2008 Jack Green Civil Liberties Award Honoree
For more than 30 years, Elizabeth Stinson has carried her deeply rooted respect of human rights into action, providing just and peaceful alternatives to people made vulnerable by some of our time’s most challenging conflicts: diversion for at-risk teens, intervention for gangs, alternatives to militarization of our schools, diplomacy for indigenous peoples, military separations for troops injured by war. Elizabeth first gave voice to her need for reason rather than violence during the Vietnam era. When her brother was threatened with the draft, Elizabeth became one of the youngest draft counselors in Arizona. Today a trauma therapy specialist, Elizabeth serves as Director of the Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County, a position she has held since 2001. She is mother to three adult children and sanctuary mom to five whose father, executed by the death squads, helped found El Salvador’s Human Rights Commission.
From 1990 to 1996, Elizabeth worked for the Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organization (UNPO) of the United Nations, serving as liaison to the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota tribes of the Sioux Nation. Elizabeth in association with UNPO’s Peace Action Council and its Geneva, Hague, and Washington D.C. staff, established diplomatic dialogue and mediated disputes on behalf of members of the Sioux, Nuxalk, Navajo, Hopi and Northern Cheyenne Nations. Issues included Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Bureau of Indian Affairs actions; inter-tribal land disputes; repatriation of indigenous remains; and preservation of sacred sites and property.
Elizabeth led Global Human Rights Observations in the Americas and Canada, exposing, evaluating, and documenting abuses. After leaving UNPO, Elizabeth continued to work on sacred site issues at the request of Nuxalk hereditary chiefs who honored Elizabeth for bringing UN attention to their issues. Additionally, she co-coordinated Peoples Land Project, bringing tribal voice to the UN’s International Indigenous Forum.
As Director, Elizabeth expanded the role of the Peace and Justice Center to be a resource for local youth, providing students with nonviolent training and job choices. In 2002, she founded High School Outreach Peace Education project (HOPE) to educate youth about their rights as students; their rights with regard to the military and alternatives to joining the military for educational funding; and service learning and internship opportunities. Through the use of art competitions, poetry slams and awards focusing on the social justice issues of diversity, racism and violence, Elizabeth applies her early experience as a steering committee member for the National Campaign to Demilitarize Our Schools to introduce students to peaceful alternatives to violence. Requests soon arrived to bring HOPE to schools in Monterey, Fresno, Mendocino, Marin and East Bay.
Elizabeth coordinated with the courts in Sonoma, Marin and San Francisco as well as the Sonoma County Volunteer Center to establish the Peace and Justice Center as an authorized diversion program provider. Now hundreds of convicted and at-risk teens and young adults a year choose or are assigned to the Center where Elizabeth applies her professional therapist training as she sits with each one, hearing their narrative, connecting with them and helping each to find a less destructive means of self-expression.
Elizabeth has effectively mediated inter-gang disputes in the face of escalating local violence, drawing from her tribal experience and having gained respect through reputation and her volunteer work as the jail-to-street extern with Social Advocates for Youth. During this process, gang members, mistrustful of most outsiders, disarmed and reached an agreement that kept more family members from being targeted.
Under Elizabeth’s direction, the Center has gained a national recognition for supporting troops who need to get out of the military for reasons that have included untreated combat-related trauma, repeated deployments, recruiter misrepresentations, and other compelling mental and physical issues. Since the beginning of the Middle East conflict, Elizabeth and her team of Center volunteers weekly advocate on behalf of both new recruits and combat veterans. Elizabeth’s expertise in military regulations is channeled through counseling and diplomacy to advise soldiers and their families of their options and to urge military officials to just say yes. The result is over 850 successful administrative discharges.
Elizabeth’s efforts have served the interests of Congress and the public as well. During her many interviews with National Public Radio, Elizabeth questioned the accuracy of the Army’s reports to Congress as to the number of troops who were absent without leave. This prompted an NPR investigation, which compelled the Army to double its figures. Further, Elizabeth has just returned from providing counseling support to troops testifying at this month’s Winter Soldier hearings in D.C. In April, Elizabeth will conduct training of hot-line counselors on the identification and containment of Suicidal Ideation and Post Traumatic Stress at the GI Rights national retreat.
In 2006, the Agape Foundation, dedicated to nonviolent social change, presented Elizabeth its Visionary Peacemaker Award to honor her leadership efforts to create peace in her community, nationally and globally.
Elizabeth has dedicated her life to ensure that care and due process are provided to those who are most vulnerable. Through peaceful diplomacy, she has offered humane solutions to break down the prejudice against indigenous peoples, at-risk youth and soldiers.