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Colonization, destruction and renewal : stories from Aboriginal men at the Pe'Sakastew centre



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The purpose of this thesis was to explore the impact of Aboriginal spirituality/culture on federally sentenced Aboriginal males at the Pe'Sakastew Centre. The Centre is a minimum security institution which is operated by the Correctional Service of Canada. The effects of Aboriginal spirituality/culture were explored through interviews with twelve Aboriginal men who were serving part of their sentences at the Centre. The men were asked a range of questions that dealt with childhood experiences, adult lifestyles and attitudes, prison experiences and programming, the Pe'Sakastew Centre, and the perceived effects on attitudes and behaviors by participating in Aboriginal spiritual/cultural programming. This study also addressed several specific issues including: the role of Aboriginal spirituality/culture in the healing/rehabilitation process; the presence of other contributing factors; and the difference between the Pe'Sakastew Centre and mainstream prisons. This thesis research identified thematic patterns in the men's life stories. Many interviewees had difficult childhoods and their adult lifestyles reflected similar problems that revolved around chemical dependency, violence, gangs,illegal activities, and prison. While many interviewees reported negative prison experiences, they benefitted considerably by participating in Aboriginal spiritual/cultural programs. The benefits related to an enhanced ability to cope with the prison environment, to heal the wounds from childhood, and to deal with problems of alcohol/drug addiction and violence.The interviewees reported five positive aspects of the Pe'Sakastew Centre including: the Centre's open and safe environment; the men have a responsibility to help themselves; the presence of Aboriginal people; the approach of the Centre; and the ability to release con mentality. The majority of interviewees described positive changes in attitudes and behaviors as a result of their participation in Aboriginal spiritual/cultural programming. Many reported a more positive attitude towards themselves and others. Several described themselves as being happier and able to deal with problems in a proactive manner. The interviewees revealed a high level of respect for the Elders, their knowledge, and the cultural values that they project to the men. It was concluded that Aboriginal spiritual/cultural programs contributes significantly in the process of healing/rehabilitation of Aboriginal men.



native spirituality, correctional institutions - aboriginal programs, Pe' Sakastew Centre, offender rehabilitation, aboriginal offenders



Master of Arts (M.A.)






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