“My father died when I was five years old and my mother was violent and abusive. I don’t blame her though, she had been abused in residential school and came back broken. It was normal to be out with her when she went drinking. The party would move from house to house and sometimes she would forget me at a party. My grandparents played private investigators and would always save me. They were superman and superwoman – they instilled good values in me and were the most kindhearted people. My mother was kindhearted and smart too, but not when she drank. When she was sober, she would always tell me to get an education.
By the time I was 7, I was taken away and placed in a foster home, but I would always run away. I had been in so much trouble with the law and been through so many different foster homes that I was sent to reform school. I eventually moved from reform school to every youth jail and corrections facility in Alberta. At 16, with probably over 20 convictions, I was an alcoholic and drug addict. When I was in the system, I took my mom’s advice and enrolled in every educational program they offered and started to notice that everything I had been taught was not normal.
Years later, I realized what killed my parents is the alcoholism. I eventually got clean and I’ve been sober for the past five years. I’ve made more progress in the last five years than the previous 35 put together. When I was 35, I had had a Grade 7 education and, in six months, I earned my GED and went on to trades college. I then became an art and Cree teacher at a resource centre for drug users and addicts in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. My colleague at the centre was a Juno Award-winning producer and, in our spare time, we created music. I’ve learned how to play instruments and even recorded albums. I am also a tattoo artist, a sculptor, a published writer and a father. I have helped raise eight children – something I am very proud of. Quitting drinking saved my life, but music filled the void of the empty bottle and allowed me to be who I am today – someone who is relentless and has overcome all barriers put in my path.”