Never walk away from a challenge”- was the encompassing thought with encouragement from a Tribal elder that drew now Tribal Probation Officer Ed Barnhart to apply to the Juvenile Justice Officer position in early 2001 at the Port Gamble Tribe. The Tribe located in the Puget Sound region in the State of Washington was facing an increasing trend of juvenile crime and conflict and the Tribal community demanded change.
Barnhart, a decorated Viet Nam combat medical corpsman, and first Native graduate of the University of Washington MEDEX program as a Physician Assistant (PA) had at the time amassed over 25 years experience in over 17 different professional positions including being the Director of two Tribal Indian Child Welfare Programs, was reluctant to apply for the job. “My first thought was that these Tribal positions need to go to Tribal members”. Barnhart, a “split feather” Canadian First Nations adoptee, who found his way back “home”, was encouraged to apply by his eventual boss and Port Gamble Tribal community member Candi Ives Seachord. “My first day on the job was terrifying”, a Tribal community meeting had been called to address juvenile crime on the reservation and Barnhart remembers the meeting as “full of finger pointing” and blaming. Eventually the focus came back to Barnhart and his new position as the Tribes Juvenile Officer.
It was clear from the people at the table that the expectation was that the new Juvenile Justice Program had to be a success. “My gut said “run-quit” but in my heart I knew I had to take on the challenge”, Barnhart recalls. Taking on the challenge is exactly what he did. With out additional funding, Barnhart formed a small team of “experts” and “out of the box” thinkers and lead the planning and development effort leading to the creation of the ORCA PRIDE Tribal youth offender treatment program in late 2003. The success of the program was almost instant. Tribal juvenile crime rates dropped by over 90 percent by the fall of 2004 and have on the most part stayed there. The program model developed on national “best” and “effective” practice guidelines fused with traditional Native practices and philosophy fast became recognized by many federal agencies as a promising practice program. Barnhart and his team of ORCA PRIDE program providers have been invited to numerous national conferences and trainings to share the story behind the success of the program. Barnhart has now taken the program model on the road, offering it to other Tribes and organizations for replication through a new organization that he founded known as NAYOTS (Native American Youth Offender Treatment Services). The ORCA PRIDE model provides hope and an alternative to detention for Tribal communities who are struggling with high rates of juvenile crime, AOD issues, truancy, gang issues and “spiritual decay”. Barnhart’s dream is for the ORCA PRIDE model to be recognized as the first Evidence Based Practice (EBP) for Tribal youth offenders in the nation.
Since the start of the ORCA PRIDE program Barnhart has moved on to take on many more challenges. In mid 2006, he accepted a position with the Cornell Company a large national private provider of correctional services to plan and develop a Native American youth residential treatment program in Colorado. He and his partner had the Medicine Bear Native American Youth Treatment Program started and operational in 7 months. He then returned to the State of Washington and became the Administrator for a 42 bed Native American youth residential program in Seattle, eventually returned to the Port Gamble Tribe where he managed the Tribes Tribal Youth Program (TYP) for a number of years, and has now become the Senior Adult Probation Officer, assisting in the Tribes effort to develop an innovative adult probation program. This has lead to the creation of yet another new Tribal program at the S’Klallam Tribe referred to as the SOPE program or S’Klallam Opportunity Probation with Enforcement. The program is modeled after the promising Hawaii Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) Program with many “Tribal practice modifications”.
Barnhart believes Tribal probation programs both juvenile and adult will create many new community wellness and restorative justice learning opportunities and positive outcomes for both Tribes and non Tribal agencies. Barnhart believes many Tribal communities approach the work of court order accountability differently than their outside counterparts. Barnhart states “many Tribal people believe that life is based on a circle, everything is related and connected”. To further his effort in this field of work, Barnhart along with some of his fellow graduates from the Fox Valley College Tribal Probation Academy recently started a new organization known as NATPO (National Association of Tribal Probation Officers). It is the hope of Barnhart and others that with collaborative efforts with the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) and other similar organizations NATPO can be a leader in continuing the efforts to help shape how Tribal and non Tribal communities will respond to crime in the future. No matter what NATPO does in the future, Barnhart states that he will continue to look at each new challenge that the future brings and with prayer, vision and determination spend the rest of his life contributing and serving.