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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: The Hollow Tree: Fighting Addiction With Traditional Native Healing

"The Hollow Tree: Fighting Addiction with Traditional Native Healing"

"The Hollow Tree," according to author Herb Nabigon is a "metaphor for what Western culture has become, an empty shell with no substance." Greed and selfishness rule and the little regard we have for our neighbors demonstrates how unbalanced we are as a people. It also identifies individuals who make up our society, and how many people's misuse of power continues to cause suffering. It is in this suffering that we see many individuals fighting to overcome an addiction or struggling to find themselves when they have sunk so low that they see or have very little hope for themselves.

Nabigon writes 'First Nations people of this country, and indeed many other people from various other cultures, have countless stories to tell of their own personal struggles in breaking free from addiction. For some, the decision to stop "using" came the hard way, in a jail cell or through an accident, and for others healing arose from the ultimatums given to them by their family members who threatened to leave or by their employers who threatened to take away their job"

This book is a memoir of Nabigon's struggle to overcome his addiction to alcohol and the traditional path he turned to, in order to conquer his addiction. He turns to the traditional way- using healing methods drawn from the Four Sacred Directions, the refuge and revitalization offered by the sweatlodge and native cultural practices such as the use of our four medicines, and the use of the pipe. 

Nabigon goes into detail but not too much detail about the pain and suffering he went through in freeing himself from alcoholism. He speaks about the turmoil he went through to reach sobriety, the many choices he had to make throughout his life (some good and some not so good) and how these choices affected him both as a person and, more importantly as an Aboriginal individual. 

The Hollow Tree as a metaphor is intriguing, especially when Nabigon relays that as individuals, we can transform the Hollow Tree into the sacred tree.  Nabigon believes that " it is time to remember our sacred connections, to transform that hollow tree into the sacred tree it was meant to be."

By turning the "hollow tree" into the sacred it involves  taking responsibility for our individual lives and acting upon our responsibilities in order for us to follow our "paths" with our hearts, instead of with the greed and ill will that so often consumes people in this day and age.

"The Hollow Tree"  is also about making choices and being honest with ourselves. It provides a framework for those who are interested in taking a more spiritual approach to their healing and it also offers a glimpse into our culture for the non-Native individual. It teaches us how to take these healing concepts and build better relationships at home, at work, or in school. It gives us permission to share these concepts with others so that not only we can bring healing to ourselves but to those around us.

Nabigon believes that our society can balance itself out if more emphasis was placed upon the spirituality in our every day lives, and "honest and kind faith will transform "hollow trees" into caring, balanced beings.

This book is a testament to the power of indigenous culture to heal. I am sure that if I had known about this book when I embarked on my own journey of healing, it would have explained a lot of what I was going through, and in the throes of it helped me to understand that I was not alone in my fight to health because there are so many people out there who are still fighting.

"The Hollow Tree: Fighting Addiction with Traditional Native Healing is written by Herb Nabigon, a professor in Native Human Services at Laurentian University. It is 118 pages and published by McGill-Queen's Native and Northern Series McGill-Queen's University Press. (

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