Touching Spirit Bear  by Ben Mikaelsen

Ben Mikaelsen's Preface to Novel

Sentencing Circles, Restorative Justice, Circle Justice, whatever people wish to call it, boils down to the same thing: Healing. For years, modern civilizations have insisted on treating aberrant and destructive behavior in society with punishment, depending on fear as a deterrent.

Sentencing Circles use a completely different paradigm. If we think of all people as fellow travelers on a wonderful but frightening journey through life, it is easier to look at destructive behavior as a sign that one of those travelers has become lost or confused on their journey.

It is important to realize that under the right conditions, any one of us could become that lost traveler. What is important is to find a way to return a lost traveler to a path that will allow them to continue on a wholesome and wonderful journey. That path is one of healing.

My own past found me as one of those lost travelers. In retrospect, I would have given anything to have been introduced to Sentencing Circles early on during my “being lost.” It would have changed my life as I knew it to have read a book such as Touching Spirit Bear or had a chance to have a novel study such as this one to help me work through my own anger. A lifetime of struggle brought to me an understanding and awareness of the lessons defined so wonderfully on the pages ahead.

For me the catalyst that finally brought me to the writing of Touching Spirit Bear was the day when I turned the TV on and I heard those ominous words, “This morning in Littleton, Colorado, at a high school called Columbine.” And, of course, that was the morning when two high school boys in the United States, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who had been bullied themselves, became lost on their journey. That day, they killed twelve students and one teacher, and wounded twenty-three other students before committing suicide themselves. All of this because of mankind’s ability to be cruel and because two boys could not find a way to deal with their anger.
It is my sincere and profound wish that Touching Spirit Bear and this novel study become useful tools to help students discover tolerance, forgiveness and kindness. I hope they will help students who are feeling lost to find their way back to a path where they can once again join that wonderful journey called life.

Fair thee well, fellow travelers.

"To Cole, this was all just another big game."

"Suddenly, in that moment, Cole made a simple decision. He wanted to live. In death there was no control, no anger, no one to blame, no choices, no nothing. To be alive was to have a choice. The power to choose was real power."

"Nobody's going to baby-sit you here. If you eat you'll live. If not, you'll die."

"Animals can teach us more about ourselves than any other teacher. Off the coast of British Columbia, there is a special black bear called the Spirit Bear. It's pure white and has pride, dignity, and honour."

  Please contact your teacher if you have questions.