Taking Back Our Spirits

Indigenous Literature, Public Policy, and Healing


From the earliest settler policies to deal with the “Indian problem,” to contemporary government-run programs ostensibly designed to help Indigenous people, public policy has played a major role in creating the historical trauma that so greatly impacts the lives of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. Taking Back Our Spirits traces the link between Canadian public policies, the injuries they have inflicted on Indigenous people, and Indigenous literature’s ability to heal individuals and communities. Episkenew examines contemporary autobiography, fiction, and drama to reveal how these texts respond to and critique public policy, and how literature functions as “medicine” to help cure the colonial contagion.


“This is a powerful and important book. It undertakes a range and depth of analysis that no other investigation of the context, aims, and effects of Indigenous writing in Canada has yet attempted. It engages with the most painful, vexing, and hopeful matters in terms that are compassionate and unequivocal. We need this book.”

Jeanne Perreault, University of Calgary, author of Writing Selves: Contemporary Feminist Autography

“Episkenew introduces the hope of First Nations authors to use narrative, novels, autobiography, and community theatre as a healing anodyne for themselves and their own people. She explains how Indigenous life-writing helps Indigenous readers to heal from the trauma of colonization by recrafting their personal and collective myths.”

Madelaine Jacobs, Canadian Literature, Summer 2010


Saskatchewan Book Award for Scholarly Writing (2009)
Saskatchewan Book Award for First Peoples' Writing (2010)

About the Author

Jo-Ann Episkenew is the Director & Co-Principal Investigator at the Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Table of Contents

1. Myth, policy, and health - 2. Policies of devastation - 3. Personal stories, healing stories - 4. Moving beyond the personal myth - 5. Theatre that heals wounded communities - 6. Final thoughts, future directions