Return to tradition: How author Helen Knott used writing and ceremony to overcome trauma

In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience tells the story of how Helen Knott overcame addiction and trauma, and how writing became instrumental to her healing.
In My Own Moccasins is a memoir by Helen Knott. (Tenille K. Campbell/sweetmoonphotography.ca, University of Regina Press)

Helen Knott's new book, In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience, shares deeply personal struggles the Dane Zaa and Nehiyaw author faced. 

It details how Knott overcame addiction and trauma, and how writing became instrumental to her healing.

"What I really hope is that the book finds its way into hands that need it," she said. "And that people can see parts of their stories in mine, and find freedom in that space." 

For Knott, her road to recovery started when she rediscovered her First Nation culture. 

"It came to a point where in order to get better, I had to embrace culture and ceremony. It was a part of me that basically said, 'if you want to get better, you're going to have to try everything,'" said Knott. 

"When I moved into that space, and started … learning more and bringing that back to my family, everything started to change." 

Knott grew up in a Christian household — her parents didn't practice First Nation ceremonies, and they rejected traditional medicines. But through her healing journey, her parents also started to reconnect to their culture. 

"It thought it was really beautiful to watch them within their journey embrace that, especially knowing where we had come from," said Knott. 

"It's interesting because my dad will now talk about some of his family members that are still very much in that mindset, and how they still have this fear when it comes to anything with traditional practices." 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Knott has taken time to return to some of her favourite books, including When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams, and The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill. 

She is also connecting with audiences in different ways. 

"I've been sitting in on classes and talking with people, and tomorrow I'm zooming with a book club," said Knott. 

"I'm using this time to connect with audiences that I normally wouldn't have because usually I'm a lot busier, and I kind of like [being] able to explore what that connection looks like with readers." 

Knott was scheduled to attend the Festival of Literary Diversity in Brampton, Ont. — a festival that decided to go online because of the pandemic. She is happy that events are getting creative to continue to share the work of authors. 

"I think it's so important to find new platforms and ways to connect during this process," said Knott. 

"For the sake of connection, but also for supporting artists throughout this time."