to what was going on and who was responsible,
were times when you needed to keep it quiet. Every now and then somebody would quote you
context, and you'd get upset about it. Of course there were times too, when you were working on
a plan or
a strategy and you certainly didn't want the media to know about anything you were planning.
How did you deal with those situations, when someone leaked
something that was
There were a lot of times when you wouldn't say anything. You wouldn't confirm it,
one way or the other. Somebody was always trying to confirm what came out over the TV, or in
in a newspaper.
Did you ever have a situation where stories in the media that weren't related to your
activities or CRS,
but were related in the conflict overall, made tensions increase? Did you ever have to go in and
or get the media to try to change the nature of its coverage?
Sometimes you did and sometimes you didn't. Sometimes you go straight ahead into your
work and all
you did was verbally try to defend yourself by saying, "No, we didn't say that and we didn't do
bygones be bygones. Other times, you may have a friend with the press
be kind of empathetic to your concern or cause, and then you try to work with them on that
situation. For the most part though, you didn't run around getting the media
to fix it too much, because I think we had been conditioned at one time, to stay away from the
did everything we could to stay away from the media.
Was that a directive to all CRS work employees, or just specifically to this region?
You better believe it was a directive to all the CRS employees, because our director then,
your head off.
How did you measure the success of your interventions? What was
Oh, I was very successful and let me tell you why I say that. If awards, plaques, certificates,
and accommodations mean anything, I got them. I can show them to you.
measuring success, here's a situation in Colorado. Hispanics were protesting the jail conditions
alleging that they'd been beaten and mistreated. You go in there, work, spend time going back
trying to put strategies together. You look for who can help in this situation, or who has the
respect, or concern to investigate this situation and see if it's true or false. If it's true, we see if
straighten it out. If it's false, we get the good word out and let the community know that this is
on. Okay, you go in, spend time with the sheriff, the mayor, the police chief and sometime the
and then you go through the business of seeing if you can get people to come together again. My
was always if I could get people to sit down and talk and develop some kind of mechanism to
problem, then we would be successful in reducing the racial tensions. This
was not an agency philosophy, this was the one I developed for myself, here, after thirty years.
There were some situations where I thought that if I could get committees, if I
could get task forces, and if I could get people to want to do that, then I knew I had them. First
you've got to get them to want to do it, want to come together, interracially, interethnically,
what have you, and see if they are willing to talk about this situation. When that
happened, I knew there was a chance of something positive coming out of the situation. Then we
move on and go about the work and see if things could get done.
Now in Colorado, as in Montana, in Granenville, in Blue Sky, in Boermont, and in some parts
Denver, there are groups out there as a result of mediation, where they agreed to setup a
Colorado, it was an Interagency Committee, a group of Indians, Hispanics and blacks coming
with the police department and somebody from the mayor's office.
That kind of group has to be representative of those people in those situations who could
influence change. Once you have the ones who can influence change,
leaders who are aware of the problem, sitting down and meeting and working on a regular basis,
I have one committee that is still in existence and has been for 22 years.
That's the one I told you about where the guy was hanged. You can go up there right now and
Action Committee and the police chief, who was a friend of mine and still is. We've been friends
a long time. We developed a real, lasting friendship because he was a decent person and that's
want to measure....not whether he was an adept police chief. He must have thought I was a
decent person for some reason. And that's what happened. We communicated, so
we continued communicating. You're looking at trying to come up with real, lasting solutions.
I got the agency's award for being able to mediate long-lasting systemic
civil rights cases and it was simply because with most of the places and cities I went into, I didn't
go in with
the idea of just resolving the situation. I sought and I tried to teach others, the ones that I had to
and supervise, to look for systemic change. If you want to look at a mediation and say that you're
mediator, and want to point back to some of your work years later, well the idea is to shoot for
change that's going to be lasting, that's going to have some carry-over value in it. One should be
point to a number of cases -- or quite a few, for that matter, where he or she tried to effectuate
brought about change, and where there are some remnants of it still going on.
How does this differ from perhaps how CRS measures success?
It doesn't. Everything I've told you can fold in line with CRS mandate. It just so
happens that if
I went into a community, I was by myself. Very few times did I ever work
Is that typical for CRS?
No, just circumstances. I was out here by myself, a lot of times I had colleagues, they had
their cases, I
had mine. And the other part of that is that we've been so short of staff, CRS hasn't been up to
numbers, whatever that is, in thirty or forty years.
Did you ever talk to other people, if you were on a case by yourself? Did you call up
another region and say, "I need to play some ideas off against you?"
We did that all the time. Then of course on big cases, you were together with somebody else.
most of these instances you went out by yourself because there weren't two people to go out with
And that was just it. You didn't have two people. Unless you had the big cases like Wounded
where you took up all the agency's resources to talk about going out with a bunch of people
never happen, or very seldom.
What would you say are the important skills or attributes for a civil
What would you see as your greatest strength?
A good mediator is a person who is patient, who is willing to develop skills that
would -- maybe not endear himself to people, but at least earn the trust and respect of both sides.
can do that, you may be on your way to being successful. This is true in any area of mediation.
You have to be able to notice. I'm not so much concerned about all these technical things
how you get people to "come to yes". A good mediator has to help the parties begin to explore
different possibilities of how something could be. If they're willing to explore that and walking
road from that point of view, then you have a possible chance of being able to get them to relate
another. And once that's done, you may have a chance of everybody "coming to yes", as people
about. Anyway, that's what I think being a good mediator is.
If you had to identify your greatest strength as a mediator, what would it have
Well, number one, I was a hard worker. And that was my great strength. I would
work so hard sometimes that they would have to tell me, "Hey, lighten up, take off from this." I
boss would often have to ask me, "Hey, when are you going to put that down? When are you
leave this office at night?" Sometimes I think it was because I wanted to make sure that
left there and something was going to be there even after it was over with.
A lot of these problems recur because we haven't found the method to be able to curtail the
situation, or stop it, and then find a way to monitor it and keep it from flaring back up again. It's
like a brush fire. CRS has been known for going in, dealing with brush fires, putting them out
and then leaving. The next thing you know, you look around and the fire's
going again. You see that a lot, and you learn that sometimes during the course of your
career, you begin to say to yourself, "How can I find a way to avoid having to come back into this
anytime soon?" You see a lot of that, I don't wanna be running back and forth, back and forth.
A lot of times I personally would go into a situation hoping to put together
something once we'd identified what the issues were. Once we resolved the crisis at the time,
how did we
take it to the next step or next level? The strategy was getting community involvement,
reservation involvement, city involvement, to speak to those issues. All of the aforementioned
strategies were attempted to be achieved when we sat down at the mediation.
How do we speak to these issues? We have to find ways. I learned from a
colleague, who would tell me from time to time, "Let's speak to the issues at hand." When we
went into a
meeting with somebody, we sat down, and sure enough the issue was going to come up because
going to bring it up.
Would that be the same advice that you would pass on to other mediators?
Oh, very definitely. There was no question about it. It was unfortunate that I wasn't in a
where I could work with a lot of mediators. They were all someplace else. I was out here.
had their own thing going, I guess, to the point where I just tried to do what I had to do. From
that point of
view, I think it worked out really well.
You're bringing to mind one more question.
How is civil rights mediation different from other kinds of mediation?
What do you
do differently with cross-cultural situations?
It's different, from the point of view that you have to become aware of all kinds of cultural
idiosyncrasies. You have to be aware, sometimes, of the cultures and what specific situations or
may mean to them. For example, let's take celebrations. Some people celebrate Cinco de Mayo,
other people celebrate Juneteenth. In fact, in some parts of the country you'll see people of the
celebrating Juneteenth, but in other parts of the country they don't.
How else does cross-cultural mediation differ from other types of mediation?
Well, I think it all depends. It only differs when you speak in terms of the issues
and education. When I say civil rights mediation, I'm talking about becoming educated about
cultures as a part, as an ingredient to become a successful mediator for the cultures in conflict.
thing would be that if you look at a mediation period, it's a situation where you're going to try and
people to agree. Cross-cultural mediation is much like other types of mediation in some
things that you learn in civil rights mediation, are just things that, of course, make it easier for
you to get
your job done and that's what you want to do. The tragedy, a lot of times, can be for people who
mediators, who figure that all they have to concern themselves with is technical information. We
that's not true. It's good to be a good technician, but it's also good to be a good human being, to
down inside and pull out some things and have the empathy for different groups. I feel very
empathy has a lot to do with it when you're mediating. It doesn't necessarily have to mean that
going to be on the side of any particular group. You have to know what cultures and people have
historically gone through about certain things. You also have to be aware of some areas of
is very important. You don't have to become a historian, but you do have to be aware enough to
these things did occur. You have to develop a level of awareness, not to use against or for
for some type of equilibrium. Sometimes people think equilibrium is where you can find a
along that line.
What we'd like to do today is to go back and hit things that we missed last time. They're kind
scattered all over, so these questions are going to seem like we're jumping about some. Talking a
more about entry, did you ever have a situation where you didn't actually
but you did your intervention over the phone?
Oh yes. A number of times that happened. I can't remember how many, but there were a
you got on the phone and you really got the gist of the situation. Most of the time, you ran into
that kind of
thing when you knew the parties, or for me, the territory. It's pretty difficult to go in to do
that when people don't have any frame of reference as to who you might be. Lots of times,
has to have some kind of knowledge about what your agency or organization is about when you
go off and
try to do that. But every once in a while, people will hear of you, and know who you are, and
you, and then they'll say, "Hey, can you help us?"
I remember one time up in Wyoming when they were
having a dispute involving development money. One side was saying that they were entitled to a
the action as far as programs were concerned.....not cash per se, but the program. And they
involved in the past. Well, the people who had been involved all along, who ran the operation,
felt that the
first group wasn't entitled because it had no sort of equity in the situation. And then of course
feel like discussing guidelines with people as to involvement. That took
about three days of phone calls -- getting individuals from Washington involved, from the
Action Program (CAP), getting some people from the regional CAP involved, and so forth.
At that time, they didn't have a CAP representative up in Wyoming. They just had somebody
come in and, like a stork, drop off a certain number of bucks in the area, and keep flying. That's
money was thrown around at the time. And whoever happened to be standing there got the
What it boiled down to was having some regional coordinator out of Denver and
Washington explain the guidelines to people by phone and let them know that others could
involved. They told them that newcomers had to come under a
certain umbrella and
you had to explain to each unit or segment what they could do, or how the process worked.
procedures-- these outsiders had to understand that they just couldn't Bogart their way in to the
operation at the time. They had to petition their way into a situation by following prescribed
become involved. And so after some doing of discussion, they kind of agreed to comply. As a
fact, they did comply because I knew the cousin of the lady that was involved with that. So she
went along with it, based on what this friend was saying to her about me, not about the program,
me as an individual. So she began to get involved and has stayed involved for a long time.
Was that procedure was typical of all of the cases that you dealt with? Getting on the
making those initial contacts, knowing someone in the city. Did you use that technique often or
did it just
happen to be helpful in that particular case?
Well, I don't know how many times it was used, but it was certainly something you knew
you had in
your arsenal to be able to use. It wasn't a situation where you went and looked in some pamphlet
manual and said, "This is what you can do," although parts of it would be in the manual to be
able to be
utilized as a guideline. It was just something that you knew. You relied on contacts, people you
and once you understood the scenario, understood what this was about, then you begin to put the
together to try to make it work. That's what that's all about. There is no set pattern to some of
Can you recall any specific time when one of the parties or neither of
wanted you to get involved?
Oh that happened a lot.
And how did you handle that situation?
Well, sometimes, you go to the other party and deal with that party and work with
them until the other party decides to come around. Sometimes they will eventually come around
"Okay, this guy's already working with you on this, and he evidently must be on your side," or
like that. But the only thing you can really do is demonstrate to them, the best you can, that you
basically neutral, as neutral as you can be. And it usually just comes together. Sometimes they'll
away and say, "We don't want to be bothered with this individual." I don't think there was ever a
where any of us, and I say "us" in this situation, because this is kind of universal, it dealt with
for the most part, we never concened ourselves with people who didn't want us.
Let me ask you a more extreme question. Did you ever go in when
Yes, we did. After all, you know, we were a
part of the Justice
Department so we could do what we wanted. On those rare occasions where that happened, there
have been more groups or individuals who didn't want you there, but they didn't express it. So
they sort of
went along with things. It was pretty much like somebody saying, "The FBI's coming. Nobody
the Justice Department. They don't say, "We don't want you here." Very few people will do that.
times when that happened, you found that you just went in anyway and determined whether or
was a role for you to play. And if there was a role for you to play, you began to play it.
What were you looking for to determine that you had a role in a situation?
Well, the typical things were what type of violation this might have been, and what level of
might have been at. Whatever the conflict might
have been, you
looked at it and then you assessed it. You made an assessment of the situation. An assessment is
simply a rule of thumb, more or less, where you go in and try to identify what the conflict is
about, what the
issues are, and who's been hurt. Have there been any injuries, any violence, anything like that,
important stuff to the overall community? You kind of evaluate it or analyze it. What level of
this? Is there a high degree of tension? Are people pulling guns on each other, or are they
And how were you able to get that information?
Observation, experience, training.....you had training in this agency. We spent a lot of time
through tactics and strategies and so forth. You learned how to do that, and your experience
too, so that you could just look at the situation and determine, "Hey, this is something that's
This is something that we really have got to become involved in." So you shared that
information with your
colleagues and others to determine whether or not you should be involved.
Was there a minimum or maximum number of cases you could be involved in? Did you
or was it a little bit more free for all, where you were able to use your own judgment?
We basically used our own judgment all the time. When we were on-site, in the midst of
things, it had
to be your judgment and then you would report back to certain coordinators or supervisors or
as to what your observations might have been. And then once you did that, you came back and
discuss a strategy or plan for how you were going to approach this situation to try to, number
the tension, and number two: see if you could get everybody to talk, come together. If you could
that, you went back and discussed, and identified a number of resources that you were going to
get certain things done. And so after you did that, you charged off into the woods.
Did you ever sit down with the party to help
you figure out
what your strategy would be, or was this solely with other CRS workers?
No. It depended on what you thought the situation might be -- who you could trust. People
work with. Sometimes you developed strategy with
wasn't part of the agency but who might have been, for example, another agency, a sister agency,
contemporaries or what have you. You might find yourself developing some strategy with the
department. You might find yourself discussing strategy with a community action director. You
yourself discussing strategy with anybody that you felt fit into the scheme of things to the point
could make a contribution and where you were comfortable with their input. And that happens
times when you are in the field. Especially if you are out there and you are by yourself. And if
yourself, you're trying to figure out who you're going to work with. Who's amicable to this
Who's hostile to the situation?
That's how -- getting back to the other question you asked me -- that's
you tried to figure out what you were going to do when you knew that, clearly, somebody didn't
around. You tried to determine whether or not you were going to be playing the enemy, or
And then a lot of times, some of the foes came around and decide to
with you after all. Often the foes came around. I know in my situation, I had lots of foes who
because they came to the conclusion that the work you might have been doing at the time was
that they could buy into, or something that they perceived as worth while.
You had to let that happen. You couldn't go in forcing yourself on
don't care who you were with, whether you were with Justice Department, FBI, anybody.
People know when you are a phony. Lots of these people out in the field who are fighting
issue are more sophisticated than you are, or as sophisticated. So you
never go in
with the idea that since you are a trained mediator, that you're going to be able to snow somebody
your level of expertise or competence or anything else. The key to all of this is being yourself.
see that, for the most part. And when they do see that, they're more willing to trust you. But
when you go
in and try to let them think that you have some special knowledge, which you may have, it won't
They're going to have to conclude that you have that special knowledge on their own. You can't
the message to them that, "Oh. I'm special." Because all that does is turn them off.
And in hostile situations, the last thing you need is to have people turned off
out here in the streets. But once they feel that you might be of substance, then they're willing to
chance on you. And that's how all this stuff happens. I don't care who said what. This is how all
this stuff happens. People have to feel some kind of degree of confidence in you that you can
Now in some instances, there are individuals who are not going to fall for you because they
want to see you. There are those people out there who don't want to see any progress made, we
can't assume in going into a situation that everybody wants to work this out and that everybody
"come to yes". They don't want to.
Does it take a long time for you to realize that, or is that something
that you know
I'm not a moron! Let me tell you why I'm saying that. It's a people thing. And by that I
mean, forget all
your skills, your education and everything else. You are a person. You know when you're hurt,
when you're embarrassed, you know all of those things without any education. So you
have to find out what's in your heart; what's in there counts. And you rely on that, you rely on
then you rely on your God-given ability to work with people and understand people. Then
have it made, because those are the roots. Forget about mediation now, we're talking about
Whether we're mediators or not, I'm saying, be a "people person" and you'll be able cut through
all the rest
What would you do if you felt that your intervention might undercut a relatively
successful protest activity? If the goal of the group was to raise a fuss?
Sometimes I assumed a low profile. And that simply meant that I wasn't too
aggressive about going in and talking about resolution or anything else. There were times when
happen. Where I said, "Now if I go in here and talk about CRS, and mediation or conflict
going to really screw up some good stuff." There are certain principles that you believe in. You
have agreed with them deep inside. Being a human being, you let them go. You say to yourself,
not really going to jump up and down on the table and try to get them to turn this around.
progress." This is where you respect the skill of the other parties involved, the people who are
these things. This is where you go in and you make a real careful
assessment or analysis of the situation to be able to determine who's skilled and who's not.
you're wrong. But a lot of times you're right. You've got to watch it and say to yourself, "Hey,
are skilled individuals here. Highly educated, highly motivated." Well, when we felt that a
was eventually going to "come to yes" in a particular conflict, it made us feel good inside, and we
we had no need to intervene. The next step was for us to make our reservations and get out of
go on to the next task. And then there are times when you can walk into a situation where you're
educated of the group that you're dealing with, and then you sit back and carefully try to assess
situation as to what role you really are going to play.
One time I met with a series of black professors, all PhD's. It wasn't their PhD's that I was
impressed with; what I was impressed with was their sense of direction and where they were
going with it,
and their planning skills and so forth. And I said to myself, "What am I
going to do
here? I may be a resource person." That's when you determine your role. My role was not to be
mediator in that situation. My role was to be able to provide them with as many
resources as I could to help them put their package together. I had determined that this was the
role that I
needed to play.
And I didn't want anybody else coming in there either, as a matter of fact. I
wouldn't let anybody else come in to that situation from CRS -- especially certain personalities
know damn well they'll screw everything up and run people out, or the people would run them
way or the other. When you have a case that you're in charge of, you're in charge. And people
get off the airplane and come in there and say, "Okay, well stand aside, I'm the big cheese here."
let that happen in twenty five, thirty years. I never let that happen. And then after people knew
I was, they knew not to even try.
And I'm serious as a heart attack,
because all of us had respect for each other and we basically knew when to come in and when not
come in, and what to say and what not to say to each other as comrades. We basically
and that's why we function so well out there. I'd never go into Manny Salinas' case and jump in
knowing what in the heck's going on. Because I know he'd go, "What are you doing?" And that's
simple. I don't care if he did read the book ["Getting to Yes"] or any of the rest of that stuff. We
that. We respected each other.
And then once we began to talk about it, the next thing you know, we ended up developing
strategies on how we would work together. And that almost always happened. It's one thing
people: they have internal respect for one another to the point where we always ended up
strategies with each other, not against each other. And then the next thing you know, somebody
piece of this, somebody had a piece of that and it was a group activity. That's what we did.
Like Wounded Knee. At Wounded Knee, each person had a role, and few, if
any, individuals out of twenty or thirty of us running around up there, were not respecting the
another person. And we debriefed each other at night and discussed what was going on, and
assignments for the next day.
Was there one person who acted as a coordinator of the
Well you had a coordinator, you had somebody who would sit down and would discuss how
to put this
together, and they'd get your opinion about it, and then we'd all come together and decide on the
approach to take. Somebody would lay it out. Like for example, Dick Salem would say, "Why
try this, and John, you take this and Jack, you do this, and Bill, you take this, and
Bob, you do that." And that's the way we kind of moved it along, always respecting one another's
and abilities to get a certain thing done. CRS was known as sort of a
maverick operation, simply because we didn't function just according to the book as to how
go. Not to disrespect the books, but it was better this way because we had to develop specific
based on each individual situation.
Did you ever negotiate your role with the parties? Did you
determine your role yourself or did you work with them to determine what role you would play?
That's a good question. It would depend on the parties. If there were parties who were
enough to want to discuss with you your role and how to advance your role or improve your role
or how to
play down your role or whatever, then you'd do that. They were a pretty sophisticated lot.
And every now and then, you had a leader in a certain group that you
respected enough that you could do that with. Like Alice, we got to know each other, so we'd sit
down and she'd say, "Why don't' you play the big, good guy and I'll play the old bitch." She was
saying that. Well, it got down to times when there were people over the years that you worked
with a lot,
and you got to know that you could trust them and they were easy to cooperate with. You knew
going to do the right thing. And if they felt you were going to do the right thing, things went
Did the parties ever ask you to do things that
you weren't able to do?
Oh sure. Lots of times. You tell them. You just be straight up. You tell them, "I can't do
Do you think I'm a darn fool?" In one prison I went into, the guys wanted
to bring in
various contraband and stuff like that. You just say, "no," and go onto the next level and they
alone about that. And not only that, they respect you.
They respect you as a person, and when they respect you as a person, you find that they're more
cooperate with you. It's just like the American Indian Movement. I think I worked
AIM more than anybody in this region. We would go in and the people knew us up-front. "This
is what we
can do and this is what we can't do," and most of them knew it. After you got to working with
them for so
long, they'd say, "Here comes Reed. Heck. We know he isn't going to do that. We're going to
find somebody else." Things of that sort. And that's the way it generally worked.
And getting them to the table, you know, there were times when they'd play
games with you. Speaking of table negotiations, when I started
working with a group, I tried to find out what their tactics were. After you learn their tactics, you
with them. This is something you learn as you go. No amount of training is going to help you
the dynamics or the techniques that were used in negotiations at the table.
Were you ever able to work effectively when the people didn't trust
The word "effectively", just turn that word around and say that you might not have been as
you could have been if they trusted you more. You were able to function, perhaps not as well as
would like to have functioned, because you knew there were several people who might not have
you. From either side -- from either the so-called "establishment side" to the street people side or
non-establishment side. Sometimes you just had no way of knowing who didn't like you or who
Was it important for you to find out?
No. Not necessarily. Think about how effective you cannot be if you're wandering around
figure out who likes you. Your concern is doing the best job you can do to get people to come
and agree to some kind of agreement. My God, if you're carrying that baggage around, trying to
who likes me because of whatever, you'll never get anything done. But once they come to the
or maybe come to a "halfway" conclusion that you don't really give a darn whether you think this,
the other, then they move on and cut the silliness out.
Was there ever a time where you were used as
a scapegoat for one of the parties?
Very seldom. I wouldn't allow it. Now there were times when I was willing to be the
There were times, not just me, but there were times within CRS, when we had allowed ourselves
to be the
scapegoats for certain things that happened. It wasn't just my situation, but us mediators all over
country, sometimes we foresaw that it was best to have people put the blame on us about a
And so regional directors like Salem, Bob Lamb, Ozell Sutton, and Ed O'Connell, wrote that into
scenario. After we discussed strategy with the regional director, they might say, "Let
them blame us for that." And that's the way that went. You listened to your director, and your
would make sound determination that, "Hey, we're going to be used like this. We're going to
allow this to
happen." It all depended on the situation.
Like in Wounded Knee, there were certain
happened that we were blamed for. We were blamed for babysitting the Indians. We were
the law enforcement and stuff like that for being babysitters and things like that.
you wanted to try to keep people from coming in and kicking their butts. It was a
you were here, AIM was here, and the police were there.
So the police were complaining that you were keeping them away from the Indians?
Sometimes, or the FBI. Because they wanted to beat their butts on certain occasions. But we
keep them apart.
Another case involved a very big riot with black athletes at a university.
Well, it was just a big fight. There were a number of fights between some students and athletes.
And the issues were around a situation where some of the athletes felt that they were being
around by the students. The President, at least I felt the President didn't want people
sitting down at the table at that time.
The President of the University?
Yes. I started working between the President's office, the black
association, the athletes, the football players, basketball players and what have you. All these
were there, plus the police chief, police department on-campus, police department off-campus,
they all had a hand in this problem.
I began to shift back and forth between all of the parties
to get their reaction to what happened. First, I wanted to come up with
information about what happened. Then after that, who perceives what? Does the white
association perceive it to be this way? Do the black athletes perceive it to be that way, and so
So that took a total of about eight weeks, being on and off the
campus and sliding in to see the athletes, going up and consulting with the President, and
listening to the
white students' association. Before you can put pieces together and come to the table you
sometimes have to use shuttle diplomacy.
After a certain discussion with the President, I decided not to bring
together. The reason was because no matter how well it was intended ,and how good it sounded,
how much people wanted to get to the bottom of this, I also knew that
held grudges that would prevent it from working. You never knew who held the grudge against
after all the handshakes and everything else, sometimes it just wasn't good. And I knew in this
the poor athletes being on scholarship and everything else, weren't in the position to stand on
ground. At least I didn't think so. So we never were going to sit down in the President's office.
was anybody sitting down in the President's office, it was going to be me. In these types of cases
handled the conflict through on-going shuttle diplomacy.
So the criteria that you used was whether or not the people across the
table were of
That was part of it. But also I didn't trust him not to burn these
kids. And this is where my prejudice came out, because I knew, or I felt, that they were going to
burned if they came across as being equal. Some people are unequal no matter what happens,
and if you
understand that, then you can structure things around it to some extent. But I didn't think I could
do that in
How do you deal with that situation -- by shuttling rather than
having them together?
Oh. By shuttling you can keep personalities down and out. You have the
not having somebody on the opposite side really be stung by the anger and hostility that might be
out when you're going across the table. A lot of times, if you're talking to somebody
and you don't say things a certain way they may pretend to be fair, but then they still go after you
And being aware of this, you have to be careful. You have to think about the whole situation,
big picture. I can leave there tomorrow and find out that everybody who went to the table as a
representative got burned. Now matter what was said to me about how nice it was going to be,
happens. It happened in a town I worked in the Southwest. The mayor and the city council and
else sat down with the employees and six weeks later, fired all of them. But when I was sitting
was a situation where, "Oh, I'm so glad you came down."
There's another thing. You've got to be aware of superficiality and BS by the people who
they really want to resolve something, who actually may only be interested in learning who the
may be, so they can hang them.
In this situation at the University, did the President want to
meet with the other parties or did he accept you meeting separately with each party?
No. I called the shots. I said, "This is the way we'll do it," and we did it just that
way. Now, they could have backed me in a corner and said, "BS! We're not going to do it that
they took the position that, "Maybe since this guy's done this one or two times before and we
maybe we'll go along with what he's doing." Now, had it broken down and turned out to be a
might have overruled what I said, and then I would have had to go and do what they wanted or
have been no discussions or negotiations or mediations or anything.
Did you ever experience any situation where the two parties refused to meet with one
you wanted them to sit down at the table together, but one party refused?
I can't recall as to whether or not anything happened like that. We went to the
table, we didn't go to the table. Sometimes I saw a disadvantage to going to the table based on
power, who had the resources, who had the influence, politically and otherwise.
Give us an example of how you would open up the lines of communication once
parties got to the table?
Well, if you've gotten them to the table, you've already overcome
a lot of hostility. At the beginning usually, nobody wants to have anything to do with each other,
And then as you begin to hang around there for awhile, it's a situation
you may be lucky. You get to the point where they'll send a representative to sit down at a table.
two major parties elect spokespeople. Usually it's pretty difficult for the spokespeople to come
Because you've got to remember, if they've been elected as spokespeople, they perceive
being important. And if someone's the President of the University, then he or she is important.
So that's just a matter of fact. So, you try to pick a way in, getting your
representatives to help you along, getting allies from your side.
It is important to try to figure out who the movers and the shakers are -- who's going to get
going. So you try to identify who that person may be within the establishment's office, the
office, or within the street, or the student body office. You've got to understand, a title doesn't
make a person a key spokesperson. A mouthpiece is important and the same mouthpiece is even
important when you've got those people on hand, you need to identify them. Just so happens,
going to find the same mouthpiece in the chancellor's office, or the President's office. Who? It
So once you established who this key person was, to get them to the
did you say? How would you open up a dialogue?
It's not a question of opening up anything. What happens is that you've established a
That's what you're working on. You're not working on what to say initially and open up some
format. What you want to do is establish relationships with people. And then they kind of feel
this guy's saying something worthwhile. Maybe I'll listen."
And when you do get them at the table, they know why they're there. Basically, they know
they are and what they're about. So it's a matter of just talking about the issue. David or Julie or
the people are, the names of the people, you call them by their first name. Or if they desired to be
by any formal name, you do so. You start out by saying something like: "Recently we've had
quite a bit of
conflict about funds that are supposed to go to the Title X program," and then you go on, in an
introduction, to the point where they know what's going on and they discuss part of the issue.
What you want to do at that first meeting, is see if they're amenable to having
others come in and join in another conversation in the future. And "the future" could be
tomorrow night. If
you're going to the table, you need to decide who's going to be there. You
want to let
them identify the spokespeople who they're comfortable with having at the table themselves.
You do not
play a role in that. You don't play a role in saying, "I'm going to have Mary Smith at the table, or
Jill." You let the spokesperson figure out how many people are going to be there. They get out
and pencil and they start writing down the names. "Well, Julie, she's pretty good about this and
write the first grant and so on." Okay. Then you go over to the other, and do the same over
I think Dr. Patterson will be good, because you know Dr. Patterson's worked with those people."
If they nominate somebody to be at the table who you already know is probably
not going to be good -- they're too hostile, they're too outspoken, they're likely to cause more
than benefit -- will you make a general suggestion that maybe that person wouldn't be so good?
Most of the time, I'm going to let it all hang out. Because you want people ventilating as
anything else at this table. I become the problem when I start structuring who should be at this
Most of the time, you're going to find that the people sitting at this table don't want those
anyway. You know, they need somebody loud, but sometimes they don't want them there. A lot
they don't want them there. On the other hand, there are times when one side or the other side
that person there because they perceive, in minority communities, for the most part, that the
most robust will be listened to. So they want that person at the table. It's called "shaking the
up." And they want the bastards to be shaken up. So a lot of times, the loud mouth serves a real
purpose. And that purpose, a lot of times, is to throw you off. It's to shake you up.
Do you mean the mediator or the other side?
The other side. Like I said, I'm not the issue. And this certain person gets too loud, maybe you
of that go on. You don't get up there and try to control that initially. Now when you get
down the road and you're making some so-called real progress, you wish this guy would shut up.
just human nature. You're going to sit down as a mediator. You're going to say, "I wish this
keep his mouth shut." But never you mind. Most of the time, the people at the table who were
glad to see
this individual, will eventually, during the caucus, tell him, "Shut the heck up. That's enough of
don't need it anymore. They're about to say something that's important." So they play the game.
Then there are other times, and this is very interesting, you can be at the
table and you can find that these people are making all kind of noise and you might even take it
personally. Because they look at you say something snide. They may say something to you
in the hell do you know about any of this in the first place?" They may not be that direct about it,
will get the message. And once you get the message, it depends on your self-esteem as to how
it. Because if you shrink, everything is going in the toilet. But if you don't, and you have enough
hang fast with this, then you just move past that.
One of the biggest things doing table strategies and negotiations, is you
never know who the power broker may be at the table. See, sophisticated groups, groups that are
coming to the table, who know a little bit about negotiation are people who never reveal their
and their true strength. You can have somebody at the table, Jack over here in the corner hasn't
thing. But Ruby here, is raising all kinds of hell. She's calling the other side all sorts
of names that you can't print, and Jack over here is just looking at her and he may give her a
signal, "Cut that out. We don't need that right now." But on the other hand, he could say, "Go
But he calls the shots. So you have to be cognizant of the dynamics of table negotiation to the
point where you can know that conceivably, the person making the most noise may have least
may do that for a day or a day and a half or whatever it takes to throw you off. Or even to turn
you off. So
there's such a thing as table dynamics in negotiations as to who is the weapon around the table.
play all kind of games.
Going back to Dana's question from before, do you set any ground rules for what
can or cannot be said?
Well you try to keep that to a minimum. When you start talking about ground rules,
you're sitting there like you're the master. So you set a few ground rules, but you want to be
careful. I was
always skeptical with the term "ground rules" simply because I didn't want to be placed in the
where I'm coming across as some kind of master. Militant groups, poor people, a lot of times,
used to that. People coming down on them about, "Well, I'm in charge." They hear that so much
incredible. So when you're going to set ground rules, they have a tendency to not to want to
These folks sitting over there, they're used to all that bureaucratic baloney about this and that, so I
give the folks a break. Let them say what the heck they've got to say, in the way they've got to
You're going to get more cooperation the next day than you can shake a stick at. Because they're
to see you as a person and as a human being. Once they see you as a human being, you'll be
They'll tell you more stuff than you can imagine. But if you're thinking that you're some kind of
expert, you won't get anywhere.
However, if you don't direct the conversation at all, are you going to get there? What do you
people start screaming at each other?
What happens is, you can become the enforcer. There are times when you do
have to ask people in a nice way, "Look, can we get past this?" Or words to that effect. And
they'll cooperate with you,
if you have allowed them to be themselves at one occasion or
another. That's called respect. And once you've got that, you can say anything. You really can.
say almost anything to the people at the table to the point where they will calm down. Where
they will see
that they're making some progress. But if this
group over here is expecting you to be their enforcer, you can forget it. That's the way I see it, at
You're not going to get anything done. Because they're going to see over here, "Hey. Just what
thought. He's the establishment," or what have you. And then they're going to shut down.
ever seen that before? They shut right down.
So the thing to do is to try to maintain at least some degree of equilibrium,
because they're going to test you. They are going to test you, number one, by being loud and
and uncontrollable a little bit, okay? And the establishment isn't going to want to put up with it.
Really, it becomes a hassle just getting everybody to the table. Getting these people here, the
cops or whomever, you've got at the table. The community group expects to get dumped on and
establishment thinks that this is a bunch of BS because you're meeting with a bunch of savages
here. And when it's over with, that's what they go in and say. And so how do you get some
going on? You want to flush out all of that. In other words, as a mediator, as far as I'm
flushing all of that BS out.
I'm going to make sure if I can, that I do not come across as someone who is anxious to set
ground rules. And what I say about the ground rules is going to be something that's
going to be not typical, so that the minority people won't think "Here we go again." And the
establishment won't sit there and think "You tell him, boy." I despise that. So I'm not going to fall
into it. And
I never did.
Who sets the agenda?
It depends. They can get together and set the agenda themselves, or they can bring in their
agenda and then you as a mediator can structure it when you get to the table. You can tell them
once. That way, when you got that going, here's your opportunity to let both sides know that
structuring something. Okay, here's the agenda. The agenda's here, these people want to talk
housing, this, that and the other thing. But Johnny Jones got shot and Johnny Jones was
perceived by the
other side as being a no-good thug and drug dealer. For all we know, the people over here don't
with them, nor do I agree with them, but they won't know it. They might be more interested in
"What can we get out of this? We know Johnny Jones was a thug." That's what they're saying,
he wasn't any good. But since we've got all this power at the table, we've got to get something out
Now that's called deep thinking.
Often the establishment never figures out that the minority groups can think that deep. They
come in there with the scarves on their head and everything else. "Can't be no brains down here.
heard them before, yelling and screaming and going off and never saying anything of substance."
got one or two sitting there in that group who are the leaders. "Now what do we want out of this
we want good garbage pickup? Or do we want...?" Something that's been important to them for
Not Johnny Jones in jail. Or they shouted, "Oh, we knew that guy." Some of them might tell
Reed, we know that bastard wasn't any good in the first place. But we've got to get something
out of this
deal. This is the first time we've been to the table, sitting down with these people, so they'll listen
to us in
twenty years." I had that said to me so many times, it was incredible.
In the situations that you're describing now, in the minority groups
mainstream groups, were you ever able to increase the trust levels between the two? You
situation where the establishment believes that all members of this minority community are
you ever able to reverse that?
I'm so glad you asked me that question. Because if you do a little research even today,
find that as a result of the mediation programs, my mediation in a lot of cities around the region,
are going on that are demonstrating that thing right now. Let me give you an example.
The Blue Sky Interaction Agency, Indian Action Council. Guess who the chairman was
The police chief. And it was the police chief simply because of the fact that he began to fall right
things and the trust level was developed to the degree that they elected him the first president of
group. Now this group was a result of a mediation.
There was a mediation between city officials, community activists, and community leaders.
After the mediation, they agreed they needed some way to keep channels
communication open. Before then, the city of Big Sky had never had a mechanism by which the
of communication would remain open between the Indians and the city administration. So what
do? They decided that they needed some kind of organization that will address these issues and
communication open by meeting periodically with city officials and community leaders. This
proposal. Somebody said, "Well then. What do you call this group?" "Well, we don't know
what we'll call
it, but it's a good idea that we come together monthly and sit down and discuss these issues that
us from becoming hostile toward one another. We'll call it the Blue Sky Indian Action Council."
how long that's been in existence? Twenty five years. And it keeps the door and channels of
communication open. That was a result of the mediation session.
Was that typical of most of the situations you were involved in?
Were you able to reduce those hostilities that much in other situations?
Put it this way. That was one of my methods of operation that I went out for. Even
though I was attempting to mediate something, I had an agenda myself. And one aspect of
that agenda was to try to develop mechanisms, or suggest developing a mechanism within the
mediation sessions that will speak to the issue of communication, keeping channels open at all
And how are you going to do that when you start talking about police brutality? You
want to look
at doing that. When you start taking about better compliance with city laws or ordinances.
want to start talking about better garbage collection in a minority community or anyplace else,
mechanism could you have, or what better organization could you have where police, social
school officials and others are coming together with minority leadership once a month instead of
To answer your question about the proof that that trust level had been
developed was that in some cases, the minority community, and in this case, the Indian
elected someone they supported to be president of that organization. He served for about five or
years. Then somebody else served. But the idea was that this was ongoing. Here's
a communication mechanism that remained open all of these years and it couldn't help but to
diffuse tensions as they existed throughout the country.
It's the same way in Bingham's Hispanic community. It's the same way. These things came
a pretty long period of time. It took a while to discover how we could come up with something
so that CRS
didn't have to be back in this town every few weeks. What can you do to help? So
instead of allowing somebody to use you as their flunky or something, you come up with a
in time you facilitated the scene. And if anybody else wanted to be the facilitator, then they'll be
Did you provide any training?
Of course. I provided training all the time. If you look up here, you'll find some of my
books and some
of my work where I provided training, especially in police departments. Go to the Boermont
and find out what training programs they're using for new officers. I started with Rosa in the area
training in the institutions. And then I got them to train every time there's a new class coming in,
community relations. Not only community relations, but conflict resolution. In the jail, the riots
county jail have decreased about 85% since I started the program eighteen years ago. I did the
training program at the Boermont Jail. They needed some training, the Division of Corrections
them that they really needed to get training, so I set up a training program for them for seventeen
And then the Philips County Jail down here, they used to have riots all the time. But the riots
have been cut to a minimum because they now have an adequate training program. I say
because they didn't have anything before. Nothing in the area of conflict resolution. It took me
nineteen years to put all of this together.
Before you were able to put it all together in a nice training session,
provided any type of training for the parties who were in conflict, like immediate training?
Sitting down with
them, saying, "This is the way mediation works?"
I did that several times. I don't know how effective it turned out to be, because you have
things turn over, sometimes people may not want to embrace what you've done. And then there's
times, someone may say, "Hey, this is a good idea. We may want to keep this."
Did you offer any other type of technical assistance?
Sure. A lot of times. We had training that went all the way into hostage negotiations, how
riots as you ran into the height of them, things like that.
What about training the minorities, or giving technical assistance to the minorities?
Lots of times.
What form would it take?
Sometimes it took place in the area of role playing, sometimes it took form in group
lectures, things of that sort. It depends on what they wanted. Like the NAACP might
want some training on how to resolve some internal conflicts that they may have within the
Sometimes, a big one would be the Martin Luther King parade for the city of Denver. For
years, I was the trainer as far as the marches and demonstrations in town. The march for King's
that was always my responsibility in this office here. I did that for twenty-five years.
And what kind of training were you doing?
Marching. In other words, march order. How to march correctly, how to provide security
course of a march, how to be able to diffuse potential riots.
So wouldn't this training be for the police rather than the marchers?
No. This was training for the marchers. I would use the police auditorium down here and
somewhere in the neighborhood of about a hundred people come in, or maybe two hundred, or
thousand come in and we'd use their auditorium and I'd speak to them and tell them, "Well, this
is the way
this should be done." Sometimes I would bring in an expert from one of my other offices, like
Henry Mitchell might come in and get things started. We had to train the captains, the march
the march captains. We color-coded a lot of things as to who was responsible for what.
I'm vaguely remembering, I might be wrong, but I'm vaguely
remembering a few
years ago, the KKK came to one of the marches. Did you work with that? Were you working
with the KKK
No, I didn't work with the KKK. We didn't work with the KKK and that's a good question.
The KKK has
never sought the help in that area of training and wanting to do something. They are always out
fringes out there doing their own thing and violating the law.
Has CRS ever tried to get them involved in anything you've been doing?
That wasn't part of our mandate, to seek out the Ku Klux Klan. That's just never been part
mandate. I don't think it ever will be.
Was there ever a time where you provided technical assistance to one
didn't provide technical assistance to the other group, or didn't want the other group to know that
helping out the first group?
That's a good question. I don't think so. I mean, I never engaged in it. I think that it was
available to any one who came up and made the request. It's like the union people, the
workers. They wanted to be a part of the King march, so they came in and just became part of
group and learned how to become march marshals. And how to be responsible for a group of
within the march. We've had as many as 25,000 people out in the streets out here and we've
carefully and coordinated with the traffic bureau about that. As a matter of fact, it got to the
our relationship had developed so well that the Denver police expected us to use their
year about the time of King's birthday. So they knew we would be training down there.
For that training, is it reflective of the police department rules that they have, or the way that
the marchers to march?
The only thing that the police were basically responsible for was traffic flow. Where the
march is going
to go. Which streets are they going to go down and up and over here. And they would kind of
"Hey, this is a recommendation here. Here's a recommendation there. And you can go down this
Now when you speak in terms of what to do in a certain crisis, a certain emergency, that's when
we had to
consider what to do about the KKK. It only broke down one time that I can ever recall out of the
or eighteen years of having the King march. The Klan only disrupted the march one time enough
amount to something, where it got a lot of publicity and things of that sort. And that was because
a lot of
people who weren't a part of any of the area organizations that we had trained had infiltrated the
marchers. So they got involved and then started misbehaving. In other words, you had the Klan
but they were over in a nice place where nobody should have gone. But the kids who were
involved in this
wanted to go beat up the Klan. So they started throwing rocks and beating up the Klan and
else. And that's where that went. And then the police had to step in. But the marchers
not involved per se, in going after the Klan. There were a lot of kids on the fringes out there and
walk down the street, from the position that you happen to be in, you can take a look and see,
some guy going after the Klan, throwing a rock, or what have you. And then the Klan, they were
see this. Because then the marchers got a lot of negative publicity.
Now getting back to this table business, things generally had a flow, I
swear to you, I never had any major trouble with table negotiations and things
like that, simply because of the fact that I wasn't going to let anybody drive me nuts. And they
Who came up with the solutions? Did you see
that as the
parties' job, or did you come up with solutions and propose them?
Oh no. I didn't come up with hardly any of the solutions, other than
the ones I
thought were very, very important. I might ask if they want to put something in there about
them. Like I
was just telling you about the group where you had a historical meeting once a month or
that, it's a good mechanism. But as far as the solutions, the groups themselves came up with their
For example. One side maybe talking about, "You know chief, we
had adequate garbage collection on my side of town in twenty five years. You know, we moved
area because you all didn't want us to go back on the reservation." This is actual dialogue, I'm
right now. This is actual dialogue. "You all had this committee back in 1945 that came over
here and met
with us about not going back to the reservation. And then you build these housing projects up
here for us,
and you don't finish putting in the sewage." True story. "And the garbage trucks don't come up
Maybe once a month. Whereas down in Platteville down there, the garbage trucks are coming in
week. So what do we do? Don't you think we should have garbage collection just as regular as
folks in Platteville? And the chief said, "Let me talk to the city mangers. I'll get back to you all
And then the next thing you know, the chief took the lead in this situation. He responded by
"You're darn right. You need a garbage collector." This is the Indian town. I've driven to the
and saw all that garbage on Monday morning. "Darn right. I think you've got a point." Next
know, they're getting garbage picked up on Mondays. It didn't mean that good citizens came
side, there were good citizens on both sides. So that's a real something that's no longer a tension
breeder, to go out and see filthy garbage on the sidewalk.
Do you ever have to bring in outside resources or people from
community to help mediate a situation?
Of course. Lots of times. Not for one minute did anyone in CRS think that they had the
everything. We went out and brought in a whole canon of experts. As a mater of fact, within
will tell you about this when you meet with her, we had all kinds of outside experts come in and
resolve a particular problem. For example, we have education consultants, we have criminal
consultants, we have mental health consultants, people that go beyond our expertise. We may
any expertise in psychiatry, but it's been identified that we need an individual who's good in
come in and work with us.
Do you get these people from Denver or do you try to get them from
Oh, we get these people from across the world. In other words, we did have the resources
get people from everywhere. If we wanted somebody from a university, we got somebody who
used to be
with CRS. We've got two people. We've got the former national director, the first director of
CRS in a
university. One year I brought him in and he met with a group of historians and everybody else.
the history department of George Mason University. Brought him in. A friend of mine from
Washington University. Brought him in a thousand times in education. When we started doing
bussing plan, we had all kinds of experts coming in. So many people that you can't even begin to
can't even remember half the guys we've brought in as consultants about some issue. You stretch
the world to find an expert when needed.
Did you ever allow the parties to bring in people they considered consultants, did
you accept who they referred to you?
It wasn't up to us to accept or not accept. We were the neutral third party, so we said, "why,
course." We didn't call the shots. We might have been responsible for manipulating some shots,
didn't call any shots.
To follow through on the statement you just made about being a neutral third party.
Sometimes you sound like a neutral third party, sometimes you
sound like an
Do you ever have a problem balancing these interactions?
No. I just didn't let anybody know where I was coming from in that area. But of course
some times where I was an advocate. Especially if somebody has beaten the hell out of some
going to definitely be an advocate. As I saw the situation being what it might have been. Now,
how I handle that internally to get something done, I just didn't say anything about it. I
wouldn't go out and openly push. Although, there were times
being a black person and going into one of these big-time white police establishments like New
Chicago or some place like that. Or even here, it was like pushing. They didn't want to trust me.
time I rode with the Boermont police department, who were called in during the riots in Denver,
it was said
by some of the department's good old boys, "You can't trust that guy." They didn't even know
had never met me. That was the first time I had been introduced to this particular district. Here
these guys shooting their mouths off. "You can't trust that black guy. What is he going to do out
He's not going to do anything but... So be careful about what you say around him." And the way
out about it is a white friend of mine on the police department came back and told me. He said,
your back. Because they're saying that you can't be trusted." And I was just as dumbfounded as
I can be
trying to figure out, "Why in the heck did they say that? I don't even know these people. I
been out." That was the life. That was the way it was. You had to learn to deal with that.
Did anybody accuse you directly saying, "Hey. You're not being
favoring one side?"
Not when I got out into the woods. Maybe somewhere in the city that might have happened,
Because most of the time I was not. I was impartial as hell. I had my feelings. Nothing you do
is going to
take away from that. You can't just take that away. See, that goes back to
people being concerned about, "Hey, you got a black guy coming into a black situation? You
not going to be impartial." That's because that's a reflection on themselves. Because they know
dishonest. And they see you coming in, they figure you're going to cheat. I was
always ready for
that. When somebody started to say something and tried to catch my reaction, I
would not give them eye contact. I would look off and look on the ceiling.
You learn all of these dynamics because I came out of corrections and prisons and all of these
before I even came to CRS. It's difficult. But I managed to do real well.
And most of the guys in CRS did real well. I could come up with
name after name of
people who were just outstanding. In this agency, I mean say what you want to, but this was one
best investments that the federal government ever made in anything. The only thing that I regret
they didn't let us become a Bureau and have autonomy to the point to where you really could
some things done. But despite all that, you have people here who have managed to do so well
some things together that were incredible. And it keeps a lot of people from getting hurt,
could have had a lot of genocidal stuff going down if it wasn't for CRS, and that's the bottom
Did confidentiality ever become a problem?
Oh yes. Confidentiality became a problem a lot of times.
In what way?
There were times when somebody wanted to come in and know who was responsible for
and you couldn't really say too much about it. Like in Wounded Knee for
There were other agencies who came running in wanting to talk to us about who
might have done something. I would say "I can't tell you that." "But you were down in the
you met all of those people down there. We weren't allowed to go down." "Well, we can't tell
you who did
what, because we would be violating confidentiality, and then we couldn't get anything done, we
operate because they wouldn't have any confidence in us. They'd call us a lot of snitches and we
snitches. That was a big misconception. Both sides thought we were snitching for somebody
The people that I worked with in CRS were pretty
trustworthy, sincere, honest individuals who wanted to do the right thing and wanted to find the
which we can get some of this racial conflict and other conflict resolved. They had been human
workers, some of them. Some of them had done other things, some of them were even in law
enforcement. But they wanted to see this mean-spiritedness reduced seriously. So most of those
individuals that you're going to talk to are people who went about their work and their business
trying not to
do harm to other people.
How were you able to handle information that may have leaked out? How were
you able to regain your credibility and focus with the party?
Personally, it never became a major issue with me because I don't think I've had to deal with
Was that typical of most CRS mediators?
I suppose it was typical of most. We've had that situation in a case or two. But I'd say
board, CRS people were just like I told you. Pretty genuine individuals. I
can't think of too many that you're going to meet with or otherwise that were unethical about
Very few. These people came to this agency with the idea that they were going to try to make
Was it essential for you and CRS employees to let the parties
know that all information was confidential, or was that something that was assumed?
There were times when the big shots, the Harvard boys, the real educated Native Americans
across, you'd have to explain that to them, like the guy from Harvard. And there are
quite a few Native American Harvard attorneys. I don't know if you're aware of that or not, but
Very sharp. And as a matter of fact, you can go to the Native American Rights Fund, there's
sharp attorneys there. We did a lot of work with them. And they
would ask a lot of hard questions. John Echohawk and people like that, they're really
But then you had other groups out of
Seattle and out of the Dakotas coming in and they were pretty sharp too. And they were the ones
the least trust. And that's exactly the way they acted too. They felt like educated people who
suspicious of everybody, didn't trust anybody. And you couldn't blame them.
Are you implying that that population is more difficult to convince that things would be
How did you decide when to end your involvement in a conflict?
That's a good question. I'll give you two answers to that. I was over in Oklahoma one time
with the American Indians over there. I worked with Indians a lot. A matter of fact, I worked
more than anybody else in CRS. Anyway, I was over in Oklahoma one
time and the
sheriff's department was beating up on every Indian they could find. But this was during some
Indian festival in a little town right outside of Oklahoma City.
went over there by myself and got a car and drove down to this little town. I made contacts with
person who was heading up this Indian festival deal. She began
to tell me about the problems they were having. So I looked at the situation and said, "My role
be to see if I can keep the police from beating up on the Indian people. I would go meet then
sheriff and everybody else. And the sheriff was a black man. And he was half Indian and half
black. But he was strictly for law and order. And there were a few times
did get clubbed up pretty bad. A couple of them were in the hospital. I went to the hospital to
So I was working all around there. I
ended up staying there for about six days and after this festival was over and nobody else got
beaten up, I
headed out. I was getting ready to go. And all the Native American leadership were
sitting in this tee-pee. And I went up to this lady, and I said, "Well it looks like my job's over."
said anything. So I said it again, "I'm going." I tapped her on the shoulder. "I'm leaving." I
Not being that familiar that much with the culture during those years, I continued to say I'm
nobody responded. I thought this must be a cultural thing and I'm missing it. And so I said it
woman looked up and me and said, "God dammit! We heard you the first time. Why is it that
groups of people come around us and figure they got to tell us something fifty times before we
you?" So my eyes got as big as saucers, I thought they were getting ready to attack me. It scared
out of me. She said, "We heard you, dammit. Get the hell out of here." There was nothing about
or anything. I was expecting a little of that, too. Just "Get the hell out of here. We heard you the
time, dammit." So I got in my car and drove back to Oklahoma City and got a hotel room and
eleven o'clock the next morning and went back to Denver. So that's one answer to the
The other one is, you can be out on the plain, out in the street here in Urban
America, or rural America, or Native America, or wherever. You run out of people to interview
and you run
out of people to talk to and then people give you a look like, "You're still around?" Then you get
car. I was down in Taos, New Mexico and I got this look. All of the
hanging around and they're getting ready to have a big party. Burritos everywhere and all the
the whole bit. And I hoped that I'd get an invitation because I was hungry as heck. I was hoping
I'd get an
invitation to this event that they were giving, celebrating the sanitation workers' victory over the
council. At that time, I let them yell and scream and do everything and finally they got what they
a degree, but it was something that they were satisfied with. Because what they wanted were
benefits. That was the main thing they were looking at. All of that other stuff was superficial.
And I was
proud of myself. I pulled that off in the second day. And the city manager got up there
"We're now going to give you boys health benefits." Because the Hispanic community down
were boys and girls, just like in the black community. So the sheriff got up with the city manager
made the pronouncements that the Hispanics were now going to have hospital care. They could
their families to the emergency room and everything else. And they needed to get that in writing.
worked with this lady who was real good with the pen. As a matter of fact, she taught English at
junior college. And we got all of that together, ran it past the city manager, everybody went over
it and we
checked the punctuation and the right expressions as to what should go in this document. So we
finished and it was sanctioned by the city fathers. So when it was official
to have a fiesta. And I said, "I'm so hungry. That nasty restaurant where I've been eating around
corner, I don't want to go over there. I'm going to go down here where this fiesta is going to be.
could see these big tacos and fajitas and all that kind of good stuff. And I thought I was going to
invited in to get some. Heck, they looked at me like I had two damn heads. And they said, "Bye.
see you." I thought they were going to say, "Come on. Have some. Join in." But they never did.
So, I learned right then and there on that score it is over when it's over and get the heck out of
there and keep going. That was during the early days. Some groups, when they had no
more use for you, in most cases, that was in the minority community. In the majority
community, they would be overly ingratiating. Sometimes they wanted you to stay and it was
you got to be their brother. And I wasn't interested. Then that's when I would initiate going. But
opposite in the minority communities. Minorities, they said "bye." And I think that was because
want to show how grateful they were about some things. They tried to get hard core after that.
And it was
the funniest thing. But the people who had all the power, they wanted to make sure they were so
And I was always skeptical of that. I wanted to go.
Could you briefly tell us if there's an area that
you feel CRS
was most or least effective in and why is that? I remember you saying that CRS, given the right
could have done, could have had a great impact on society. Why didn't they?
Well, sometimes because of budgetary constraints, we had to cut
short. We had to leave a situation because we had put too many man hours and dollars into it
and so it
was time to get off this case. There was a lot of money being spent on some cases. But if we
allowed to stay and the funds were, while maybe not unlimited, at least a little bit more
extensive, we could
have been more effective in certain situations. And in training, we were allocated so many bucks
training in a certain situation, if we had had more time and the money was allocated just a little
liberally, we could have done some good training in certain areas. Like I trained here a lot, but
other communities that asked me to come and do some training in the area of conflict resolution
corrections, and we didn't have the money for that. Now we did get to Eagle County and did the
training that they wanted, but there were other places we didn't get to. Not only did you get
officialdom, you got the request from communities.
And the other thing was that I thought that we could have spent more money in letting the
community know about the role of CRS. Some people, no matter what you've done or no matter
you've done it, "You're with the community what? And you did what?" And if you tell people
you did sometimes, they don't believe you. Not that I really care, but I think we should have had
people should have become much more educated about what we did. They know about the FBI.
should have known about us. Why couldn't we spend more money on public relations?
Did all of the regions have the same budget?
Well each region might have been allocated, some regions because of a certain situation that
have been going on in that region, might have been allocated a little bit more. For example, there
occasions when we were allocated more money because of Wounded Knee, for example. But
none of us
had enough money for public relations. If we had allowed the opportunity for people to at least
aware of what we did, we could have gotten more money because people would say, "They're the
that really resolved that thing up there."
But the biggest thing is this is a new state of the art, a new science, a new technique.
and conflict resolution, that's only been on the horizon the last twenty years for most people. So
find too many people other than CRS, who've had the practical experience at doing it. That's the
some have bad attitudes. Seriously, we could have had a lab and training positions for people
from everywhere to our training programs. Then we could send them out into their communities
could professionally set up their shops. If we could have done that, we wouldn't be in the
we are still today relying so much on guns. And I heavily believe that.
And it's moving along slower than it should. The profession itself. It's not moving like it
It's not being recognized as it should be. You've still got some people who don't take mediation
You're seen a lot of times as social workers, do-gooders and everything else. No
matter how dangerous
a situation may be, you still have some people who feel that the only way
you're going to resolve this is with a gun.
I had a mediation session once where the sheriff and
everybody talked about how they were going to negotiate, but then they came to the table with
I was appalled. It scared the hell out of me, but I was appalled. And I tried my best to explain
negotiations were, what coming to the table was all about , and how we were going to try to
and they said, ...we'll resolve it alright." And I told them, "Gentlemen, you're going to have to
things away." One guy wanted to know why. "Who in the heck are you to come in here telling
us to put
my pistol up?" And I said, "You see how this goes? They're sitting out there, all you guys got
down here, these people don't have anything. Now what is that supposed to be about?" That
took me 45
minutes to literally disarm these people and explain what this discussion at the table was going to
about. And then the sheriff, thank God, he took the lead and said, "Okay. Let's find a way to put
things up." They went down to their respective offices, we were in City Hall. It scared
the heck out of me. I figured I was going to drive back to the hotel that night and I was going to
ambushed. I said, "Some of these guys are going to shoot me. They're going to catch me and
crap out of me." That's what I thought. But fortunately, nobody did. They decided, "We'll let
the guy live.
He might be too much paperwork if we shoot him." And that's just the way that it was.
But all throughout the years it's been interesting. I couldn't have thought of anything else.
got this job by accident. I walked in a post office building because I had another job at the time.
going to go to another job. And it just so happened that I had to wait thirty days before I came on
And by me walking through the post office, I said, "Oh no. If I can get a crack at this, I'm not
here." So it took sixty days, from the time I walked in there to the end to find out that I had a
crack at this
And it all paid off for you, didn't it?
Oh yeah. Because I ended up loving it. I've had amazing
experiences. Once, we
were up at Pine Ridge with Ralph Abernathe. We were in the guys house by the name of Frank
Foolscrow. Frank Foolscrow was one of the spiritual leaders for the Dakota tribe on the
was Abernathe's first time sitting in a house with a dirt floor. And he had been all through the
you know, poverty is a relative thing. He was talking about poverty and we sat down and we ate
dared not refuse to eat, because they gave us bowls of potatoes and sweet corn. We looked
the meat, but there wasn't any. They couldn't afford it. We finished that corn and we walked
were the only two blacks around there. Everybody else was either Indians or white people.
And so we went outside and got together ourselves in the corner. Abernathe said, "Have you
seen such a thing? This is incredible poverty, Brother Reed." And I said, "Well, Doc, I'd like to
about the degrees of poverty in the country. You got the rural South and here I am up here in the
Dakotas, you know. It's all relative. It's all the same thing." He said, "It is. But I've never eaten
and corn on a dirt floor. When I get back to Alabama, I'm going to have to talk about this."
And he went off and met this Dakota leader. The two of us got in the
car and it
was pitch dark on the reservation about this time. They don't have light there in Pine Ridge. And
somebody started following us. We were driving to get off of the reservation and I was scared as
because I'd become lost. And I don't want Abernathe to know that I'm lost. I tried to come across
an expert on this reservation. But I can't find my way off the darn thing. And yet, we come to
find out it
was the cops, it was the Bureau of Indian Affairs Police behind us and they didn't know it was
They weren't paying attention and I didn't know who they were behind me and plus I'm lost. And
to find that main road to take us back to Blue Sky, South Dakota. So after about an hour and a
fumbling around there and I'm talking to
Reverend Abernathe and I'm saying, "Now you know, these are tricky roads here." Finally he
you know where the heck you're going?" I finally hit that dirt road and as I hit that dirt road, a
sigh of relief
came on me. But then I didn't even know if I was going north or south. So I turned left on a
hunch and I
was going back to Blue Sky. So about an hour or half hour later, I think about a half hour later, I
sign that said Hot Springs and I knew I was going in the right direction because you hit Hot
you go up to Blue Sky. It's such a desolate area and it still is today. Not much has changed up
But I still find myself wanting to go back and just ride through town, just ride through the
reservation. As a matter of fact, one time I did go through there once, but hell, I was still
working then. A
lot of days I'd like to go back.