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Reading to Heal:  New book to guide community based healing process
Posted: Mar 08, 2018

Reading to Heal:  New book to guide community based healing process

Sagamok community to explore Rupert Ross' new book addressing intergenerational trauma by applying a traditional worldview to focus on repairing relationships in families and greater community

Robert Porter, Sagamok Anishnawbek News


Community members lined up at a booth set up the Community Forum for Resource Allocation on the evening of March 7 to pick up their own personal copy of Rupert Ross' newest book, Indigenous Healing: Exploring Traditional Paths and a support package put together to help them get through their reading experience. 

Ross' book came highly recommended, says Sagamok Naandwedjige-Gamik Director, Fern Assinewe, introducing the community reading program at the forum, by Dr. Martin Brokenleg who had been a guest speaker at a Naandwedjige-Gamik-coordinated Intergenerational Trauma Conference this past November. 

Rupert Ross is a former crown prosecutor serving the Kenora District and with Indigenous Healing: Exploring Traditional Paths, he shares what he's learned from years of working with aboriginal communities across Canada.  He asserts that a traditional worldview is needed by communities as they work towards their visions of justice and healing that address the ongoing impacts of social trauma associated with the Residential School experience and recognizing the unwell behaviors that manifest themselves in our families.  

In Indigenous Healing: Exploring Traditional Paths, Ross helps us to understand the destructive forces of colonization, with a special focus on residential schools as powerful tools used to destabilize entire communities long after they were shut down.  Ross explores the framing of healing today as "decolonizing therapy" with the key to healing being a return to traditional indigenous worldviews. 

"Dr. Brokenleg said that if you are going to read any book or literature on healing from intergenerational traumas like Residential Schools, read Rupert Ross' book," Assinewe says.  "We got a copy of the book and had a look at it and we recognized it as a great resource to bring to members of the Sagamok community. 

Each household will receive their own copy of Ross' new book.  400 copies were purchased by Naandwejige-Gamik and will be distributed on March 15 and 16 by the project's consultant and Community Wellness Department Chair, Arnelda Bennett. 

Assinewe says that this community reading program moves along Sagamok's Community Development goals and specifically speaks to the Addictions Strategy that identifies Intergenerational Trauma as an area to explore to facilitate community healing. 


"... for our community and nation to be well, our individual members and our families need to be well.  We need to heal together in order for us to be well together.  This book is meant to help individuals heal, strengthen the bonds within our families and bring us together as a community." 



The community reading program is an initiative of Naandwedjige-Gamik's Health Team headed by Yolande Nashkawa, Sagamok Health Program Manager who says she is pleased to be part of an important front in Sagamok's healing process. 

Nashkawa's Health Team recognized that Ross' book is an evocative exploration of healing from trauma and that it would hit home with many community members as they relate their own experiences and stories to those focused on the impacts of Residential Schools explored.  Readers would need supports to help them on the emotional and spiritual journey they were being asked to take. 


Reading this book will require emotional and spiritual supports

Sagamok Naandwedjig-Gamik hired consultant Colleen Toulouse to design the community reading program initiative and to assemble a collection of supports for readers on their journey. 

Along with their own personal copies of Ross' book, community households also receive a support package containing a letter from Sagamok's CEO Alan Ozawanimke asking the community to involve themselves in both their own healing and the community's healing by reading Ross' book and to avail themselves of the supports made available to assist them in their journey. 

To help readers with understanding emotions and how they are communicated, the support package also contains an Emotional Vocabulary List.  A CBC article by Jamie Malbeuf is included as well to demonstrate the impact of reading residential school experiences on people and assert the need to ensure that a reader has the proper supports available.  There is also a Coping with Trauma card to connect readers with services of Manitoulin NorthShore Victim Services as well as crisis hotlines and other support network connecting information.   

A series of Sharing Circles has been scheduled to run May through July this year in three monthly sessions that will deal with one thematic element of Ross' book.  The May session will explore the theme Stumbling into a World of Right Relations and introduce readers to traditional indigenous worldviews. The  June session will explore colonization as a destructive force that destabilized family and community relationships.  The July session will explore perspectives of healing from the trauma of colonization and give a view of healing paradigms that have a foundation in traditional indigenous world views. 

The monthly phases are broken into three different Sharing Circles for different audiences.  There will be one just for women, one for men and one for all adults to come together and share. 

Toulouse says that the Healing Team felt it best to structure the sessions with Sharing Circles for women and men separately first as each have their own unique ways of being able to work through materials of this nature, needing to discuss it and confirm it in their own ways to make sense of it and understand it in their own healing context.  These perspectives can then come together in a third Sharing Circle. 

There is also a reading support service available.  Toulouse has set up a closed Facebook group called Sagamok Reading Club

Toulouse says the Sagamok Reading Club group is there for readers of Ross' book to join and ask questions, access comprehension reading supports and information to support what you are reading.  "Our Facebook group is a great opportunity to learn from others and to share what you know.  We hope to see all our group members contribute valuable insights, stories and healing thoughts to help us all appreciate what we are learning in our readings."

There has been a new page created on sagamok's website for the community reading initiative.  The page is called Healing from Trauma and can be accessed through the Community Wellness tab under "Programs and Services".  It is devoted to Sagamok's reading program initiative that is exploring Rupert Ross's book.  It provides information on the entire reading program, including Sharing Circle dates, links to community and outside support services, as well as a vast collection of resource materials to support readers' learning. 

Information concerning Sagamok's reading program initiative can be requested by contacting Colleen Toulouse by calling (705) 865-2421 or emailing her at 

When asked how he intends on opening up Ross's book to start his journey, CEO Alan Ozawanimke said, "For me, there is a sense of security knowing that we as a community are opening our books and all staring at page one. This is a significant beginning because it represents how each and every one of us in Sagamok is important to our healing journey together as a community. I am pleased  with the supports put in place, we want community members to feel less isolated when it comes to their emotional responses to the book content. Coming together for discussions can have lifelong benefits for us as individuals and a community. I look forward to the sharing of experiences and personal stories with community members."