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Film documents healing journey (Hollow water).


A new documentary about the community of Hollow Water and its journey towards healing is now available to the public through the National Film Board.

The community of Hollow Water is a small Ojibway community located 200 km north of Winnipeg on the eastern shores of Lake Winnipeg. Of the 450 residents of the community, about two-thirds have been victims of sexual abuse.

Hollow Water documents the work done by the people of the community to first face, then deal with, years of sexual abuse.

The "struggle to confront the truth" began about a decade ago. The people of Hollow Water were facing a number of problems -- including domestic violence, addictions and suicide -- which they were struggling to deal with. Yet the problems with sexual abuse remained buried.

Then, some community members took part in an alcohol rehabilitation program in Alkali Lake, B.C., and for the first time faced the truth about the abuse they had endured. They returned to Hollow Water and began holding workshops to deal with the problem and were overwhelmed with the number of people who came forward with reports of sexual abuse.

The question then arose -- counselling could be offered to the victims and their families, but what should be done about the offenders?

The choice was made to try to deal with the offenders within the community, relying on traditional methods that had actually fallen out of use to heal both the victims and the offenders.

Community Holistic Circle Healing (CHCH) was formed, with counsellors helping offenders first face up to their guilt, then deal with it through healing circles and sentencing circles.

Bonnie Dickie directed the documentary. She said she decided to do a film documenting the work being done in Hollow Water after she saw a newspaper article about the first sentencing circle. She had been working on a project in the United States. dealing with restorative justice, and wanted to explore what was happening in restorative justice in Canada. She and Tina Mason, assistant director on the project and narrator for the film, approached one of the counsellors in Hollow Water, asking if they could come to the community to learn more about what was being done. That, Dickie said, "was the beginning of a five year process," that brought her and Mason to the community over a dozen times, and allowed them to create a record of the community's road to healing. Filming started on the project in 1995, and wrapped up in 1997.

Since the end of filming, Dickie said, the CHCH has continued its work, and has now expanded into dealing with family violence. The CHCH now also has its own centre and offices, and is hoping to build a healing centre and a resource centre for the community. More than 200 people in the community are now involved in some sort of counselling through CHCH, Dickie said.

Despite the success Hollow Water has had with its efforts to address it's problems, Dickie suggests the work of CHCH should be used by other communities more for inspiration than emulation.

"One thing that Hollow Water has always said ... is that this is only one approach. And Hollow Water has always said, that whatever changes come have to come from inside the community. You can't just come and paste what Hollow Water is doing into another community. They're very aware that it has to be sort of a grass roots start, where it comes out of what the community's needs are and the community's own approaches to things. But the ultimate has to be that everybody has to be involved in some way," Dickie said.

"I think, even if the process is different in other communities, it's more, I think, the sense that it is possible,"

Copies of Hollow Water are available for sale from the NFB by calling 1-800-267-7710.
COPYRIGHT 2000 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2000 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Petten, Cheryl
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Sep 1, 2000
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