Sunday, May 26, 2019

Indigenous Healing, by Rupert Ross

 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. 

You’re welcome!

Monday, May 20, 2019


Perspective - FAMILY Love  

The week of MAY 13, 2019 I traveled to Fort McMurray, Alberta to attend a family funeral for my eldest sister’s husband, Frank.  It was a sad occasion, as all passings tend to be, but it bought our family together to support our sister, as funerals generally do.  And it gave me rise for reflection about the person who passed, our own mortality, and family. I often think about the blessing of coming from a large family. Sure, we have disagreements, but we respect each other.

I was fortunate to be met with love and acceptance by all the family.   It felt great, and   I basked in the glow of that feeling. It might be because I am their baby sister that I often get so much love from family. I don’t question it; I enjoy it.  

As I observed my family over the course of the week I noticed that, unfortunately, not everyone is treated with the same acceptance. I decided to reflect on my reactions to family dynamics.  Indeed, it goes without saying in every family there are those who are seen as whacky, or bothersome, as someone to be avoided, like that weird uncle, and so on. I may be one to avoid because of my observation. 

For example, one of my brothers is shunned, by some  They may have their reasons, but in my humble opinion I think they are missing out in some good teachings’, even if it is only to accept him. To be able to accept another, including their shortcomings, is a valuable teaching. At times we only look for short comings. We look for anything that supports our view of that person. We don't pick up the phone to call for clarification. We are happy that we got the evidence to support what we already believe. And it is ok. We let anger  and hate lead us.  

Honestly, my first reaction is to go along with everyone. It is easier than defending the person. Because minds are made up.  However, I didn’t like how it made me feel. I pride myself on being authentic and always acting with integrity. Going along with disparaging characterizations, even if true to them, just to keep the peace, for me is not acting with integrity.

I made a commitment to myself to work hard to accept everyone, all family, and to stand up for them, even if that became uncomfortable for me.  Just like I did for my mother. When I made an attempt to defend my brother, it was met with disdain: “Naw he is challenging, and he should take care of his family before putting his nose in our business,” was the irritated response. In fact some may not like this post. But it is truthful. Most importantly it is my point of view.We are entitled to our perspective. 

No one is perfect, including me. But I believe in walking our talk. The first opportunity I got was after we left the funeral. At the establishment where the meal was arranged everyone was responsible to pay for their own meal.  Which is OK. We are a large family. However A small group of the family were about to leave because they could not afford it.  I wanted them to stay, to support my grieving sister, so I offered to pay for their lunch. The initial response was: “No, it is too much!” But I insisted, and they accepted. There were 14 of them. I observed them eating and sharing stories, laughing among themselves.  It made me feel good, that I was instrumental in their happiness and feelings of acceptance by everyone. That is what family is about.  I didn’t do it for recognition or thanks. I did it because we are family. I did it quietly, without announcement. 

And, the next day my 75 year old brother showed up at my hotel, I welcomed him with an open heart. I chose to see him for his intention and that he wanted to hang out with me. He had no other motive than to visit and spend time with me because he loves me. I get it.  I appreciated that he wanted to spend time with me. He came to the hotel three days in a row. Some of you might groan, but we had  good discussions, and I enjoyed our visits. We went for a nice walk and talked. It was a nice day.  My perspective is to take from our visits the good feeling that come with wanting to share time with someone you value.

I don’t always agree with him. In fact, I don't really understand him most of the time.   He is from another generation. He has interesting views on gender roles based on Denesuline tradition, which I find somewhat old-fashioned.   But knowing what he does and says comes from a place of love makes it acceptable.  He genuinely means no harm and has good intentions and a good heart.  It was lovely hearing his stories of bygone days.  

The highlight of my visit was a picnic by the lake with my sisters. It was my brother Fred’s idea that I visit Dora, and he paid my taxi fare to go to her place. When I got there, she was getting ready to go. And then she invited me along.  

To learn from an elder, you first must be open to the teaching. Be enthusiastic to learn. Have an active will to put the teaching into action and most importantly stick to what you learn. Reflect on the teachings. See if it is for you.   

My take away of our visits are (I observed by watching and listening to my brother)

1.    He loves his wife and sons
2.    Was taught by Dene elders as a child
3.    Was a Dene translator for elders  
4.    He can pass on stories of those who passed, like from our relatives in Fond Du Lac, Saskatchewan
5.    He can transfer cultural protocols
6.    He is caring and generous
7.    He is encouraging
8.    He has a good sense of humor
9.    He does not take himself seriously
10.He loves to read.
11.His Denesuline knowledge will die with him (Especially if younger people don’t spend time with him now) And that will be a real loss!

The lessons I learned from him are based on the foundation of Dene Laws and are:

1.    Be open-minded
2.    It is good to share a meal together
3.    Listen carefully
4.    Be present
5.    Don’t gossip about other family members
6.    Be kind
7.    Share what you have with others
8.    Help one another
9.    Be compassionate

Perspective - FAMILY Love  





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