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Restorative Justice

10 Feb

I can’t quite recall how I got wind of these two graphic novels about restorative justice within indigenous communities of Northern Canada. I’m sure glad I did, though.

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Both explore the issues that led the protagonists into the justice system and follow them as they reconnect to their traditions.

The first book, Three Feathers, written by Richard Van Camp and illustrated by Krystal Mateus, tells the story of three young men sent to live on  the land after wreaking havoc in their community. The book is Mateus’ first graphic novel, but the black and white pictures effectively capture their story.


Publisher’s Summary: Three young men — Flinch, Bryce, and Rupert — have vandalized their community. They are sent by its Elders to live nine months on the land as part of the circle sentencing process. There, the young men learn to take responsibility for their actions and acquire the humility required to return home. But will they be forgiven for what they have done? Three Feathers explores the power and grace of restorative justice in on Northern community and the cultural legacy that can empower future generations.

The book is published by a small Canadian press, Highwater, a division of Portage & Main Press and is available in several Indigenous languages.

The Outside Circle,  written by Pattie LaBoucane-Benson with art by Kelly Mellings, isn’t an easy read. It touches on things I know of only peripherally and calls readers to face up to Canada’s treatment of its indigenous people. The full color illustrations really bring the story to life.


Publisher’s Summary:In this important graphic novel, two Aboriginal brothers surrounded by poverty, drug abuse, and gang violence, try to overcome centuries of historic trauma in very different ways to bring about positive change in their lives.

Pete, a young Aboriginal man wrapped up in gang violence, lives with his younger brother, Joey, and his mother who is a heroin addict. One night, Pete and his mother’s boyfriend, Dennis, get into a big fight, which sends Dennis to the morgue and Pete to jail. Initially, Pete keeps up ties to his crew, until a jail brawl forces him to realize the negative influence he has become on Joey, which encourages him to begin a process of rehabilitation that includes traditional Aboriginal healing circles and ceremonies.

Powerful, courageous, and deeply moving, The Outside Circle is drawn from the author’s twenty years of work and research on healing and reconciliation of gang-affiliated or incarcerated Aboriginal men.

This graphic novel comes to us from The House of Anansi Press.



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