I Am Pure Land

Healing Lands

WriterAnnette McGivney, the longtime Southwest Editor for Backpacker magazine, established the outreach campaign I Am Pure Land in conjunction with her book Pure Land, which will be released in October 2017 by Aquarius Press. Pure Land is the story of a brutal murder in Grand Canyon and an investigation into the origins of the violence that led to the death of Japanese hiker Tomomi Hanamure. Pure Land is also an investigation into how nature can heal childhood trauma. One of McGivney’s primary motivations in writing Pure Land is to raise awareness about family violence, and to help those affected find a path out of their pain. "I know based on my own life experience that child abuse victims can recover if they are able to connect with wild places," says McGivney. "I want to create ways to facilitate that. I Am Pure Land is all about transcending trauma through nature and a supportive community." A portion of McGivney's profits from Pure Land book sales will go to help fund these efforts, including the non-profit Healing Lands Project.

The non-profit Healing Lands Project is a 501(c)(3) organization that supports wilderness expeditions for juveniles served by the Family Violence Institute's Arizona Child and Adolescent Survivor Initiative (ACASI). These youths have lost a parent to domestic violence homicide, and freqently the other parent to incarceration or suicide. Some 3,000 children each year are impacted by intimate partner homicide in the U.S. This family violence knows no socio-economic boundaries. ACASI is one of the few programs in the nation that provides comprehensive services to this vulnerable population of family violence victims. Our goal is to offer these children and adolescents trauma-informed care in a wilderness setting. 


Overseeing the therapeutic components for Healing Lands is Melissa Rhodes, MSW, LCSW. Melissa is the Clinical Director of the Arizona Child and Adolescent Survivor Initiative at NAU’s Family Violence Institute. She has served as faculty for Northern Arizona University’s Bachelor of Social Work program, and has provided clinical services to children, adolescents and their families for the past 16 years, with an emphasis in work with Hopi and Navajo tribal youth. Melissa is also an outdoor enthusiast who has prior experience with wilderness-based therapeutic programming. 


Grand Canyon Youth Director Emma Wharton oversees the wilderness guiding, outfitting and educational aspects of Healing Lands. Emma has a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Washington with an emphasis on community development. She has worked as a river guide for over 10 years and believes in the transformational power of a river trip.


We are currently seeking to raise $21,504 to fund the project's second annual healing journey —  a 5-day SanJuan River trip in Utah for 12 ACASI youths in June 2019.

All donated funds go directly to the Healing Lands Project account managed by the NAU Foundation.

​The I Am Pure Land logo is inspired by the Lakota medicine wheel. For the Plains tribes, the wheel represents the sacredness of life and all knowledge of the universe. The circle symbolizes the sacred outer boundary of the Earth, often referred to by the Lakota as the Sacred Hoop. The horizontal and vertical lines represent the sun and man's sacred paths. The crossing of the two lines indicates the center of the Earth and where one stands when praying. The four colors symbolize the four directions.

Turning a Book Into a Cause

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The Healing Lands Project is the first initiative created by Annette McGivney as part of the I Am Pure Land campaign. It represents a unique partnership between McGivney, the Family Violence Institute of Northern Arizona University and Grand Canyon Youth. Each entity believes in the transformative power of wilderness and shares a like-minded mission to make a lasting positive impact on youth.