Scars of Past
This Piece was Published by lifeafterhate.org
As well this piece was published by University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in 2012 as the winner of the Weaving Words Aboriginal Storytellers Festival:
Scars Of Past
scribed deep outlining definitions
identity established through hate
crooked crosses baring attacks
ancestors retribution, clanging metal in the void
fulfilling communication pinned in flesh
knuckles crack and crunch, smack downward
upward into fatty boned pillows of vilified foes
who collapse and crumble to tarry asphalt beds
pointed protrusions scarred on hand
tummy injected with scorn
configured protector a watchful back
swift limbs with writs of violence
manuscripts flame, unforgotten torment
tempered in retreat as forged fires strengthen
secured fortification, embedded in offense
skirmished symbology skinned
violence – a safe place
Abuse and torment can take many forms. The scars from damages done can transpire in countless ways. Some scars are inflicted by others. While many other scars are inflicted upon ourselves. My deepest scars, inflicted by others in my childhood, are those that are not visible to the eye. However, my most noticeable scars are self-inflicted.
I dedicated my life to a right-wing-extremist cause. I am reminded of this every day as I look at my tattoos. These are my scars. Reminders of where I come from. More importantly these self-inflicted inked scars are reminders of where I do not want to return to. Scars of a hateful and treacherous path walked by a man who was lost and utterly alone.
These tattoos, that I bear, serve as reminders of my twisted conviction that these scars were once considered badges of honor. Each one strategically earned, conceptualized and inscribed with scorn into my body, my temple. Scars from my past reflect the intense negative energy harbored for the majority of my life. These scars reflect who I was and who I wanted to be.
In the mid-1990s the commitment to a life of hate was voluntary. I dedicated two years of my life to perpetrating violence every day. Romantic-ultra-violence was my code, which had tumultuous consequences for many people. These people that were injured, damaged and abused are carried within me throughout all areas of my life. Etched into my skin.
After fifteen years of violence and chaos my life changed. I started college with a grade seven education. I then began working in the social service field. Having worked as a community worker with minority groups, marginalized/oppressed peoples, and persons with acquired brain injury has helped me understand the depth of some of the damages that I have perpetrated. Counseling men with addictions and gang involvement has allowed me to understand myself and others more. This results in a deeper sense of self-acceptance, and the acceptance of others. The advocacy, activism and intervention work that I have done in several communities has taught me that compassion, empathy and understanding are imperative for my continued growth. These inked extremist scars remind me of where I come from and the miraculous life graced upon me.
The first racist tattoo that I ‘earned’ was a confederate flag that was etched into my right hand. On my stomach is a large swastika which is circled by a chain. This symbolism was borrowed from the hateful-nazi-party with a ‘white-man’s’ fist utilized to symbolize ra-ho-wa, a racial holy war. This fist was first used by the founder of the shameful american-nazi-party and later adopted by the World Church of the Creator; now named the creativity movement due to a trademark infringement. The crooked-cross (swastika) corners have each of my four children’s initials placed around the outside of the chained circle. At the time I believed this was honoring my ‘blood- line’, namely my children. Now I carry these horrific symbols as a reminder of my obsessively twisted past. While never refusing to inform those who inquire about these tattoos, of the transitions to my life-after-hate.
After leaving the streets and working for an organized crime syndicate in the lower east-side of Vancouver, I came to possess a small gargoyle statue. This carving was acquired through a violent robbery in an act of retribution. Encouraged by the belief that this gargoyle represented my spirit and acted as my guardian it was tattooed on my shoulder. The other shoulder has a perverted hateful symbolic rendition of a celtic-cross. I believed this was an honor to our Irish family, the Collins clan. Our family shares genealogical lineage with the ‘Big Fella,’ Michael Collins. Michael’s father was my great-grandfather’s brother. I now understand that this tattoo is a disgrace to my ancestors.
The second ‘badge-of honor’ that I had ‘earned’ was a cover-up tattoo. The original tattoo was done by my brother/friend Jason Gladue when we were seventeen. Jason was a skinny metis kid. The tattoo he pinned onto my arm was the outline of a 3D swastika with a bullet hole in the center of it. This anti-racist tattoo was dichotomously transformed into a symbol of my hate a few short years later. The new swastika tattoo placed on my forearm became a deadly weapon. My hands abused many people. Assaulting over 500 people in a two year period was symbolized by this ‘badge-of-honor’. Violence was my refuge. Hateful rage was a horrific misdirection of my human and spiritual energy. Inside my temple was a boy drowning in hate. I had ostracized myself from all who loved me. On my leg is a nordic rune that references odin, the god of war. It represented my commitment to warrior ancestors and my willingness to die in battle. Another ‘badge’ of hate.
A few years after remaining drug and alcohol free, I met my friends Gary Moostoos and Jerry Goodswimmer at a local coffee shop in Edmonton. They offered me love and refuge without judgment. Both of these men are from Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, in Alberta. These men were instrumental in the decision to keep these tattooed scars in order to honor myself, and others. Especially those I abused.
After my first newspaper interview with the Edmonton Journal, about my path of redemption, written by Dakota journalist Graham Andrews. The Edmonton Police Service’s Hate Crimes Unit requested a meeting with me. Dave Huggins, the units coordinator, then offered me a gift.
Huggins informed me that Gayle Tallmanfrom the Canadian Jewish Congress wanted to meet me and offer an opportunity to get rid of the scars of my past. Gayle then arranged for Dr. Groot, in Edmonton, to do pro-bono laser surgery to remove my tattoos. I obliged and was so relieved to have these scars removed from my body.
After a year of attending First Nations’ ceremonies on the Enoch Cree nation, I was in discussion with my friend Gary Moostoos about this opportunity for tattoo removal. As a community worker, activist and healer Gary openly indicated that he thought erasing these scars of my past was a bad move. I did not agree. I contended and challenged his points with denial and anger. He suggested that these tattoos would serve as a constant reminder of where I have been and how easy it could be to go back to that life. He encouraged me to not erase these tattoos until I was ready to leave my hate behind. I nevertheless continued with the laser surgeries generously offered by the community of Edmonton.
The tattoo removal offer came while I was working as an addictions counselor at a men’s residential treatment facility. I became worn out and tired from living several months with painful blisters and burns induced by the laser surgery. My psoriasis began to attack all of my healing wounds. The healing process of these laser burns was hindered due to my skin disorder that was running rampant.
I sat with my good friend, who I consider family, Jerry Goodswimmer. Jerry a former Chief of Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation and a First Nations leader and scholarly activist indicated to me that he, like Gary, disagreed with removing my tattoos this soon. He blatantly said “you hurt my people now you need to sit with that”. Inside I knew he was correct. I had more road to travel on this healing journey before I could erase these tattoos.
These scars are carried with me every day as a reminder of where I have been, where I do not want to go, and to honor those I had perpetrated abuse against. These scars of past are self-inflicted writs and scribes of a hateful past that motivates me every single day to live a life motivated by compassion, empathy and love.
In compassionate and creative solidarity,
 Photo by Shaughn Butts, from the Edmonton Journal: City Plus Cover: Ex-skinhead seeks path of redemption, January 6th 2006.
 Poem written by Daniel Gallant. Edited by Daniel Gallant and Garry Gottfriedson. Scars of Past poem printed in West Coast Line No. 72, 2012, Winter Edition & published on http://www.lifeafterhate.org
 Ra-Ho-Wa: Racial Holy War, declared battle cry from the Creativity Movement excerpted from Nature’s Eternal Religion (Klassan, 1973) published by the Creativity Book Publisher.
 American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell wrote book entitled White Power (1967) that used a white fist as the logo on cover.
 World Church of the Creator, a white supremacist/Neo-Nazi organization founded by Canadian Ben Klassan, now named The Creativity Movement due to civil litigation pertaining to a name/trademark infringement (Chicago-Illinois Civil Docket Case # 00-CV-2638).
 Phrase life-after-hate adopted from Arno Michealis’ book My Life After Hate and non-profit organization Life After Hate (www.lifeafterhate.org).
 Edmonton Journal, City Plus cover story, January 6, 2006: Ex-skinhead seeks path of redemption by Graham Andrews.
 Gayle Tallman employed at Canadian Jewish Congress now named The Center for Israel & Jewish affairs.
 Groot Dermasurgery Centre located in Edmonton, Alberta.