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#19354 - 11/10/02 02:02 PM Ojibway Aborigional people & sex offenders.
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire
I don't know where I got this from, but it's an interesting article that I thought you might like to see.

There's obviously a great deal we can learn from other people and cultures, but I doubt that we could embrace the complete ethic of the Ojibway people.

I dont think we have the time or the attitudes for this kind of program.

But there is undoubtedly aspects that we can learn from, have a read - it's interesting

Aboriginal Canadian Innovations in the
Treatment of Sexual Violence
Dr Geral Blanchard M.A. C.A.S.

A recent trip to a remote aboriginal village in Manitoba, Canada has opened our eyes to new possibilities in the treatment of sexual abuse. In the dead of Winter in 1997, the Hollow Water band of Qjibway Indians opened their doors, their lives, and their secrets for our examination. Here, far to the north of Winnipeg, we witnessed an incredibly unique method of addressing problems of sexual violence; methods approved and supported by Crown (prosecuting) attorneys and several judges from across Canada. A method that stands in stark contrast to the legal and psychological systems widely accepted across Canada and the United States.

Like most cultures on the North American continent, the Ojibway have witnessed a rapid rise in interpersonal violence, usually accompanied by significant chemical abuse. Typically white prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and psychologists intervened with their conventional theories regarding the causes and treatment of these disorders. When the sexual violence continued unabated, Aboriginal peoples went in search of new solutions.
The new solutions were actually old solutions. Traditional values and convictions were revived. With an eye to the past - with what had worked so well before - the Ojibway designed methods of healing that best resonated with their ancient beliefs.

With concerned amusement, the Hollow Water people watched the white men’s “criminal justice system” fail to apply justice to most victims and offenders. Instead of justice, they saw punishment being inflicted. Instead of healing, bitterness was being created.
Aboriginals took it upon themselves to rethink the entire legal system beginning in 1984. By the early 1990’s, a new model was in place that promised more familiar and perhaps even more effective strategies for healing. Rather than concentrating on the punishment of abusers, the new model focused on fighting wrongs, restoring fractured interpersonal relationships, and returning social harmony to the entire community.

The Hollow Water people recognized that sexual abuse had an impact on the entire community, not just victims, perpetrators, and their families. A ripple effect of discomfort was spread throughout the community following each disclosure of abuse. Consequently, it was inadequate to only provide support to those most directly involved. The entire band was now going to be offered care to restore the harmony that was lost through abuse. This new, yet old, approach would come to be referred to as a “justice as healing” project or as “sacred justice.

There are many features of this program which are nothing short of revolutionary. It dramatically contrasts with Western law with its emphasis on the criminal act itself, the criminal as the exclusively responsible party, our desire for punishment and vengeance, lengthy periods of incarceration, fines, court orders, and the denial of treatment to abusers. Sacred justice believes that, with every incident of abuse, there is community dysfunction at its root, which needs treatment. Abusers are encouraged to stay in the community and feel the shame arising from their acts. Jail is discouraged. Reconciliation is attempted in most situations.

Similarly, psychological intervention is handled differently. The Qjibway language, with its emphasis on verbs instead of nouns, is not accustomed to labeling people. In fact, the psychological practice of finding pathology in a diagnostic manual is thought to limit an individual’s chance for growth - to “freeze” them at their present level of functioning. Rather than tend to the criminal act and how it can lead to a diagnostic label, aboriginals see relationships as the central diagnostic factor. The abuser has not “arrived” at this point of dysfunction but is an emerging being. He / she is on a path, “moving-towards” or “about-to-emerge” into a more healed existence. While our psychologically defined culture may find psychopathy in a violent sex criminal and sentence that individual to life in prison, or even to death, aboriginal healers believe such serious “disorders” are symptomatic of a serious rift in one's relationship to his / her fellow band members. Rather than send that person away to an isolated penitentiary existence, their answer is to infuse massive amounts of community support to restore their relationships to a healthy balance. While we seek to remove this “lesion” from our world, the Qjibway believe they must embrace this brother or sister and eliminate the abuser’s feelings of alienation and disconnection. To us, a psychopath is beyond repair and must be caged far from victims and community. In Hollow Water, a first-time violent criminal walks the streets and reports to fellow citizens who serve as probation officers.
Other differences in these two systems are quickly evident by glancing at the following table:

Focus on criminal acts.
Acts do not occupy center stage. Focus on restoration of relationships.

Seek punishment and vengeance
Seek to teach, reconnect, and. support.


Incarcerate before and after trial.
Stay in community, face the people, and avoid isolation.

Judges hear the case from bench.
Team of trained peers and facilitators share power with judge in a circle.

Push for admission of guilt.
Acknowledge denial as part of offending. Focus on dynamics.

Label the abuser.
Great care not to label. Labels minimize potential for change and are disrespectful

Deny treatment to abuser while incarcerated.
Treat the community in every instance. If abuser is incarcerated, treat while in custody

Pre-court motions and plea bargaining.
Pre-circle breakfast, smudging, sweats, and prayers.

Push to adjudicate in court with attorneys.
Avoid court whenever possible. Court is unsafe environment that does not contribute to healing.

Western law made up of “thou shalt nots”
Teach what one should do; duties and obligations to one’s community.

System intervenes after problems have developed.
Focus on prevention

Legal system is hierarchical.
Sacred justice system is circular and shares responsibility.

Psychological treatment.
Spiritual treatment.

It is an expressed goal of the community healing team to avoid court for as long as possible while abusers gradually assume responsibility for their crimes. Unlike our legal system that pushes for immediate disclosure and refuses treatment to “deniers,” Ojibway healers recognize denial as a normal and expected part of brokenness that, if approached carefully, will diminish over time.
Once responsibility is assumed by the abuser; court is scheduled.
Even the courtroom experience does not resemble the Western legal system. Judges at Hollow Water (and neighboring communities) do not sit on an elevated platform and rule from above. They join in a circle with the victim, the perpetrator, their respective families, and community members. All are equals who share in the process of shaping a court order. Anyone can speak at a sentencing circle with the goal of community consensus before them. The judge will formulate an order based on what has been said over a time period that can extend up to 14 hours.
A community notice of the sentencing hearing can draw as many as 250 of the region’s 600 people to the band hail. A guiding set of rules governs everyone’s conduct at this highly emotional time. Everyone, perpetrator included, must be treated with kindness, dignity, and respect. Prior to sentencing, a sweat-lodge ceremony is held for the perpetrator(s) to reflect and pray on their behavior. The band hail and courtroom are smudged with the smoke of sweetgrass to invite the Creator’s presence and form a sacred environment. A community breakfast is served to bring people together and promote good will. In this environment of reverence, it is rare for a community member to ever recommend incarceration, even when faced with some of the most violent sex criminals. The Ojibways believe incarceration actually works against the healing process, because an already unbalanced person is moved further out of balance.”’ Furthermore, they contend jail is a place where abusers are likely to become more defiant, more self-centered, shortsighted, and untrusting. Additionally, because inmates have so many daily decisions made for them, their capacity for responsible decision making is diminished, not strengthened.

Sentences may entail individual healing by a specially trained para-professional from outside traditional counseling circles. Group therapy is an integral part of healing with male and female sexual offenders participating in the same groups, again run by aboriginal para-professionals. Reconciliation meetings and restitution are commonly instituted. Restitution might entail donating fish or game to the elderly or less fortunate. It may involve construction work or direct care to someone in crisis. In all things, however, a restoration of human relations and an-increase in interpersonal contact is sought.

Once on the path to recovery (referred to as the “healing path”) one is joined by other community members who are on a similar journey. Little demarcation is made between the healers and those being healed as everyone in Ojibway culture is thought to be in the constant process of unfolding into a healthier person. As Crown prosecutor Rupert Ross has written:

“Aboriginal healing processes constantly stress values like respect, sharing, humility, and so forth. It has to do with an understanding that the Healing Path is not something that ‘sick’ people need, totally ‘healthy’ people supervise, and the rest of us can largely ignore. It is a path we must all walk on. We all have healing contributions to make to others along the path, and others have healing contributions to make to us”

( Ross. R. (1996). Returning to the teachings. Toronto: Penguin Books. )

An increased awareness of our interconnectedness with each other is necessary to buy into this system. To address only the isolated acts of solitary individuals is to miss the big picture and, in all likelihood — escalates the problem of sexual abuse. The fact that abusers visibly remain in the community reminds each Hollow Water resident of the ongoing need to address problems of sexual exploitation. Because the community is encouraged to participate so closely in the sacred justice system, sexual abuse is not inclined to be regarded as an exclusive problem belonging to just those persons committing the acts. Because with each crime the community renews its commitment to healing and growth, this serves to activate a prevention program that cultivates a more healthy culture that is designed to reduce future occurrences of abuse.

The Hollow Water program has only been in existence for a few years. Consequently, there are no longitudinal research results that can attest to its success. For now we are left with anecdotal accounts of the healing projects effect on individuals and the community. Our personal observation of a limited number of recovering men and women gives us encouragement. It may be the United States, like Canada, will have to re-examine its criminal justice system and the psychology industry. We may find the common sense and community participation seen in remote aborigional tribes may have a revolutionary application in our own treatment system. Nothing short of dramatic change in our current system will begin to heal the communities that spawn sexual abuse. That change will require an open mind and a look to the past if the future is to be seen clearly.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau

#19355 - 11/11/02 02:36 PM Re: Ojibway Aborigional people & sex offenders.
Wuamei Offline

Registered: 08/19/02
Posts: 2700
Loc: The left turn I should have ta...

Thanks for posting this very interesting article! You're right-we probably don't have the time or the attitudes for such a program in our "advanced" (beyond what--common sense?) Western world societies. But maybe we should. Not without some significant pragmatic applications, of course.

Sure, every culture is different, and exactly what works for one will not work, at least not as well, for another. Yet the Hollow Water Band (sounds like a cool name for a rock n roll group! ;\) ) model vision & wisdom in seeing that what they were doing wasn't solving their problem, bucking the (buck-)"established" system, and (gasp! ) trying something new. We as a "modern cutting edge" society here in the U.S. have a lot to learn about this.

Like the principle that sometime going "backward" is going forward--as we survivors often find in our own recoveries. It's worth noting that these Qjibway Indians went back to "what had worked so well before" yet had gotten lost or discarded in the rush to "modernization."

Perhaps we in the U.S. need to recover some of our "out-dated" values if we are to recover from the sexual violence we are doing to ourselves. Values like justice, reconciliation, restitution unity & integrity.

Our individualistic culture needs to re-capture the concept of comm-unity & the fact that what one person does affects everyone around him/her. We've become so big & yet so isolated we've forgotten this.

Thus the integrity of our society and of its individual members is dis-integrating. Reconciliation, which requires restitution, is the only real peace we will find. And there is no peace without justice & equity for all.

Incarceration is highly overrated as a rehabilitative deterrent to crime. Prisons often become schools for "expert criminals" who are let back out onto our streets--with a vengeance.

IMHO criminals should not be permitted to hide their shame from society, becuz this sets up isolationism & "us vs them", cutting off chances for reconciliation & healing for all. Which just perpetuates crime & dis-integration.

So having criminals stay in the community could work. But IMHO, only if they work, to give restitution to their victims & their community. Only under careful supervision, especially in the case of sex offenders. Perhaps a kind of house arrest--monitoring--work release system. And probably with provisions for greater restrictions and even temporary isolation for community safety & concentrated rehabilitation as needed.

I like the emphasis on verbs over nouns, taking action over labeling, the positive focus on a communal & united healing process over isolation leading to further alienation, vengefulness, & more violence.

The latter perhaps seeming like a nice idea: if we can afford to keep virtually all offenders tightly locked up for life so they cannot get back out to wreak vengeance & dump their bitterness violently back into society. If we can afford to completely financially compensate every victim while taking total care of every convict. If we can afford the loss of what many criminals could offer (pay back) to society if reconciled. If we can afford the continuing tearing of our community fabric & dis-integration of our society.

Isn't it obvious that we can't?

Our system is overweight & overburdened, but the powerful are getting too fat off the profits to want to give it up. We're all paying the price we cannot afford to pay.

Yet we all go along with this becuz it's easier to put criminals out of sight out of mind than to face them. We might have to face ourselves as well. We might be confronted what we know in our deep in our hearts--there is an often very thin line between "us" & "them." A break here, a buck there, a pat on the back here, a gently restraining arm there.

"Unlike our legal system that pushes for immediate disclosure and refuses treatment to “deniers,” Ojibway healers recognize denial as a normal and expected part of brokenness that, if approached carefully, will diminish over time."

Perhaps we could learn a few things from the Ojibway about denial.

"But for the grace of God there go I"...

May we all walk the healing path together...


"I can't stand pain. It hurts me."
--Daffy Duck


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