Reprinted from www.psychologytoday.com
Rupert Ross, retired Canadian Crown attorney who worked with hundreds of first-nation communities, has done a great service to healers everywhere. He describes the holistic traditions that heal instead of punishing, that connect instead of maintaining disconnection, that regenerate trust instead of allowing distrust to fester.
In his three books, Indigenous Healing ,Returning to the Teachings , and Dancing with a Ghost , Ross depicts his own journey learning why the Canadian (and Western generally) justice system does not heal but makes things worse within native communities. I've described some of his work previously here and here.
Ross first gives the backdrop of the massive intergenerational damage caused by the cultural genocide practices that native peoples faced with the invasion of the Western Europeans, including the intentional kidnapping of children from native families to assimilate them to the dominant culture as late as the 1980s (e.g., the Sixties Scoop ).
Generations of native peoples have been mistreated and still are told that their ways are worthless, backward and even evil. For hundreds of years, governments and churches did all they could to 'remove the Indian' from the person to 'save their soul,' 'make them a real citizen' or even 'make them human.'
As a result of mistreatment in residential schools away from their families and traditions, many natives were traumatized through abuse and other forms of mistreatment. They lost their traditional languages and cultures but were never accepted into mainstream culture either.
Over years of working with aboriginal communities, Ross realized that carting offenders off to jails does not help-it does not heal the underlying trauma.
Ross reviews several native or aboriginal approaches to healing that do work:
- Hollow Water's Community Holistic Circle Healing Program
- The National Native Alcohol and Drug Addiction Program (NNADAP)
- The RedPath Program
Summary of Practices
Ross summarizes the characteristics of these programs that make them successful. As you read through the brief descriptions, notice how they are contrary to dominant (Western European) thinking that assumes as baselines for normality individualism, innate badness, a hierarchy of value of people (some more valuable than others), emphasis on verbal communication, and human separation from nature.
I briefly mention a few aspects of each practice.
1. Focus on Spirit
Aboriginal communities emphasize connecting to forces larger than the self, often not visible but felt, as part of healing. "Within aboriginal thinking, we are all sacred beings, sharing an identical spirit with all other aspects of Creation. With hard work we can manifest that spirit to greater degrees, building stronger, more respectful relationships. It is a strength-based vision that emphasizes the spiritual gifts and responsibilities we were given, and our duty to honor both." (p. 228)
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