Who We Are
Robert Yazzie, Chief Justice Emeritus of the Navajo Nation
The Honorable Robert Yazzie served as the Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation from 1992 through 2003. He practiced law in the Navajo Nation for 16 years, and was a district judge for eight years. He is now teaching Navajo Law at the Navajo Technical University. He was the Director of the Diné Policy Institute of Diné College (Navajo Nation), developing policy using authentic Navajo thinking. He is the author of articles and book chapters on many subjects, including Navajo peacemaking, traditional Indian law, and international human rights law. He is a visiting professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law, an adjunct professor of the Department of Criminal Justice of Northern Arizona University and a visiting member of the faculty of the National Judicial College. He recently taught Navajo law at the Crownpoint Institute of Technology. Chief Justice Yazzie continues a career devoted to education in formal participation in faculties, lectures and discussions of traditional indigenous law at various venues throughout the world. He has a global audience and he has frequently visited foreign lands to share his wisdom about traditional indigenous justice and governance.
Sheryl R. Wilson, MLS
Executive Director | Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution
North Newton, KS
Sheryl R. Wilson is a mediator, trainer and educator. Her dedication to the practice of restorative justice has led her to work with individuals, non-profits, academic institutions, two Fortune 500 companies, and public agencies. In her work, she has facilitated restorative justice dialogue in various venues, has worked as a community mediator and as a researcher. Her experience also includes community outreach and defense-initiated victim outreach in capital cases. She currently works as the Executive Director of the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution. Sheryl is currently serving as Board President of the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice (NACRJ).
Johonna McCants-Turner, PhD
Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies | Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo
Dr. Johonna McCants-Turner (she/her) works as Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo. Her scholarship lies at the intersections of restorative and transformative justice, narrative peacebuilding, and contemporary social movements. She also maintains a strong interest in the ways liberatory Christian theologies nourish resistance to violence and injustice. Her writing on the confluence of racial, gender and restorative justice is featured in several anthologies–many groundbreaking–including Beyond Equity and Inclusion in Conflict Resolution (Rowman and Littlefield, 2022), Colorizing Restorative Justice (Living Justice Press, 2020), and the Routledge International Handbook of Restorative Justice (Routledge, 2018). She is at work on her first book manuscript, In the Wake of Wounding: Black Womanist Ethics and Reparative Justice (Eerdmans Press). Johonna formerly served as co-director of the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice at Eastern Mennonite University and was a 2007 Soros Justice Fellow. She holds a PhD in American Studies from the University of Maryland, a Graduate Certificate in Women's Studies (also from UMaryland), and a Certificate in Urban Youth Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary. In addition to her work with Life Comes From It, Johonna keeps Circle with Hidden Water, an organization working to break the cycle of childhood sexual abuse using a restorative justice approach. As a facilitator, public speaker, and educator, she draws wisdom from her lived experiences as a sexual abuse survivor, radical political vision, and Christian faith.
Co-Executive Director | The Ahimsa Collective
Sonya Shah initiated the Ahimsa Collective in January 2016. She has 20 years experience in social justice education and 10 years experience in restorative justice. She is an associate professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies. She has trained hundreds of facilitators in trauma healing and restorative justice practices across the U.S. She’s worked closely with survivors of violent crimes, people who have committed violence, families impacted by violence. Central to her core values are creating belonging and beloved community in every aspect of her work and life, and balancing her relationship to self, others, the community and nature. She is a first-generation immigrant from the Northwestern part of India. She speaks at national conferences, colleges and on the radio, and occasionally writes short articles on the Huffington Post.
Cheryl Demmert Fairbanks
Attorney and Tribal Court of Appeals Justice
Cheryl Demmert Fairbanks, Esq. works in the area of Indian law as an attorney and tribal court of appeals justice. Currently she is the Interim Executive Director of the UNM Native American Budget and Policy Institute. She recently was in Oregon serving as the Walter R. Echo-Hawk Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at Lewis and Clark; and also she was a visiting Professor of Law at the University of New Mexico’s Southwest Indian Law Clinic. Formerly a Partner at Cuddy McCarthy LLP, she had a general practice in Indian law, including tribal-state relations, personnel, tribal courts, peacemaking and family conferencing, mediation, family, school, education, and indigenous law.
Also, Ms. Fairbanks was a partner with the law firm of Roth, VanAmberg, Rogers, Ortiz, Fairbanks & Yepa, LLP, where she specialized in Indian law. She also worked as senior policy analyst with the New Mexico Office of Indian Affairs in the area of state-tribal relations. There, she was instrumental in establishing the Indian Child Welfare Desk, New Mexico Office of Indian Tourism, the University of New Mexico Indian Law Clinic, and the passage of the New Mexico Indian Arts and Crafts Act.
Ms. Fairbanks is Tlingit-Tsimshian and was born in Ketchikan, Alaska. She obtained her BA from Fort Lewis College in 1969 and her JD in 1987 from the University of New Mexico. Prior to her law career, she served as a teacher for the Albuquerque Public Schools, Zia Day School, and Administrator for Acomita Day School and the Albuquerque/Santa Fe Indian Schools.
Seth Lennon Nguyen-Weiner
New York, NY
I am a restorative justice enthusiast and advocate, originally from Los Angeles, now living in Weehawken, New Jersey with my wife and three children. I came of age around incredible peacemakers and healers who helped demonstrate to me how healing and justice can be woven together. I am inspired, nourished and humbled to learn from, support and simply know the Life Comes From It Advisory Board, donors, and grantees. I have been pursuing questions about right-relationship in the face of hurt and harm for many years now. I find that there is always more to learn, more reasons to laugh, to grieve and to stand in awe of the beauty.
Mescalero Apache Reservation
Rainey Enjady, MBA (Mescalero Apache Tribe) is currently a consultant for Life Comes From It, a grantmaking organization focused on Indigenous Peacemaking, Restorative Justice, Transformative Justice and Land-based Projects. She most recently led efforts to bring Indigenous peacemaking to her community, the Mescalero Apache tribe, by first assessing the interest of tribal council and tribal court leaders in exploring Indigenous peacemaking as an option to settle disputes. In addition, Rainey has collaborated with the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Indigenous peacemaking court and other peacemakers, to provide introductory peacemaking trainings to tribes to potentially expand the options that these courts draw from in their work. Previously, she worked for the University of New Mexico‘s Native American Budget & Policy Institute. Rainey has earned a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Grand Canyon University.
Michael Foster, EdD, MPH (African American and Okinawan) has been a consultant for Life Comes From It since September 2022. Michael is owner and chief evaluator for EPIC Services (Evaluation for Program Improvement Consulting Services), which consists of a team of doctoral-level BIPOC professionals in a variety of fields, including education, political science, and pueblo studies. Established in 2002, EPIC Services provides documentation, evaluation, facilitation, strategic planning, capacity building and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations, primarily focusing on BIPOC communities. Since 2022, Michael has provided an array of services to Life Comes From It and its grantees, including community building/movement mobilization and capacity building/technical assistance. Michael earned his Doctor of Education degree (EdD) from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and his Master’s of Public Health (MPH) from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health.
Oakland, CA - Member from 2017–2019
sujatha baliga’s work is characterized by an equal dedication to victims and persons accused of crimes. She speaks publicly and inside prisons about her own experiences as a survivor of child sexual abuse and her path to forgiveness. A former victim advocate and public defender in New York and New Mexico, baliga was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship in 2008 which she used to launch a pre-charge restorative juvenile diversion program in Alameda County. Through the Restorative Justice Project baliga helps communities implement restorative justice alternatives to juvenile detention and zero-tolerance school discipline policies. She is also dedicated to using this approach to end child sexual abuse and intimate partner violence. sujatha is a frequent guest lecturer at universities and conferences; she’s been a guest on NPR and the Today Show; and The New York Times Magazine and The Atlantic have profiled her work. She earned her A.B. from Harvard College, her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, and has held two federal clerkships. A long-time Buddhist practitioner, she is a lay member of the Gyuto Foundation, a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Richmond, CA, where she leads meditation on Monday nights. She makes her home in Berkeley, CA, with her partner of 21 years, Jason, and their 12-year-old son, Sathya.
Oakland, CA - Member from 2017–2019
Troy Williams is a media expert who develops transformative stories for social change. As a 2018 Soros Justice Fellow with the Open Society Foundation, Troy will create a national multimedia platform and community engagement program that will help formerly incarcerated people document their experiences and engage the public. Williams is the founder of the San Quentin Prison Report, the first prison-based audio storytelling program in the United States. He spent the last seven years of his incarceration teaching his peers to produce audio works behind prison walls. Upon his release from prison, he established 4North22, a media production and consulting company dedicated to giving a voice to systems-impacted people. He sits on a number of nonprofit boards, including the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and UnCommon Law. Williams has been a columnist for the Post News Group and in 2017 served as editor in chief of the San Francisco Bay View.
Senior Staff Attorney | Native American Rights Fund
Brett Lee Shelton is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and a Senior Staff Attorney at the Native American Rights Fund. His work at NARF focuses on the Indigenous Peacemaking Initiative, Boarding School Healing work, Sacred Places protection, and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He also occasionally serves as an Associate Appellate Justice for various Tribal Courts.
Prior to his current employment, he was in private legal practice primarily representing and advising Native American tribal governments, agencies, and enterprises in a wide variety of areas. He has also worked as a policy analyst for the National Indian Health Board, as a grassroots organizer for international indigenous peoples in biotechnology evaluation, and assisting domestic violence victims in civil court for a nonprofit based on his home Reservation, the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and Nebraska. He received his law degree from Stanford University, and a Master of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Kansas. The passion of his work is to create and protect space for the practice of lifeways rooted in worldviews that are more conducive to civil society and living in respect of the natural world.
All the members of the Advisory circle are practitioners connected to organizations and institutions. We search separately for resources to grow and build our own work while being committed to advocating for other leaders so we can grow restorative justice, transformative justice and indigenous peacemaking.
The Ahimsa Collective is a nonprofit organization serving in the implementation of Life Come From It. Tasks such as organizing meetings of the advisory circle, collecting and collating grant applications for the advisory circle, designing the website, coordinating logistics for future grantees are under our domain.