|Indigenous Healing, by Rupert Ross|
Indigenous Healing, by Rupert Ross - A Review by Angelina
I saw that a package had arrived on the counter. I touched the package and observed it was soft and about the size of a paperback. I thought that it might contain a book. I was curious but, since it was not addressed to me, I set it aside. A couple of days later I noticed the package was opened and next to it was Indigenous Healing, exploring Traditional paths.
A book by Rupert Ross! I was so excited, because I am familiar with his writing, and I find his writings to be thoughtful. Well organized, and authentic. I have also had several long discussions with him about his work as a prosecutor and the impact this has had on him emotionally, and I knew without reservation it would be a well-written book. This is certainly a way different response than one I originally had after being offered his first his first book to read, over 20 years ago, Dancingwith a Ghost. Back then, I didn't know Rupert. He is an exceptional kind hearted man, and I am proud to consider him my friend.
I am certain that writing a book as a non-Indigenous person on Indigenous spirituality and culture has its burdens. Not only do you have to be exceptionally meticulous that any white privilege bias does not seep through, you must also acknowledge that your knowledge does not come from any experience as an indigenous person, which could be a shortfall. But what happens when most of your experiences comes from prosecuting Indigenous peoples? That certainly could give one a negative view of those peoples. You don’t exactly encounter them in the best circumstances.
Indeed, it goes without saying it is the dysfunction and chaos of remote Indigenous communities that have led people to be in front of him in court as a prosecutor. As a prosecutor he was astounded by the level of violence he saw, but rather than writing off the indigenous communities he served, and the people in them, he wanted to understand why the communities were producing so much tragedy. He also wanted to do what he could to help. Ross is fortunate that he encountered numerous Indigenous people, both men and women who were willing to teach him, and he was open to learning from them.
His books are not disingenuous. Not only does he understand the complexities of these traumas, he also understands how loss of traditional knowledge and the history of residential schools, is a huge part of this dysfunction. To get to this understanding you not only have to be a compassionate human, but you also need to also be a skillful and empathic listener, which he obviously is. This is very apparent from the observations in his books. And that is why I got so excited to see a new book by him and could not wait to get started on reading it.
Rupert does not have a single prejudiced bone in his body, not even after 26 years as a prosecutor seeing the worst that humans can do to each other.
I quickly devoured the first half of the book. It does not disappoint. Reading the book was like I was visiting with an old friend, talking about other old friends, because he cites a lot of the same people I know from my own work on indigenous healing. He has a way of describing the layers and nuances and revealing the underlying foundation of indigenous knowledge expertly, especially for a non-indigenous person, I might add. Someone once described his writing as revealing to themselves who she was as an indigenous woman. Indeed, his writing does give one pause to say: “Aha!”, “That is me”, or “that is my belief! He writes authoritatively, and you don't get any feeling that he is being disingenuous or flippant in his observations. His respect for indigenous spirituality and knowledge is unmistakable.
Ross cleverly begins this book by describing the Indigenous worldview, our spiritual connection to the land and all living things on it. He further explains peripherally about the medicine wheel, And the significance it has, and draws a correlation with it and Indigenous cultural relevance to everyday life. For me, that was an excellent place to start, because it sets the foundation on how you would view the rest of the book. By acknowledging and giving prominence to the Indigenous worldview, one is able to understand the chaos and dysfunction that led to disempowerment of Indigenous peoples, and this understanding allows for a greater appreciation of Indigenous peoples, as well as genuine respect for the culture.
I had to take the second part of the book more gradually, because of the way in which he described the trauma experienced by former residential school “survivors”. This really hit home, not because I had experienced any abuse when I was in residential school, but because I can empathize with the children who did. I had to take many breaks because my eyes would burn from tears that were difficult to hold back. And I could not continue reading, because it bought up thoughts about close family members who experienced similar trauma while in the very same residential school, some of whom are no longer with us.
Finally, Ross brings it full-circle back to identifying how our Indigenous worldview is integral for the success in some healing modalities in Indigenous communities. In other words, to acknowledge our cultural place in time and space is the best way towards healing. And we must embrace it. We must embrace the teachings of our ancestors. That is where our power lies.
Who should read this book? If you are an Indigenous person or even know an Indigenous person, or if you are a student or a lawyer or other professional and you work for and with Indigenous communities, this is definitely a book that I highly recommend you read.