The Next Chapter

Helen Knott's In My Own Moccasins speaks for Indigenous women while making space for others coping with trauma

The poet and social worker spoke with Shelagh Rogers about writing her powerful memoir, which explores how colonization has impacted her family over generations.
In My Own Moccasins is a memoir by Helen Knott. (Tenille K. Campbell/sweetmoonphotography.ca, University of Regina Press)

This interview originally aired on March 14, 2020.

Helen Knott is a poet and writer of Dane Zaa, Nehiyaw and European descent. Her memoir, In My Own Moccasins, is a story of addiction, sexual violence and intergenerational trauma.

In My Own Moccasins explores how colonization has impacted her family over generations. But it is also a story of hope and redemption, celebrating the resilience and history of her family.

Knott spoke with Shelagh Rogers about writing In My Own Moccasins.

Fateful days

"The book begins on April 7, 2012. I was in the state of withdrawal. I was on a mattress on a floor. And just describing what that was like — to be in that perpetual contracting and expanding state of detox... I feel like at that point it was probably one of the closest points to losing myself.

"The mind state that comes with that level of addiction... everything is going on so fast, all of the time. It's like moving on autopilot. It's watching myself do things... and not being able to stop myself and losing myself for days at a time. I was just oblivious to the outside world in general.

The mind state that comes with that level of addiction... everything is going on so fast, all of the time.- Helen Knott

"Going through those days of withdrawal, those were always the darkest times. I was always scared of dreams or of falling asleep. But at the same time, I was desperately needing sleep. I was trying to get my body back to a somewhat functioning space."

Writing for myself, writing for others

"When I wrote this, somebody told me that this book will be great for further education of outside people. But I don't want it to be for that, because it feels like so much of my life has been about that. This book was more about healing and speaking to spaces where people have lived in those same spaces as me, where they felt that similar darkness.

This book was more about healing and speaking to spaces where people have lived in those same spaces as me, where they felt that that similar darkness.- Helen Knott

"I wrote this for women, in general. I had a woman reach out the other day. She was a non-Indigenous woman and she told me she knew I didn't write this book for her, but there were parts of this story that really reminded her of her own life.   But I told her I didn't just write it to educate people — those parts of the book that speak to you and those spaces are for you."

Helen Knott's comments have been edited for length and clarity. 

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