Helen Knott, a highly accomplished Indigenous woman, seems to have it all. But in her memoir, she offers a different perspective. In My Own Moccasins is an unflinching account of addiction, intergenerational trauma, and the wounds brought on by sexual violence. It is also the story of sisterhood, the power of ceremony, the love of family, and the possibility of redemption.
With gripping moments of withdrawal, times of spiritual awareness, and historical insights going back to the signing of Treaty 8 by her great-great grandfather, Chief Bigfoot, her journey exposes the legacy of colonialism, while reclaiming her spirit.
This was such an emotional memoir about an Indigenous Canadian woman who survived drug and alcohol addiction in addition to sexual assault. Knott tells us from the beginning that this is a story told for Indigenous women, yet she welcomes others to read and learn about her experience as allies. I think this was a very powerful statement, because too many times white people want to assert their own take on what marginalized people experience.
Knott draws a vivid picture of her experiences as a young Indigenous woman. At one part I thought she was in her mid 20s or so and was shocked to learn she had experienced all of these things while still being in her late teens.
Her descriptions of the assaults and the after effects spared no detail of the brutal reality. She tries many times to go through rehab and at one time she even goes so far as to help build homes in a third world country, but every time she settles back into regular life, addiction takes over again. Her family always checks in on her and they never give up – it’s only when she realizes that she has the strength within to conquer her mind’s demons that she starts to take some big steps forward to heal herself.
It was wonderful to read about a woman discovering her own strength and identity as an Indigenous person. She’s a true conqueror.
I thought I would share two snippets from the poems she included in her memoir. They are very powerful.
You can keep your sex
It’s what you risked it all for
Forgot your humanness
Forgot my humanness
We both disappeared
Into the angry void of your lust
It’s what you wanted
What you came for
but it’s the least of what you took
To Indigenous Folk Contemplating Suicide
When you’re this close to death
you have everything to lose
and no matter what you think
you have nothing to prove
Focus only on the present
Kick yourself out of yesterdays
Well it’s not here yet.
Suck back air.
Know that it is the sweetest thing
to ever roll across your tongue .
Savour it, if nothing seems salvageable
only keep the moment
when days become unmanageable.
You come from Indigenous seed
and Ancient forests have laid roots deep
beneath your feet.
Helen Knott is a truly talented and strong creative, poet, survivor, and activist. I highly recommend this memoir!
My Rating: 5/5 stars
You can check out where to purchase Helen Knott’s story here.