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Rape’s Seed and Canola

Supreme Court of Canada decision Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser, 2004, was a patent challenge revolving around canola seed. Monsanto did alter the genetic make up of canola and subsequently patented the altered genetic make up.

The wind picked up the seeds and blew them around the area beyond the boundaries of the property of neighboring field.

A farmer had collected the seeds from neighboring canola field that had be strewn upon the road and stuck on power poles.

When Monsanto discovered that the farmer was growing and then selling the patented canola crop, litigation followed.

While sitting in my property law class I was reminded of the smell of the yellow fields in northern Alberta. Some days we would ride our bicycles down the dirt road out to the Rape Seed fields. We were told Rape Seed was another name for canola.

In fact, canola and Rape Seed are not the same. However, the memories triggered from my youth and the sea of yellow along the highway on our way to Grande Prairie or Edmonton. We would travel these roads often after the onslaught of domestic abuse that often occurred within the four thin walls of our mobile home (aka trailer park).

Oil Seed Rape Fields, Bad Doberan, Germany

Rape’s Seed

ocean’s yellow

pollen rays’ heat

fields prairie’d canola

line after line

after line

seeded affects transform

seasoned processes copulate

birth sprouts erupt seeds sown

blossomed rape spurts into fields

waves and swells roll out

aired reproduction

nasal pollenated rape

annual swells roll

in expansion

fluids collect

through rolling ocean’s

swollen yellow

rape pollenates children’s lungs

rapeseed_field_in_bloom___anthony__ks_by_bvilleweatherman-d6bjtil

A Poem About Dr. Cindy Blackstock

I wrote this set of pieces in 2013. In 2014 some of the following was published in my masters in social work. This series was included in a manuscript competition I won on indigenous topics relating to culture, law and land in 2013.

Dr. Cindy Blackstock is one of the most important Canadians that walks among us. She is one of my heroes. Her work is beyond important to all Canadians.

Doctor – I

I have read articles. books. your research. offered solutions. people before profit. children before. money. first people’s children. all children. the platform.

Black-stock’d – II

you said:

state of lived experience

First Nations’ children

incredulous human rights violation

repeated, perhaps blatant

definitively despicable

our nation, our short history

Canadian perpetration

politicians cannot afford

indigenous burdens

housing, education, food, language

and equitable social service

commodify, accept, tolerate, perpetuate, perpetrate

racial discrimination

profitable margins, of mainstream dominant class

multi-cultural-mosaic-exclusion

agreements negotiated

treatied sovereignty

ignored, suppressed, push down, down, and done

at the cost

of injustices served

contextualized CFCSA

extended Canadian apartheid

Child, Family and Community Services Act

Indian Act

residential schools

60s scooped

into group homes

kicked out of hospitals

homeless wandering

without family, community, ceremony, language, land

displacement

corrections

words of Duncan Campbell Scott

legal prohibition

of language

legal prohibition,

culture and gatherings

legal prohibition,

speak mother tongues

legal prohibition

parental rights

government controlled

while stealing

babies in the night

like a mongoose snatches eggs

from robin’s nest

150 years, kidnapping

 

I cry – III

for children

my children

non-First Nations children

‘indian’ babies

all children

are someone’s babies

without parents, families, or community connections

all children!

watch, observe and learn

Canada penetrates deeper, deeper and

inward colonization

imperialists take babies

under, and for, ‘the law’

British law rules

all babies

as children watch and learn

through observation

we teach snatched babies

ripped families hearts bleed screams

helpless, hopeless, I cry

all children learn

of assimilation-accept-ability

 

Problematic – IV

white faced suits deny, discourage, dishonor

and then disrobe

their captive indian princesses

with Olympic feathers and buckskin Ramsey rooms

judges disrobe, cops turned blind eyes

as highways cry missing women

girls, children, exploitation

sexual domination cropped and farmed

agricultural-education-assimilation

sex and violence

in systems built in

built on fortification

power bases cry babies

women’s blackened eyes

men staggering alone

hitting each other

 

Poisonous Plates – V

assimilation meals

lateral violence deserts

blamed for crying alcohol

for wine-ing

and dining, whimpers

about life

dirty systems

poisonous plates

 

Governments Words – VI

these are the things I grew up hearing

I borrowed these views

now returned to their rightful owners:

pull up your fucking socks

lazy dirty ‘Indians’

given good-god-damned

money

these are the things I grew up hearing

I borrowed these views

now returned to their rightful owners:

worked jobs, twenty seven years

taxes paid

fed brown children

squaw women

these are the things I grew up hearing

I borrowed these views

now returned to their rightful owners:

killed, selling two dollar assholes

whores

abandon children

civilize savages

these are the things I grew up hearing

I borrowed these views

now returned to their rightful owners

 

Witnessed – VII

Wall-street suited economics

oppressive governing neo-cons

damn any-and-every-one, deemed differentiated

divided by privilege

antithetical under-grounded scholars

research, observe, compile, articulate, write and write

and write right words righteous

smudge, pray in honor

to your journey

sweat prayers, for your momentum

requests ability carried out

mother natures’ will, assist support

witness, this revolution

 

Cindy B -VIII

I want to thank you

on behalf of all

us un-indians

ethno-centric-mono-culture

all non-First Nations Canadian peoples

us immigrants. the ignorant. the mean. the killers. the rapers. the homophobes. the racists. the powerful. Dominant. and sickened. superiority complexified society.

I, thank you. for articulation. research harvested ceremonial. produced in language. and understood structures. by masses. Now. who can deny?

success. teaching the government. how to treat children. people and community. my nechi-nehiyewan. Cree. Salteaux. Secwepmc. Anishinaabe. my friends. lovers. Partners. Colleagues. and comrades in academia. my brethren on the streets. homeless. and those of us who moved on. Survived. your praxis. a revolution. this. my honor. honorary shout-out. for you. for the kids. and families. the world. country. and nation

hiy-hiy

Reflections about misuse of Terrorist Legislation and ‘Indigenous Extremism’ from a Canadian Former Violent Extremist: “Picking fights will likely get you punched in the face”

Bio:
Daniel Gallant is a BC writer, researcher and social worker. Gallant is identified as an expert media consultant and has presented both nationally and internationally to national security teams relating to extremism and terrorism. As an identified expert on deradicalization from violent extremism Gallant bridges his personal experience as a former violent extremist, professional counselor/social-worker and academic researcher. Gallant now has undertaken the study of law to compliment his activism and academic work in order to identify possible issues pertaining to terrorist legislation and indigenous rights in Canada. Daniel Gallant has been described as a fierce advocate who frequently and passionately writes and speaks about topics relating to his research and scholarship that others tend to shy away from.

Terrorism

In the last week there have been two Canadian terrorist attacks. The first on a military base in Quebec where two armed forces members were run-over with a car driven by terrorist, Martin Roleau, who was then subsequently shot and killed by RCMP. The following day soldier Patrice Vincent died as a result of the attack.

Within 48 hours later there was a tumultuous attack on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. A gunman jumped from a car then shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo where he stood on guard at the War Memorial grounds. There are a lot of questions being asked in media reports about the past investigations on these particular terrorists, who they were and why there was not extra measures taken to ensure public safety.

As security and law enforcement have stated repeatedly these attacks are different because they are ‘lone wolf’ attacks and these types of attacks are harder to track due to the fact that people are allowed to think and say what they want without impingement of those inherent rights in Canada. However, this response from Canadian leaders and security teams opens up other lines of inquiry that seem to be put on the backburner as our nation is mourning these horrific terrorist attacks.

The same day that Martin Roleau attacked a Quebec military base the Aboriginal People’s Television Network reported that Clayton Thomas-Muller, a First Nations activist with the Idle No More movement has been put under surveillance by Canadian national security teams. The same national security team that indicated they could not infringe upon the rights of Martin Roleau who was arrested and questioned last summer. Yet, it seems that government and national security teams are drawing their focus to First Nations groups without the same restraint that they are offering real terrorist threats.

Research

I, the author of this article, also wear the hat of an academic researcher. In my research at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) I initiated an exploration into the question if there was an inappropriate application of terrorist legislation being evoked by government and national security teams against indigenous peoples in Canada. We must remember that Louis Riel, the leader of an indigenous rebellion who is now been recognized as a leader, was once labeled a terrorist and was convicted and sentenced to death for what was labeled “treason”. Legislation is consistently applied to indigenous peoples in an abusive and oppressive manner. The misapplication of terrorist legislation against indigenous peoples could be said to date back to the 1885, and likely even before that.

Oct. 23, 2014, BC’s Provincial Premier Christy Clark has publicly addressed an exoneration of six Tsilhqot’in war chiefs who were hung in the interior region of BC. In 1864 the Tsilhqot’in demanded that a road crew who were building pathways to the gold fields were attacked and killed over 20 people non-aboriginal people. The attacks were in response to the non-indigenous invaders who initiated a racist attack upon Canada’s first peoples, which included a purposeful use of biological warfare in the form of smallpox. Canadian Supreme Court Justice David Vickers acknowledged that the landmark land title case of the Tsilhqot’in, which ruled in favor of indigenous land title rights, was attributed to the stance that these war chiefs took and were later hanged. Premier Christy Clark made a speech that in BC’s legislature that these men were not treasonous traitors and exonerated them for the crimes they were hung for. These war chiefs are historical hero’s, not terrorists.

I was able to identify reports from 2012 that indicated many First Nations people, groups and communities were added to terrorist watch lists. Moreover, it was reported to me by an RCMP superintendent that local officers were being trained by national security teams in order to deal with local First Nations extremists and their anti-industry allies. It was this conversation with RCMP that flagged initial concerns about the possibilities of the misapplication of terrorist legislation by the Canadian government that would, at minimum, synthesize attributes of further systemic racism and suppression of indigenous rights.

It also became apparent in this research and noteworthy that the federal government had put indigenous scholar Dr. Cindy Blackstock under surveillance as well due to her vocal and substantiated and valid Human rights claim against the federal government for it’s mistreatment of indigenous children in child welfare care. According to the 2006 wen;de research report the mistreatment in question has resulted in nearly an average of 400 child deaths each year. Historical oppression and genocidal programs have happened in Canada, and according to experts and scholars it is evident that it is still happening. Justice Murray Sinclair indicated that in recent years Canadian governments were involved in genocidal program against indigenous peoples in Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is being openly chastised for his failure to respectively act on the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. With a not-so-distant past we know that the Canadian legal system was forced to respond when a BC Judge was convicted and later died in prison for his abuse against vulnerable indigenous women. More recently RCMP are being openly scrutinized due to a report issued by an international Human Rights group that alleges RCMP members are raping and abusing aboriginal women in northern BC. The same region of the province where national security teams were training local RCMP members to respond to what they are labelled as extremists and potentially terrorists in the area.

This can be a very troubling dynamic for any person who understands systemic racism, oppression and human rights. The United Nations have recently reported that Canada is falling short in regards to issues relating to levels of trust with all levels of government. The reasons for the mounting distrust with our current government is due to the systemic abuse and ongoing disregard for indigenous rights to land title, indigenous education and a lack of response to systemic racism which does include the mass amounts of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.

When looking to the historic track record of government and law enforcement in Canada there is insurmountable evidence of violence, systemic racism, oppression and genocidal programs launched against indigenous peoples. This is still continuing today. According to indigenous scholar Bonita Lawrence First Nations peoples are the only group in Canada who face a constant threat of military force for asserting their inherent rights. With all of these issues in consideration is it really appropriate to apply terrorist legislation to indigenous peoples who are merely attempting to assert their legal rights?

It appears that terrorist legislation is likely to start being applied and abused as another form of systemic abuse against indigenous peoples. There are practical and real ways that we can resolve political issues rather than attempting to utilize terrorist legislation as a colonial weapon against indigenous people, groups and community.

Concerns with Terrorist Legislation
It seems there is substantiated evidence to facilitate a conclusion that this is already in process. Clayton Thomas-Muller is but only one of many concerned citizens asserting indigenous legal rights in Canada while the government is attempting to label him as an extremist and or terrorist. Muller is not alone in these seeming misapplications of terrorist legislation. The BC Civil Liberties Association, which is a team of legal professionals who advocate against systemic abuse, have indicated the blanket investigations by CSIS and RCMP against normal citizens include First Nations and anti-industry protestors violates Constitutional Rights of Canadians. This is becoming an increasingly contentious issue since the attacks on Parliament Hill.

Twenty minutes after the attacks Prime Minister Stephen Harper purported that national security teams will soon receive expanded powers. Security specialists are now criticizing this response. Professor Roland Paris at the University of Ottawa said that Canadians should be on guard when it comes to their own government after the recent attacks.

Reflections of a Former Extremist

What has become concerning for me as a former extremist engaged with counter-extremist-narrative initiatives, as an academic and a current student of law is that our government may utilize terrorist legislation in an inappropriate manner, and perhaps even abusive application of terrorist legislation.

Researchers indicate that aggressive tactics will result in further entrenchment of extremist mindsets and this may result in the opposite effect than what was originally intended. If we want to decrease violent attacks the solution to further the tensions between government and active extremists, according to experts and critics, would be foolhardy and contradictory.

One thing to consider is that if we begin to utilize Canadian terrorist legislation against indigenous peoples and their socio-political allies there is a possibility of breeding extremists. Indigenous peoples have been under attack by colonial governments since European contact. They were imposed upon by a government entrenched in racial, religious and legal supremacist doctrines that are still in place today. Yet, it seems the collectivity of First Nations only intends to rightfully walk towards healing for all Canadians.

First Nations have proven to be respectful cultural groups that are more than willing to share land and resources. First Nations peoples have not declared war, nor does that seem to be an intention of any indigenous group. Indigenous peoples are participants in Canadian government, universities and law as professionals and human rights advocates. First Nations are also teaching Canadians how to heal, even in the most extreme cases such as myself.

Entire First Nations communities have embraced my path as a former white supremacist simply because healing is possible. I believe it is time for Canada to consider that the perhaps our government and national security teams should consider:

  • a) that First Nations are at the heart of Canadian society and we need not attempt to criminalize nor be threatened by their inherent legal rights, which result in illegal surveillance and misapplication of terrorist legislation
  • b) that perhaps First Nations culture holds a key to what the government considers to be counter-violent-extremist initiatives
  • c) reconsideration of aggressive national security tactics and to consider safeguards of misuse of terrorist legislation against indigenous peoples

Perhaps First Nations culture should be embraced by the Canadian government as it is inherently non-violent, unlike the insurmountable evidence that suggestions Canadian government is abusive and violent. Perhaps First Nations could teach Canadians how to develop strategies against a violent abuser or terrorist. I do not suggest that First Nations should be leading national security, what I am suggesting is that we as a nation should consider our own actions and behaviors especially in regards to First Nations issues and national security. What can we do as a nation to offer our own citizens what they need in order to decrease the violence that is surely going to erupt if we continue down an aggressive path, do we really need to create enemies within our own borders?

I believe that Canada’s relationship with our First Nations peoples reflects and represents the direction that we are going as a country. The first relationship to exist in Canada was the European colonizers and indigenous peoples. This state of this respective first Canadian relationship will determine the direction of our national identity. The world is watching and the UN has responded. If we as a nation decide to apply a fear mongering approach and reject the inherent rights of indigenous peoples and remain determined to make them feel like an enemy within, then it is unlikely that the Canadian government will not be able to treat any citizens in a manner that is conducive with Canadian values. We do NOT need to create enemies. It is time our government works on improving relationships by listening to the people they are in relationship with. Grievances that violent extremists have will become more legitimate if Canada continues to trample on the inherent rights of Canadians, and this is especially true for First Nations.

Picking fights will likely get you punched in the face.

Moostoos faces discrimination from OXFORD Property Group

First, I want to introduce you to my teacher and brother Gary Moostoos.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 12.07.52 PM

Before I tell you about the incident that screams discrimination against Gary Moostoos on behalf of OXFORD Properties Group Inc., I want to offer you a quick bio about myself, which will make more sense by time you get to the end of this article.

My name is Daniel Gallant and I am a former violent white supremacist. I was a street kid for many years in the downtown eastside of Vancouver. I suffered sexual and physical abuse as a child. I was angry and lost. Since that time I changed my life. At the age of 26 I started post-secondary school with a grade seven education. After my first year of school is when I met Gary Moostoos, which was about 12 years ago. Since that time I have worked as a frontline human services worker, group home manager, counselor, researcher and advocate. I now have a BA in First Nations Studies and a Masters in social work, which Gary Moostoos is included within. I am currently a student of law in Kamloops, BC. My public work can be found in the media throughout the world. I am currently the director of Exit Canada, which is a non-profit that assists other violent extremists to leave violent lifestyles.

I tell a story of how Gary and my other friend Jerry have taught me lessons. This story called Scars of Past won a writer’s award at the UNBC Weaving Words National Indigenous Storytelling festival in Prince George during 2013. This is attributed and dedicated to Gary and Jerry.

…so basically my point is that without the support and love from people like my teacher and brother Gary Moostoos I would likely have continued on with my violent rampages and not experienced the profound degree of change that I have been gifted. Now more about OXFORD, Gary and the issue at hand…

Gary Moostoos is a First Nations Cree Elder in Edmonton, Alberta; Gary is from Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 12.08.24 PM

Gary’s work is recognized across Canada and he worked along with Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings across the nation. Media, Edmonton Police Services and the community of Edmonton have recognized Gary as an elder, teacher and healer.

Gary Moostoos has dedicated his life to assisting and supporting indigenous peoples who are in need. Gary’s commitment to helping people started over a quarter century ago. He worked in a hospital supporting people whom were sick, then as a youth worker for many years he assisted youngsters in connecting with cultural practices and spiritual teachings. Gary currently is employed as he works with homeless populations and survivors of the residential school system.

Instead of recounting his words I am going to offer you Gary’s facebook post of an incident he faced this week at the downtown Edmonton City Centre:

10647060_10152744083946578_4062339647165362550_n
“Oh my gosh I was eating noodles at City Center food court & a couple Security approach & stand over me as I eat. They asked for my name I asked Why? The one says that I looked suspicious & look like a person they banned. I asked who was this person & that they see me every day as I shop there & have to walk through there everyday to get to work. They then said I had to go. I asked to speak to the supervisor. Then she came with another fellow. She took a picture of me and said that I was associating with people who are banned & known criminals. I said I worked for the homeless and an Elder & I associate with whom ever needs support. Soon there was 8 of them & they asked me to leave my meal & go. I kept my composure I did not swear or was rude. 12 security escorted me out and said I was banned for 6 months. People were telling me they were banning native people all day. So when they approached me I turn my video on my phone. I wanna cry with all sorts of emotions running through me mostly NOW I feel how my inner city folks feel when they are targets. I don’t even wanna listen to the video. What should I do? I made a few calls but it leads back to one of the security that escorted me out… “

Aside from the racism Gary faces everyday in Edmonton, which I have witnessed first hand, he is now being condemned by a security team for merely doing his job. This is gross application of discriminative property rights in quasi-public areas conducted by a team of individuals who appear to have little regard for vulnerable populations and indigenous peoples.

I want to add a few more pieces of information about Gary Moostoos [see bottom for links to Gary’s work]. I include this link to my master’s thesis in social work because Gary has been monumental in my personal transformation from a violent white supremacist to a social justice advocate and practitioner. Gary has been instrumental in my life and the change therein. Moreover, I have gone on to help many people, which would not have been possible without Gary. Not only is Gary a healing practitioner for aboriginal peoples but he is also a practitioner for assisting all Canadians heal from racism and violence.

The conduct of the security team that works for OXFORD Property Group Inc. who manage the majority of the downtown Edmonton core has made a huge mistake by seemingly conducting themselves unprofessionally and abusing their powers as property owners, whether legally and or morally and ethically. Whether this conduct was manifested due to racial profiling or whether it was due to affiliation to ‘undesirables’ is merely seen as a minuet discrepancy or syntax. Either way OXFORD are reportedly attacking vulnerable peoples, Edmonton indigenous peoples and vulnerable people living in poverty, in the downtown Edmonton core who often access particular shops in the City Center Mall.

A direct and public apology to Gary Moostoos would be appropriate. A political gesture to show support for Edmonton’s homeless community from OXFORD Properties Group Inc. would also seem appropriate in response to this awful scenario. A gesture of this sort from OXFORD would both compliment and assist Gary Moostoos in his work of helping our society change. We as a society need to collectively move away from discrimination and abuse of powers. OXFORD should recognize the amount of work and the degree of Gary Moostoos’ commitment and work that he embodies.

Gary deserves more respect than this from those employed by OXFORD Property Group.

Here is a list of articles about Gary Moostoos’ work:

Aboriginal Voices Profiles

Spiritual adviser brings hope to the lost

Ottawa Citizen

Local Work

Boyle Street Stabbing

Traditional Drumming

Homeless Memorial

Boyle Street Memorial

 

For related blogs written by Daniel Gallant please click below:

Cultural Native Pride v. White Racial Pride

Bear Attack leads to Racist attack

Supremacy and Law

A Decolonial Perspective on ‘Indigenous-Extremism’ and State Supremacy

Forethoughts

This essay will explore the nature of a cultural collision that I am experiencing during my first weeks of law school. A collision of cultural supremacies that I am left to unravel and make sense of, while processing my own visceral responses to a grotesque and abusive legal system. This is an exercise to explore incongruent and sometimes conflicting aspects between Canadian society and the legal system. I publish this piece in hope to get feedback from anyone who reads this blog article.

It is my intention to do all that I can in this life to decrease harm, abuse, marginalization and oppression. My motivation is partially due to the fact that I was abused and suffered as a child, and also because I became a perpetrator and a recruiter of a supremacist network; thus, I owe it to myself and to others to do what I can to contribute to a better world. Without this motivation I would surely have joined my friends who have either committed suicide, rot in prison or suffer through addictions. Sometimes the act of putting a conversation out to the world helps me, and that in itself serves the purpose for such articles as this. I know I cannot save the world, but at the same time if I do not walk towards the end of effecting change then there would seemingly be no point in continuing to suffer within an abusive system founded upon supremacy.

My attempt to reconcile my experience as a marginalized and abused child within a system founded upon supremacy and power-over through the practice of “othering”; then becoming a perpetrator of supremacy myself; then moving into an ‘upper’ class that consists of supremacy and privilege as I completed academic career and now have entered law school; I am left to reconcile the direction I will walk…and wonder if I should even bother ‘joining’ such an elitist culture; as many people say that the system is unchangeable.

This working essay will touch on my life experience, education as healing, indigenous rights, doctrine of supremacy and my projected anticipation of a misuse and abuse of terrorist legislation in Canada against indigenous peoples. Thus, how law will likely be used to harm First Nations peoples in a new legal war that is still rooted within racial superiority.

Transitioning from White Supremacy

I joined the white supremacy movement as I was essentially tired of being an abused victim; thus, I became a perpetrator who believed my hatred and violence was justified through a complex web of half-baked conspiracy theories along with a fact pattern that was filled with logical fallacy. I then left the movement as I was exhausted by the hatred and violence within my life. I was unsure if it was even possible to live without a head exploding stress, but I attempted it and overcame many of my demons.

What I found was that taking my personal issues and turning them into political meaning and purposes I could then reconcile and resolve some of these demons. I utilized education as a partial form of personal and political healing. Now, decidedly, I entered law school in order to further challenge and advocate systemic oppression, marginalization and abuses that are often found along with systemic racism. I must now navigate through my own inner-workings while trying to maintain functionality within the Canadian legal and political system in context to both my personal life and professional roles.

Right Wing Canada and the System of Law

Law is a complex system. Although the legal system is not fundamentally illogical, there are areas that do leave to question whether the system itself is a matrix of contradiction that betrays it’s own standard.

As I am merely in the first weeks of law school, therefore not an expert nor a scholar of law; but I am a researcher that has published on systemic racism and do have some credible merits relating to the topic. Moreover, I have been identified by several entities as an expert-of-sorts relating to systemic racism. Mostly my experience comes from unlearning the fallacies of the extreme-right-doctrine, which is not so ‘extreme’ when compared to and in consideration of the cultural context of both contemporary and historical Canadian law, governance and history; especially where indigenous peoples are concerned.

As we see in this framework, a description of right wing ideological categories that are part-in-parcel of a larger system that operates within a racist structure and function.

Berlet

If we put this framework into Canadian context we can surmise that the current Conservative government and Harper administration would fit well within this right-wing-framework. Moreover, I will note that there is irrefutable evidence that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has had direct interactions and alliances with convicted white supremacist terrorist and other right-wing-extremists; whom co-founded a pro-South-African-Apartheid organization with Harper in the 1980s.

Personal Decolonization

Examining my past in detail is not necessary for those who have read my articles in the past. But, for those who have not here is a quick description:
1. Homeless at 12-13 yrs. old
2. Lived on Indian Reserve at 13 by a family who culturally adopted me
3. First hit the streets of east Vancouver at the 14
4. Spent years hitch hiking around western Canada
5. At 15 yrs. sentenced to two years in juvenile detention
6. Media identifies my group as friends as gang
7. 17 yrs. back to the streets of east Van with no family and one friend left over
8. 18 yrs. introduced to right wing extremist Nazi skinheads
9. 22 yrs. left East Van to the north and introduced to the internet
10. Utilized the internet for networking and recruiting and thus built a reputation
11. Violent tendencies increased, less frequent but greater degree
12. Recruited a bomber (terrorist)
13. Entered in war with old friends who were First Nations
14. 26 yrs old homeless and broken with kids left behind
15. Reach out for help and life changed over the course of the following 13 yrs.
16. Began started social work education
17. Started working frontline social service work
18. Re-introduction to traditional ceremonies and healing circles
19. Became a counselor and researcher
20. Became a public activist within media
21. Complete Bachelor degree in First Nations Studies
22. Completed Masters in Social Work, partially funded by Public Safety Canada
23. Recognized as primary resource for intervention work that interrupted right wing extremist recruitment
24. Completed research on right wing extremism and decolonization through education as healing
25. Founded Exit Canada (a non-profit that assists former violent extremists) and entered law school at age 39

After achieving a Bachelor Degree in First Nations Studies and Masters in Social Work, I now walk through the halls of a new-to-me university while attending law school. I am now the founder and Director of a non-profit society that assists active and or former-extremists to develop exit strategies out of extremist behavior, ideology, networks, lifestyles and identity. For nearly ten years I worked in the human services field in groups homes, addiction treatment and aboriginal social programs as a frontline worker, counselor and researcher. Throughout this time I also maintained the practice of writing, which I began during the first time I was incarcerated in psychiatric ward after being apprehended for numerous suicide attempts at age fourteen. Needless to say, life was very different.

I lived as a white supremacist for nearly a decade, which did have similar dynamics to the supremacist doctrine within colonial law and could arguably be identified within the same ideological roots that branched into systemic racism throughout the fabric of Canadian society as a British Colony; my research on education as healing through decolonization speaks directly to this assertion.

Questions of Supremacy in Law

I’ve found the culture within law school very challenging on several fronts.

First, the curriculum is based in a doctrine that is rooted within the legal concepts of supremacy; constitutional supremacy, legislative supremacy, and the supremacy of God. The particular fact that our colonial history legally declares “supremacy” is rather difficult for me to wrap my head around. We are a nation that values Human Rights, Multi-culuralism and democratic voice, yet we maintain these archaic legal principles. Throughout the historic legal documents in Canadian history the concept of supremacy is reiterated. It is understood that in the historical context that is the way things were, but is it really relevant to the way things should be in a multi-cultural and more equitable society?

The real question for me becomes:

“Do I want to live in a nation that abuses a group of people solely based upon the color of their skin as a means-to-the-end that results in the government hoarding natural resources at the cost of perpetrating further atrocities?”

Supremacy Over Indigenous Peoples

I find it very challenging to sit, listen and accept that the mechanical system of supremacy is the guiding light that leads a society to be ‘better’.

Actually, I feel frustrated and disappointed that we live within a society that proclaims itself as supreme over the people it is allegedly accountable to represent as a democratic nation. Moreover, in context of indigenous peoples it is unarguable that the Canadian Colonial government sanctioned a genocidal program that continues today against the first peoples of Canada, or formerly known as Turtle Island. All while our democratic nation either turns a blind-eye to these happenings and or supports the abusive treatment of First Nations peoples; even though within the law itself there is an inherent fiduciary responsibility to indigenous peoples.

Canada has attempted to wipe out the indigenous peoples through biological warfare, imprisonment, assimilation programs, experimental sciences, racist social policy and industry development. These facts are indisputable and unarguable. These are legal and scientific facts. For any of these points many sources can be referenced.

Our society has become more aware of the lengths Canada has gone to interfere with the sustainability of First Nations culture, but very few people take the time to understand the degree and depth that we as a nation go to continuously damage First Nations peoples.

We see the Supreme Court has been making some strides in in recent years in regard to legal acknowledgement of aboriginal epistemology as seen in the Delgamuukw case, and aboriginal title as seen in the recent Tsilhqot’in case. However, we must not forget that these cases are still made from the supremacist doctrine of a racist legal system. There is no refuting that Canada maintains a racist legal system.

In fact, Canada even has even refused to sign on with the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights, thus having an international reputation of dismissing aboriginal rights. Moreover, the UN is also calling Canada’s treatment of indigenous peoples a genocide, which Canada refuses to acknowledge. Moreover, Canada refuses to address other issues relating to blatant systemic racism i.e. murdered and missing indigenous women.

The Living Tree

We maintain social policy that determines aboriginal citizenship through a paternalistic framework that measures blood quantum, which in fact is a non-scientific construct that is rooted from eugenics-like-pseudo-science at it’s core and is definitively and absolutely racist. Through the process that the legal system utilizes to interpret Canadian statutes and legislation the concept of a living tree is heavily relied upon. Law is created, interpreted, implemented, and enforced through the framework of a living tree.

All statutes and laws interact with one another, unless explicitly indicated within said statute; thus, by the framework utilized to interpret and implement law the Indian Act, which is the most racist law in Canada does in fact act as a central part of the Canadian legal system that impacts nearly all law. The fact that the Indian Act is central to Canadian law results in a legal fact that systemic racism is integral to the Canadian colonial legal system. All of this is justified within the legal doctrine of supremacy.

When we look to the authority of the state we, Canada, are declared to be governed under Constitutional Supremacy. The key word, supremacy, may not be an alarming concept to those who are of privileged classes; socio-politically privileged classes are, comparatively, identified as non-indigenous. Indigenous peoples are the only people in Canada who are racially segregated through racist social policy. All non-indigenous people gain a socio-political benefit of privilege at the cost of the historic, and the continuation of, injustice served unto indigenous peoples in the name of racism and supremacy.

The doctrine of supremacy is irrefutable as it is written within the rule of law itself.

Summary of an Indigenous Legal Perspective

Dr. John Borrows, an indigenous law scholar, states that Canada as a nation was founded upon supremacy, which now both proclaims and maintains the position of power-over as a nation of constitutional supremacy; we as a nation have already demonstrated legal fallacy in Canada in regards to fundamental principles and values we proclaim when contrasted to the treatment of indigenous peoples. Further to Borrows, it does not seem that we can claim to be an inclusive and equitable society, and laws therein, if we are maintaining an archaic measure of race i.e. Indian Act. This fundamental concept of racial segregation through “Indian” citizenship is not just an indigenous issue; it is relevant to every Canadian our government represents us. Thus, those we elect to govern continue to perpetrate these policies against every person in Canada. We, as a nation, cannot legally claim to believe or affectively be one way but continue to do another; incongruence results in a lack of integrity.

According to Borrows, Canada is falling short in regards to constitutional legitimacy due to the treatment of First Nations peoples. Essentially we are turning our law into a weapon against a particular group that we legally identify through what the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People (RCAP) referred to as Apartheid, namely the Indian Act.

The reason I utilize the phrase “perpetrate these policies against every person in Canada” is because it seems most people do not believe that we should treat people differently nor abuse them simply because of their skin color, as that is racist. So why is it ok for our government to continue doing so?

Indigenous peoples must endure this oppression simply for being born. Being indigenous is a political fact. Canadian law determines who is legitimately indigenous and who is not; the measuring tool that is used is a racist schematic utilized by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime to determine who was Aryan or not. This is abhorrent.

I am by no means suggesting we abolish the Indian Act, as that would result in the government’s plan to wipe out indigenous rights. Indigenous peoples in Canada were not conquered, in fact it is quite the opposite and that’s why we have peace treaties throughout the country. It is time Canada recognizes these treaty relationships and honor them.

Recently Prime Minister Harper refused to endorse the UN Declaration of Indigenous Peoples, this is an example of how forthright our current government is resisting better relations with indigenous peoples; without going into further detail there exists a plethora of other relatable legal issues i.e. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Aboriginal Land Title, historic treaties, education policies, Human Rights violations against indigenous children in child welfare.

In 1969 Prime Minister Trudeau attempted to abolish the Indian Act in a policy called the White Paper; interestingly enough is the same name that South Africa used in Apartheid era. It appears he was attempting to act in the best of intentions, however that is when indigenous legal arguments really came to the forefront in our society. Trudeau’s attempt was squashed, thankfully. What we as Canadians should be discussing honestly is allowing First Nations to be self governing within their own determined process of governments; within reasonable contexts that does respect Canadian law.

First Nations should have a right to utilize cultural and traditional practices to determine who is or is not a member of their respective bands. Self determination of citizenship should be primary discussion point for non-aboriginals, so we can decidedly have a democratic voice to say whether we want a government that maintains racist policy that synthesizes Nazi Germany, or do we want to support a government who allows a community to determine who their own members are without being oppressed through racist and genocidal agendas.

If we as a nation want to address these issues of racist policy, we first need to look at realistic ways that we can empower those who are oppressed, indigenous peoples, while honoring historic treaties and determining a workable and sustainable relationship between the colonial law and government with indigenous peoples. As a non-indigenous person who has studied racism and systemic racism for a decade it seems like a logical solution to ensure the government employs indigenous peoples self-governance and self-determination of citizenship, rather than being forced to live within the archaic colonial confines of racist and paternalistic schematic that still racially enslaves indigenous peoples today.

Terrorism

Incongruence of words and actions results in a lack of integrity, and incongruence is a political reality for the Canadian government and legal system. This became clear to me over a year ago when I attended a counter-terrorism-summer-academy and one of the underlying themes was about indigenous peoples resistance. The way that this was presented was not only concerning to me, but alarming. It presented as that the application of counter-terrorism is going to utilized to further oppress First Nations peoples. I knew that I could not sit idle and do nothing, but also had to practice some patience to get more effective tools; now I hope I can survive law school so that i can contribute to countering this misapplication of counter-terrorism.

The current relationship with indigenous peoples is deteriorating while Canadian government executive and administration perpetuates, knowingly and or unknowingly, systemic racism against indigenous people. This is a sure way for the government and legal system to create a pressurized atmosphere that will continue to antagonize, instigate and coerce indigenous peoples into resistance, which the government may now, in a post-9/11 world, have the ability to launch an assault on First Nations peoples through terrorist legislation; as it already has began to do.

With all of the government experts on terrorism and extremism in a post-9/11 world it seems that the Canadian government is knowingly beginning to antagonize indigenous peoples into becoming more aggressive through applying militaristic force while simultaneously using the legal system to attempt to dismiss or push aside indigenous issues like the truth about residential schools, Canadian child welfare, murdered and missing women, land title issues and UN Indigenous Rights.

As a former violent right wing extremist who is involved in several government affiliated projects and research, it is disturbingly apparent to me that the government in mobilizing such brutal force while subjugating First Nations children, families, elders, men and women to systemic racism and attempts to silence their inherent legal rights.

First Nations have inherent rights that are not necessarily understood by most Canadians. This is a complex aspect of Canadian society, but it is our obligation as a democratic nation that proclaims to instill Human Rights that we begin to honor our legal obligations to indigenous peoples while simultaneously honoring ‘our’ own proclaimed humanistic values and offer self-determination in contexts of citizenship to indigenous peoples.

First Nations are the only group of people in Canada who continuously face threat of military force. Canada has been exercising its archaic form supremacy over First Nations people through misuse of terrorist legislation by:
a) adding specific communities, groups and individuals to terrorist watch lists
b) engaging in illegal surveillance of First Nations and their allies in peaceful protests opposing industry
c) mobilizing military force against aboriginal asserting their legal rights

The misapplication of terrorist legislation will continue and will likely be asserted more aggressively as indigenous groups gain more public support. It is our role as non-indigenous Canadians to voice concern over these abusive misapplications of legislation.

We need to understand that First Nations have legal rights to oppose industry and government encroachment on traditional lands. We as non-indigenous peoples must recognize that our system is hell bent on hoarding natural resources while maintaining supremacy over land, resources and people. This can be contested and should be in a lawful and legal manner, until the state decidedly infringes upon our rights by excessive application of force; whether that force is police or militaristic. With the misapplications and corrupt ways that government is utilizing terrorist legislation, we as Canadians need to step forward and not allow this escalation to fuel a boiling point, which the government seems to be instigating.

The government has funded research on counter-terrorism for the last five years and is well aware that the more they legally antagonize and apply abusive force against indigenous peoples, by means of police and military, that WILL result in further entrenching First Nations groups whom are merely asserting there rights, and will result in forms of what Canada will label as extremists and terrorists. The government can then attempt to justify extreme militaristic responses while reigning supremacy against and over indigenous peoples through the means of terrorist legislation. These dynamics are now brewing and it is not a leap to suggest that Canadian government is knowingly, if not unbeknownst, engaging with indigenous groups in a manner that is hoped will fuel further civil disobedience of First Nations so that the government can coerce indigenous groups into legitimately being viewed approached as extremist-terrorist.

We can be assured that in a day and age of post 9/11 realities that the government will attempt to assert it’s supremacy over indigenous peoples and lands through the mis-application of terrorist legislation. This is one of the core reasons why I entered law school. I hope to bring this idea to the forefront of consideration as a future line of inquiry; as I indicated in my past research, if Canadian government is serious about counter-terrorist processes then we should be including decolonial contexts in order to avoid the imposed and perceived projected claim that indigenous groups are in process of radicalization while engaging in legitimate First Nations assertion of rights.

I have personally heard and participated in conversations with both RCMP and academics who qualify themselves as national security experts about the dangers of indigenous activists that are ‘radicalizing’ youth and should be dealt with as extremists and terrorists.

Conclusion

It is my hope to contribute to counter-terrorist dialogue in a manner that will breakdown this misapplication of terrorist legislation and enforcement while also educating the public in how we can democratically exercise changes to law in order to resolve the core issues and not end up in a situation where inevitable atrocity results from militaristic responses ordered by Canadian legal system. There are legal processes and changes that Canada can employ in order to avoid war-like conflicts with indigenous peoples.

A mere, yet complex, change to Canadian law that rightfully eliminates racist policy and offers self-determination, as was promised in treaties, and reflects the values of what it means to be Canadian and a human-being engaged with basic-human-goodness is NOT too much to ask for; from a government who persists on mistreating and abusing a particular group of people. This is a Canadian issue.

Daniel Gallant and the Inquisition

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Here is a list of published interviews and articles written in heavy metal magazines as a result of my work over the last several years.

I am putting them in chronological order for your reference…but first, here is a summary of the background story to go along with my interview [which you can view here, but I recommend you read them all to understand context].

…I had posted blog articles about several black metal bands who have affiliation with right wing extremists and terrorist individuals and or groups. I did however remove the articles a little over a year ago. I removed them because of the amount of energy I exerted in countering the blow back and threats I was receiving during my Masters Thesis writing on the topic of counter terrorism.

Since that time I have started to do research for a book I am currently writing. I have been doing interviews with band members and others who have experience with right wing extremism, anti-Semitism and racism within the metal scene. I will be revealing facts about the emergence of the heavy metal scene and white supremacist movement that has become fairly prevalent in Western Canada. The networks seem to be centralized in Alberta, more specifically in Edmonton.

I have been researching public activity of several bands and their members for several years. In several instances, I have had past affiliations with many of these individuals while I was a white supremacist. I was acquaintances and or friends with many of these people. Me and another individual had initiated a network that bridged both the white supremacist movement and black metal community in Edmonton. Shortly after this time I had left the white power movement.

As my life continued to transform people began to ask me to do public speaking events. I continued with my educational path and became increasingly more articulate. I started to hone my critical thinking skills through a combination of lived experience and education. Through my professional career as a social service manager, counsellor and researcher my voice has been amplified through media sources and other forms of public engagement, via my writing. Throughout all of the work I have done on the existing links between right wing extremists, along with their sympathizers, and black metal’rs within the metal scene. The mainstream media has refused to address this issue, until recently.

In the last week the heavy metal community in North America has been conversing about this topic. I am sure these discussions are not yet over. The black metal band Inquisition was on the Metal Alliance tour bill. To play on this bill with more mainstream bands was a major break for Inquisition. However, with a mainstream presence the lingering connections Inquisition boasted of has come to bite them in the ass. Jason (aka Dagon) claims his music is artistic and metaphoric, but with other considerations such as symbolism, music lyrics, personal connections, statements and online activity it is very clear there is more than just artistic representation of Nazism. I will throw Dagon a bone though, perhaps his who life is centred around being an artistic and therefore he feels he can say and do what he pleases, no matter the cost of how it impacts and harms others. Surely the dissemination of hatred does in fact hurt others, surely Jason ‘Dagon’ must understand this.

A fellow blogger read my comments on a mutual friend’s facebook status. This mutual friend understands the depths of racism within the metal scene from lived experience. It seems most people do not support her perspective, I would suggest that is because the metal scene is predominantly white males; angry white males. My dear friend is a courageous woman who promotes diversity within the metal scene. She has even wrote a book about this topic. My fellow blogger then wrote this article on his blog. There are people whom I love and care for within the metal scene who continue to face racism, discrimination and right wing extremists. These right wingers do not care about the feelings of those they are harming. As I was a vehement white supremacist I understand these dynamics and will step forward to speak directly to those that are disseminating hatred and deliberately hurting people, or at minimum seemingly apathetic to causing discomfort to others.

The above blog article then resulted in this heavy metal article that conferred that Inquisition were probably Nazi.

I then received a tweet from Decibel Magazine. Decibel challenged me to ‘go on record.’

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Before Decibel would confirm a time to interview me they interviewed Jason, front man of Inquisition. Jason claims he is not a Nazi. Perhaps his right wing leanings and promotion of violence is not Nazism by definition, but then again maybe that is just semantics to deter from the point. In all fairness to the band and me, both, I never did call them Nazis.

Even Jason Dagon’s fans begin to berate him as a result of his double talk, lack of integrity, and his obvious self-contradictions. There are hundreds of comments within the online pool I have waded through. Here are a few samples.

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Dagon.Fool.2

Dagon needs backup

Dagon.Dumber

Disappointed.Dagon

One of Inquisition’s fans posted this claiming it was Jason aka Dagon (who goes by 88MM as his black metal forum handle on FMP666) who posted this comment:

Dagon.Obama.Racialslur

Then this online magazine picked up the story.

Then, this one.

Then, the blogger who first broke this story last week posted this follow up article.

Then, online magazine MetalSucks offered this analysis.

Then the first magazine that broke the story into the mainstream wrote this follow up.

Last but not least Decibel Magazine interviewed me and was published Monday May 5, 2014. I find it quite interesting that I was interviewed by a reputable heavy metal magazine, and I do not play any instruments. That is the comedic part, but none of this stuff is actually humorous. It is sad and disturbing.

Then there was another follow-up article here.

Lastly, the first metal magazine to publish an article on this matter posted this story.

Inquisition and black metal’s fascism problem

Here is a blog article I was interviewed for, which is about a nazi black metal band:

Here is an interview with Gyibaaw on CBC on this very topic. I had written articles about this band a couple of years ago, I took them down as I am now writing a book on this subject.

I am so pleased to finally see that this information is being used by someone else.

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It was only at the end of last year that I became aware of US black metal band Inquisition, thanks to the appearance of their latest album Obscure Verses for the Multiverse on numerous critics’ end-of-year lists. Upon first listening, the main things that struck me included the oddly croaky, reptilian voice of singer/guitarist Jason Weirbach (aka Dagon), as well as the fact that all the songs sounded quite samey, given the ubiquity of their monolithic assemblage of thick riffs and relentless blastbeats. Quickly though, I grew to appreciate the band’s unique sound, and delved further into their back catalogue. This did lead me to develop some concerns about their material, the song “Crush the Jewish Prophet” from Magnificent Glorification of Lucifer being the most obvious example. If the song was an anti-Christian critique in the black metal tradition, as it appeared to be based on its lyrics, why was it necessary to…

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Beyond Guilt and Shame

I sit here, tonight, feeling and thinking and reflecting. I am celebrating that my blog has surpassed another goal; to surpass my readership record. I am glad that the most popular article on my blog is not a negative controversy; rather it is an inspirational transformation.

I am, however, left with remnants of facts from the past. Hard realities. Here is a sample of what that can look like.

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Shapeshifting Images: Manifested Transformative Tattoo of Realism

From Edm Journal

(picture by Edmonton Journal ~ Canwest Media Works)

Full of anger and hatred I pounded people’s faces into the pavement with a twisted drive of relentless energy.

Daniel (6 of 22)

(picture by Peter Rudge~ DuckRabbit)

The Scars of Past that remained on my body are symbolic of the power hungry mechanism of hate that I bore in order to tunnel my inner turmoil and fear into the eyes, hearts, and centre  of my victims being; until I was forced to look at my self in a spiritual reflection within my son’s eyes. The day he was born I saw a mirrored child. He was a reflection of myself. I did not want him to be raised into a world of abuse and hate.

Daniel (5 of 22)

(picture by Peter Rudge~ DuckRabbit)

After years of self-reflection, personal development through dialogical post secondary studies, Cree-Saulteaux-Sioux cultural influence, and meaningful activism through writing, intelligence sharing, protests, and media interviews I have been able to contribute to the progressive advancement of a society I was at utter war against.

This last summer I completed writing my Masters thesis that reflected on my past extremist violence and compared my personal transformation with the social change of three other former-white supremacists. I found so many more commonalities than I had anticipated. I thought I was different than everyone, boy was I wrong. I thought each story would reflect utter differences but what I found was that the four of us, in the study, were very similar. We were actually more like everyone else than I had ever anticipated, our challenges and epiphanies did not seem a far stretch from normal experiences (of course minus the extreme violence and propaganda). This retrospective perception has brought me to further consideration of who I am, at the core of my being.

A small town kid who loved going to kohkum’s house every summer. My home, Moberly Lake, had nothing but fond loving memories for me. My mom’s parents, may auntie Linda’s house, and kohkum’s place. The smell of drying moose meat, tanned hides, horses, and the autumn paths that lead to the rocky beach which was joined by a year round icy water that we swam in. My home. My boy body was a temple of happiness that could not be defeated by physical and sexual abuse when we returned each year to Moberly Lake, the safest place in the world.

Years later I returned to Moberly Lake seeking refuge. I found refuge. Kohkum gave me my own cabin after I ran away from my home in Toronto at age 12. Then I began drinking and smoking drugs. By age 14, I was on the downtown east side of Vancouver. After spending nearly two years in juvenile detention centres, from 15-17, I returned to the streets of east Vancouver. I then began scarring my body with symbols of hate. A confederate flag then a swastika; a celtic cross; another swastkia with a fist in the centre of it; then an Odal Rune. I declared war through symbology and language, as I spat at people, and engaged in acts of terror and war against the society I was born into. I engaged in acts of warfare against minorities and First Nations peoples.

I directed my own pain and fear at those who reflected the very things I hated about myself. It took years to learn this about myself. I had great teachers though: kohkum, auntie Muriel, Pastor Ed Sukow, counsellor Darren Wilks, Neil Meyer, Chris Rosebrugh, Dave Mcdonald, former Chief Jerry Goodswimmer, Gary Moostoos, Garry Gottfriedson, Dr. Ross Hoffman, auntie Linda Nichols, cousin Josh Nichols and Elenora Joe and so many other pivotal people; of course the longer I am on this path the more people join the list of my teachers.

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(picture from Global 16×9 show)

I returned to Vancouver, for the filming of the TV show 16×9, after years of needed separation from a city that I was at war with nearly two decades ago.  I was only in Vancouver for a few days for the filming. I had to return several times in order to connect with the streets I was battled. I needed to move further away from my not-so-distant propensity of violence by confronting the demons that haunted me on the streets. I was homeless abused youth who sought refuge in the war mind of the white supremacist movement. In the summer of 2013 I returned to Vancouver after spending  few weeks in Edmonton, Alberta.

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I had gone to Edmonton as a guest speaker at the 2013 Hate2Hope rally that was organized an aboriginal youth named Chevi Rabbit. He was the target of a hate crime and has turned this horrific experience as a tool to speak against hate. I attended the speech and two of my close friends attended the rally, both Gary Moostoos and Jerry Goodswimmer. Both of these men were instrumental throughout my personal transformation from a life of hate. After the rally both Jerry and Gary agreed it may be time to consider removing my tattoos. In the past I was provided with the opportunity to have my white power tattoos removed through laser surgery. This was offered by the Canadian Jewish Congress. I did several sessions. However, between advice from my friends and the overwhelming pain and lingering healing process due to flare ups of my skin disorder I had decided to stop the laser surgery. I was still carrying my scars of past. In 2013, I was prompted to finally consider getting these tattoos either removed or covered.

While visiting Vancouver I visited my old stomping grounds. I walked down Commercial Drive as a man, not an angry and violent youth, and concluded that the tattoos I was still carrying in my skin had to be removed, or at least covered up. I walked into a convenience store to buy a bottle of water. I was wearing a t-shirt and the swastika on my forearm was visible. When I paid for my drink I twisted my forearm inwards in order to hide the offensive tattoo. The cashier lady looked at me in the eyes and smiled. When she looked down she saw the swastika on my arm.

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The cashier then looked scared and did not look into my eyes again. Saddened by the fact that the swastika on my arm was still visible to everyone, I wondered what I could cover it with. I then passed a corner that I used to walk past when I was a young angry white supremacist soldier. I then reflected back in my life, to a time before my hateful days. I was just a sad and angry street kid. I remembered how much I loved a pocket watch I used to carry. I never used the pocket watch as a watch. The watch always stayed closed. I only cared about the vibration of the ticking. Each second that passed manifested with a tick.

Sometimes the click would vibrate through my pocket into my leg. When I took the pocket watch out of my pocket and carried it in my hand I could feel every passing second in the palm of my hand. When I think about walking down the street holding the pocket watch in my hand, I used to think I am seconds ahead from where I was, just moments before. When I was distraught the clicking offered me a security that I was making it through this life without exploding. The ticking-clicking sensation would distract my mind and feelings from the intrusive reminders of devastation from my childhood that still incessantly haunted me. I also felt relieved I made through another second that brought me closer to the end of my life. Each vibrating second was a moment closer to death. That brought me solace.

I recalled what it was like being a child and locked up for nearly two years. The clock in my cell would tick away no matter what happened. Even when I would beat on another kid or smash the furniture the clock always ticked when I was put into isolation. As  rage poured out my eyes in violent fits of exacerbation, the clock would tick comfort until I fell asleep. I would think to myself “Why did I need to live in this world of pain?”

As I reached the crest of the hill on Commercial Drive that morning, I found my answer. I would cover the swastika on my arm with a pocket watch. The time reads 11:03 as I was born on the 11th of March. My only demand was that the person who tattoos me had to be a gentle woman. Never again would I let a man who promotes violence tattoo me.

Every tattoo on my body was etched by men filled with angered and abusive natures. But then again, the culture of North American men is built upon dominance and violence. It was finally time I let women help me heal some more. I know so many beautiful women who live compassionately and remind me why non-violence is necessary. This was my personal way to symbolically resolve a new connectivity to women, who are supportive as I walk further away from the tumultuous path of abuse.

My first cover up, the pocket watch, flew by with some nice relaxed conversation between the artist and myself. I barely felt any discomfort or pain. It was a fairly pleasurable tattoo session. That is not how I remembered tattoos. When I recall getting tattoos, years ago, I cringed at the non-stop pain. I hated pain. I hated tattoos. I hated myself.

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After the tattoo session, I sat with my cousin Josh debriefing about how I felt relieved. He suggested I get my stomach tattoo covered asap. He recommended a reputable shop. We looked at the website and portfolios of the artists. I was excited, “shit Josh! these artists are crazy good”.

Both Josh and I were instantly impressed with Rene Botha’s art work. The website for the tattoo shop had what I would call an application process; Liquid Amber Tattoo, located in the downtown east side of Vancouver’s gas town. While surfing the website it felt right as we looked at the art. “Josh, they would want me to wait too long. I need them gone now. The website says I got to wait a year for an appointment.”

He looked at me with stern compassion, “go and tell them your story and why you want them gone, you never know.” His confidence gave me hope. Our dialogue taught me something. He loved me and only wanted the best for me. I trusted his input, as I often do. The only reason I finished my second university degree was because of Josh’s encouragement. He was the only one who believed I needed to continue with my degree. Most of my friends and families thought university was a waste of time and that I should spend my time working in the oil fields or working as a counsellor. He knew what I did not know, which was that there was a progressive education for higher learning out there that would challenge me and result in further personal growth. My education would bring me to a realization of understanding hope as a motive to contribute to social change.

I walked into Liquid Amber Tattoo. The receptionist Jessie told me that they would be booked up for months in advance and the only possibility of getting me in was if one of the guest artists could do my stomach cover up. I thanked her and emailed her my ideas for a cover up and some links of media work outlining my personal journey.

The following day Jessie contacted me to set up an appointment the day after with an artist named Rene. I met with Rene Botha and she quizzed me about my ideas for an image. I told her that I wanted a raven or a crow because of the blackbirds in east Vancouver. It is said to have the largest murder (crow population) rate in the world. At least that is the word on the street. I emphasized that the raven represents shapeshifting and transformation, but not just an individual level but also collective and cultural transformation. I learned these lessons from Cree cultural teachings. But I insisted that the image must be reflective with a horizon of the city or something. I also requested that the image does not borrow or synthesize ‘native art’ that reek of cultural appropriation. I preferred the natural representation, or close to it.

Rene spent the weekend designing my piece and emailed me a photo of the sketch the following business day.

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(the image is an ambiguous and abstract interpretable piece [what is it?])

As soon as I looked at the image I was taken aback. I was more than impressed. I felt honoured that her art would be on my body. We arranged a start date for the following week. I wanted to complete the piece in one week. Rene indicated that if I was able to sit under the gun that long she would have no problem doing so. I was excited.

I wanted to have a friend of mine use my DSLR camera to record video footage and take photos to document the progress. A couple of years ago I won an award at the Weaving Words Aboriginal Storytelling Festival for a piece I wrote called Scars of Past. I wanted to develop a video piece on my tattoos and transformation. I had no video recording experience, but I was determined to find a way to make this happen. My friend was unable to come to Vancouver and operate my camera for me.

While I was in Vancouver in the summer of 2013 I connected with a filmmaker I had met three years ago at UNBC. I had just started my Masters’ in Social Work. There was a presentation that I attended on fracking, which is a natural resource extraction process. I was familiar with tracking because of two reasons. First, I had worked in the oil field many years ago as a truck driver. Second, my parents had illegal waste dumped on their property in Chetwynd, BC. It just so happened that the film, Fractured Land, was about the same territory that I was from.

During the presentation it became clear that the subject of Fractured Lands, Caleb Behn, was familiar with my personal story and my family’s experience with fracking. In fact, it was frack fluid that was dumped on my parents’ land mixed with human sewage. The illegal dump has most likely resulted in my auntie’s sickness. The day of the dump she was hospitalized due to, what I will refer to as, chemical burns in her lungs. She now has cancer and is trying to live her days in a loving and caring way. Needless to say I have a lot of anger towards the oil industry. In fact, I left the oil field because of corruption. I had exposed a case of environmental abuses that resulted in an Oklahoma based company operating in the Fort St john area being fined over $200,000. Of course that is pocket change. But for me, it was representative of my saying “fuck you” to the system that damaged my auntie, cousins, and siblings. The Fractured Land film crew was definitely doing good work.

They were interested in interviewing my aunt who now has cancer. I arranged for the film crew to speak with her. My aunt Linda is a brave mother. She is one of the strongest women from my biological family. In fact she is one of the only people from my mother’s family whom I trust and can whole heartily say I love. Many other members of the family can easily be referred to as abusive. I had chosen to not be involved with those family members.

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The first day went well. I was at the shop for ten hours. I sat under the gun for seven and a half hours. After the first day I felt as if I had been run over by a truck. I felt completely broken. I walked out of the shop, got in my car, and drove away. I was driving down East Hastings leaving the city to go to my cousins house. This was the same road that I took my first time I went downtown Vancouver.

At age fourteen I hitchhiked from northern BC to Vancouver. I continued thumbing it from the highway down Hastings. I was not familiar with the community.I was not aware of all of the prostitution and drugs. I was oblivious. I was a child. The man who picked me up wanted me to suck his dick. I was confused. He saw my confusion. He looked at me and said “you really have no idea about this area, do you?”

I explained it was my first time in the city. He told me to never hitchhike there unless I was working. “ohhh! no I do not have a job. I left home.”

The john shook his head and explained to me that I had a lot to learn and to be careful or someone was going to hurt me. I am grateful he was empathetic and compassionate. In hindsight, my first trip to Vancouver was a blessing.  I was definitely out of my league.

Twenty five years after my first trip of hitchhiking down Hastings while being mistaken for a male prostitute, I was recalling these events. I reflected on why I left home i.e. physical abuse, sexual abuse, and verbal abuse. I curiously wondered why anybody would treat a child the way my parents did. I wondered why nobody came to save me. I wondered why teachers, social workers, and police blamed me for my families’ problems. They blamed the victim. I thought about the racism I was taught. My mind was consumed with flashes of all of the people I had hurt. I was overwhelmed with sadness for all the pain I caused. I did not want to finish the tattoo process because I did not want to feel pain anymore, but I knew I had to get through it. The least I could do was to go through a bit of pain in order to stop offending people with my tattoos. I felt shattered and broken from all the pain I had experienced. My eyes filled with tears.

I choked them back and felt my rage creep in. I wanted to stop the car and smash the windows in my vehicle. I wanted to  kill someone. I felt like I wanted to kill myself. I was sick of the world. Then I told myself to “stop!”

I pulled my car over. I was feet away from a spot where I had once beaten a black man into unconsciousness. My eyes streamed out tears. I did not want to be angry. I embraced my sadness. I embraced the questions of why I was so angry. I embraced the fact that I have transformed my identity and built a new life. I felt the compassion of people involved in my healing journey. Rene and the film crew came to mind. I decided in that moment that I would see these people as my family. That they were my mainstays. My rocks. I decided that I would allow them to be there for me on this journey. My body was hurting, and it was self-inflicted. I had to focus on the end result. I would get rid of these hateful symbols that restrict my ability to swim with my kids and that I will no longer offend people if I am shirtless. I found strength in my sadness and vulnerability.

I went to my cousin’s house and both he and his wife were there for me. I got a hug. I got to talk and share what was going on for me. I was heard!…finally after all of these years people would hear me. My cousin reminded me that these filmmakers and others believe in me; and that he believes in me. I continued to cry, but I was ok. A friend once said to me “maybe you’re not falling apart, maybe you’re falling together.”

The First Session Set

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(*day one @ 7.5 hrs.)

My first day of tattooing lasted all day long. I was at shop ten hours. I was booked in for four days straight. After day one we realized I would not be able to complete the tattoo in one week like I had originally hoped. I rested after the first day. I was sore as hell. But i looked forward to being tattooed by one of the most impressive people I have met, Rene Botha. Not only has she been a cultural edge walker, but she was absolutely beautiful both inside and out. It made going back to the shop so much easier.

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(back to back ~ day 2 @ 4 hours)

After day two I could not last more than four hours. I had passed out twice, which I did not tell the tattoo artist. I was afraid this would damage our relationship. My mind felt overloaded. I was consumed with physical pain.

The Second Session Set

I was still in Vancouver. I was crashing at my cousins and sleeping in my van from time to time. I came back to the tattoo shop partially healed and ready to experience more physical pain, reluctantly.

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(day 3 @ 4.5 hours)

I came back six days later to do two more back to back sessions. I was still raw and sore.

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(day 4 @ 4 hours)

After this session I was ready to get out of the shop and never return. As the tattoo gun got close to my arm pit it triggered a memory from fifteen years before. I recalled when one of my uncles had attacked me. He rammed his thumb nail into my arm pit leaving bruising from his huge hands that gripped my entire chest muscle. He pinned me against the wall while holding me by two of my pressure points and banging my body on the solid brick wall. I had no choice but to either find a way to fight back or to be beaten. I overcame incredible pain in my armpit and punched him straight in the face. He dropped me. I was free. I then stepped forward and combination punched him in the face until he was unconscious then I jumped on top of his limp body and continued beating his face until my step-dad and cousin pulled me off. He was left with a swollen face and six boxer cuts from my knuckles. As the tattoo needles went near my armpit tears streamed down my face. I felt a pity for my past self. I grew up in a violent home. I grew up being that violence and abuse were the most solid resolve to conflict. I felt grateful to be a different man today.

The Third Session Set

While I was in Vancouver I found out there were some issues with my thesis committee. I had to return to Prince George in order to ensure the issues were dealt with in a timely fashion. I returned to Prince George in September, 2013. Earlier that year in April, I had sold my home because I was informed I would defend my thesis by September 1st, 2013. That did not happen. I then had to move back to Prince George, after a summer of living in my 1978 VW Van I enjoyed the summer mountain biking; now it was time to go north and deal with university politics.

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I had to fly from Prince George to Vancouver for each session. The plan that was proposed by Rene was to do two separate four hour sessions back-to-back during each trip. The running joke amongst the staff team at Liquid Amber Tattoo and the film crew was that I had a low threshold for pain. “Not so tough now eh?”

I explained I was never tough. The only reason I could fight is because I was willing to bite, stab, poke eyes, or anything else I needed to do to control a fight. I was good at fighting in order to avoid getting hit. I did not target weak people; that is not to say I never hit anyone who was not vulnerable, because I did. I did not shy away from fighting five guys at a time who had weapons, and equally so, I did not shy away from hitting nearly anyone who made me angry. I was never physically strong. I am a small man, and when I was violent I was an even smaller person. This tattoo process has literally brought me to my knees. I had cried. I had given up. But I kept showing up. I did what I had to do. I wanted to do this to avoid hurting others and to offer my children an opportunity to enjoy me without these racist scars from my past.

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I arrived in Vancouver and we began more sessions while filming.

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(Adam filming tattoo)

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(day 5 @ 4hours)

The second day was brutal. I could not stand the pain. I was unable to last the full four hours. We were able to get a small section on the belly done. Rene was more than accommodating. I left the session and walked straight to my hotel room and cried myself to sleep. I was sick of the physical pain. But even more than the stress of the physical pain, I felt completely alone. I just wanted to have somebody with me.

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(day 6 @ 2.5 hours)

This last session was intense but short. It took a lot out of me. I had to quit, there was no possible way I could have lasted the full four hours. The back to back days were too much on this trip.

The Fourth Session Set

This trip was my favourite trip. I drove down with a dear friend. We had met through her family. I love her parents, and they love me. It felt like everything just fit. All of us agreed with that. I felt like I belonged in their family. After meeting their daughter who was the same age as me, I felt absolutely blessed. She is a hilarious writer with a smile that cannot be replaced. She drove down to Vancouver with me. We laughed and had a blast. Until we got to the city. It became clear to her how difficult the tattooing process was for me.

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Rene’s plan for the seventh session was to re-do the ink on the sun. Again I was triggered to remember some past violence. This time I was getting flashes of past physical violence perpetrated by my second step-dad. When I was eleven years old I started getting my ass kicked hard by him. Those ass kickings left bruises all over my body including my ribs and face. The sun brought those memories back, perhaps I had some more ‘personal-shit’ to work through. At least this time I had “her” beautiful embrace.

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(day 7 @ 3 hours)

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(my favourite photo)

The gal I started seeing had a cousin who lived in Vancouver. Her cousin was out of town and invited us to use their condo for a couple days. The picture below is my old stomping grounds. I worked at two bars in the buildings below around 1995. I was a violent racist skinhead. Now nearly two decades later, I was looking down at my past as I was looking towards my future. It was surreal. On the street below I had committed countless hate crimes. Her cousins’ husband was a man who left the racist skinhead network many years ago. We had past mutual acquaintances. Here I was in a condo with another person who understood me, as we looked down towards my old stomping grounds. I was getting rid of my hateful scars. I had her arms wrapped around me as she murmured “I love you.”

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(day 8 @ 3 hours)

The next day, I got more done. Again, I could not last the full four hours. I was able to make three hours though. I knew that I had her embrace. That night we went to her friends for a dinner party. I was pretty silent and not thinking right. My mind was trying to be where I physically was, but I kept zipping back to my childhood. Each twinge of pain on my chest exacerbated my social skills. I sat in a room full of her friends. Inside I felt less than. I felt like I did not belong. Here I was, a former Nazi skinhead, with a loving woman. I was unable reconcile how I got to where I am in life. Completing my second university degree and abandoning a life of violent extremism. On the drive back to her cousins condo I exposed my raw thinking. Thoughts I maybe should have kept to myself. My triggered negative thinking became apparent. I was in midst of physical pain, intrusive memories of abuse, and a thesis supervisor who was inconsistent and irrational. Everything seemed to be coming down hard on my mind and heart. I silently cried myself to sleep with her wrapped around me.

The Fifth Session Set

In January 2014 I had the fifth session. I flew down to Vancouver…alone!

During the xmas holidays I struggled in a way I have not struggled for many years. I have not allowed myself to enter a relationship because of the way I had handled being emotionally hurt in the past. It seems that when I am emotionally hurt I withdraw, isolate, and internally beat the shit out of my own spirit. Then I am left trying reconcile my intrusive  demons. I wish this was not my struggle, but it would be untruthful to present it as anything else but…

Over the holidays I was under a deliberate attack by my children’s mother and her new found love, my cousin. This dynamic has impacted my relationship with my children. These social attacks force me to re-visit old feelings of childhood abuse. At the same time I was dealing with a delay in my graduate studies. My thesis process was put on hold for more than seven months while having to pay tuition. I was in limbo without any movement. I was so frustrated I nearly quit school. I was dealing with these life situations and facing my normal holiday demons that were also compounded with the intrusive triggers onset by the physical pain of the tattoo process.

I am surprised I actually made it through the xmas holidays as well as I did. I remembered one thing, no matter how bad shit feels, I am doing a lot better than I did when I lived on the streets. However, my demons impacted this new found relationship. It definitely took it’s toll on her. It seems my demons instigated and summoned her dragon that then set my world on fire. She had to separate herself. I accepted this.

I had no choice but to accept and sit still for weeks. I sat still during the holidays in -30 degrees Celsius winter. Isolated and alone…looking forward to only one thing…having this tattoo completed. No matter how much pain was coming I was willing to make it through this. If nothing else, I would ensure I made it through the tattoo process. I was not completely alone. I had my cousin, my auntie, my friends from UNBC First Nations Centre, and new friends I continue to make…but friends and family cannot fill this kind of absence. I am faced with having to let go, not only of the person I got so comfortable with so fast, but also the idea that I fit within their family. Saddened, I continue to walk my path and face my demons.

Much like the tattoo process I had to feel the pain and go through it. I now know that the best way to to take pain, is to taste the pain. To embrace the pain. To lay back and breath, then when it becomes unbearable and my limit is reached, take a break. Then come back another day and taste the pain.

I made it through four hours. Progress!

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(day 9 @ 4 hours)

Finally the old swastika was concealed. Now for the following day. The belly button area hurt real bad.

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(day 10)

The last official session! The only thing left was one more trip to do four hours of touch ups. When I returned home I was waiting for the final touch up session I had another film project I was working with. DuckRabbit is a film company from London, UK. They were contracted through the Kanishka Project that is coordinated by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.I was invited into the film series as a member of a steering committee. I was then approached to be a subject of one of the films. This counter violent extremist film series is to be shown in public schools all over Canada. Working with DuckRabbit reminded me that my story is important and I must keep pushing forward. I had also made some headway with my thesis committee. Things were looking up a bit more…although I still feel an vacancy in my heart.

The Sixth & Final Session Set

Two weeks before the final touch ups on my new ink, my daughter Madisson phoned me. She was laughing her ass off. She said she was at home showing her boyfriend family photos. She came across a picture of me (shirtless) and my two daughters when they were young. Apparently her boyfriend was shocked, and rightfully so.

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I was disheartened by the imprint I left in my kids’ minds. I polluted them when they were young. I corrupted them; but I have also taught them people can change. I have kept this tattoo cover up process a secret from my kids. The reason for keeping it a secret was in hopes that when I see them next I would take them to the beach and take off my shirt and see their expression. But after my daughter sent me this picture of me with two of my daughters I felt obligated to tell her…but I did wait till the day after my last session.

During the last session me and Rene shared some laughs. She may have even been happier than I was to finish the piece. She designed the piece. It is her art. Plus, when I reflect on my low pain tolerance, I think I was probably a challenging client. I winced and cringed. At least thats how I feel…perhaps I am a little hard on myself though.

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(day 11 @ 3.5 hours)

This is the final product!

Post Tattoo Session

ME ON BEACH

About three years ago my friend Rhonda Lee McIsaac challenged me to a bet. I do not recall the bet, but I know I lost. I owed her.  The agreement was that one day if/when I cover up my stomach swastika tattoo that I would send her a specific picture. She always loved the above picture of me when she saw it posted on my Facebook account. I promised to send her a picture of me flexing my muscles, like I did when I was goofing around at Moberley Lake as a kid.

So…even if I look like a fool…here you go RLM.

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I do risk a lot posting these goofy pictures, and my vulnerable truth, but here is the thing…this tattoo is more than about erasing hate. It is about reconnecting to the child I once was, the boy who was beaten and abused. I am allowing myself to share with my friends and the world the declaration of my vulnerability. I know how to love well. I know how to be loved. In moments it can be a very difficult state of being, especially when faced with demons…but I am doing it.

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(Adam Myhill)

We spent the following day in Adam’s film and photography studio in downtown Vancouver. We did some final interviews and photo shoot. When the shoot was over Damien and I walked down Granville Street, where I was recruited into the white supremacist movement many years ago. Damien indicated he had enough footage for a online teaser and a twenty minute documentary short film. Damien has indicated he is very interested in pursuing my story for a feature film . He wants to follow my successes. To date that includes a Bachelor degree in First Nations Studies, published writing, Masters in Social Work, and a life after hatred. After we walked and talked, we parted ways.

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(film maker Damien Gillis with the one and only beautiful Rene Botha)

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(Adam)

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The Final Chapter

I sent my daughter a text picture message of my new tattoo. I had to show her, that things changed and I want her to show her boyfriend that her dad got rid of that old hate shit. My daughter responded:

“holy shit…is that a tattoo?…or marker?”

I laughed so hard. I guess it would be hard to imagine her dad without that old tattoo, especially after sixteen years. Here next responses meant the world to me. While I write this blog post I can hear her voice.

“fuuuuqqqqq…I love you.”

One thing a Cree elder taught me was not to say good bye…we should always say see you soon or that is all for now till later…

ekosi maka

Sex Abuse, Phones, Suicide

Tonight I am unable to shake the memories of a conversation I had with a friend last year. It is more like an internal haunting. The conversation I had with my friend (R) reminded me of two other conversations I had with other friends (f) and (D).

Conversations about the tormenting ongoing agony of experiencing victimization. The child physical and sexual abuse that we all shared, perpetrated by different people in different spaces. Our experiences so different but the spiritual scars so similar. Every one of these three friends and conversations is about life and death. Tragic stories. My friends dead.

I am left with so many questions…

First the back story:

I was 17 (21 years ago) and nearly completed an 18 month sentence in juvenile detention. My friend (R) called me at the center to tell me our close friend (F) hung himself. My friend (F) who killed himself told me several times when we were younger why he wanted to die sometimes, we both trusted one another with our secret suicidal ideation and the abuse and pain that wouldn’t go away.

(This poem was written when I was 17, then edited and added to in 2012)

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Gang Brothers b.Screen Shot

(R) and I never talked for years, and years. Then last year (R) called out of the blue. He wanted to change his life. And he said “Daniel you are the only one in our circle of friends who climbed out of the hole we grew up in.  You understand me and I trust you like a brother. I want to kill myself. I can’t live like this another day.”

We talked about sex abuse and beatings and the crazy violent years we shared. He was hurting so badly, and secretly so was I. He was drunk, and I was sober, for twelve years. I invited him to get help and then he could come stay with me and clean up instead of suicide.  “ok. I will be there in a week,” (R) said excitedly.

He never did show up.

(R) called again a few weeks later pissed drunk and said “I am finished. I can’t keep living like this anymore. With this. I am done Daniel. I had to call you because I know you are the only one who really knows me and understands me. We been through the same shit.”

He reminded me of the conversation we had years ago after he was convicted of raping a girl.

“Daniel, you were the only one who sat with me and told me to my face what you thought of it honestly. You did that without telling me I was a piece of shit. You understood why I did it. If I even did it. Hell I don’t even remember if I did. But I do know I could have done it. It was done to me. You know that Daniel. You know what those bastards did to me. When you told me our friendship had to end but you will always love me. You were the only one who ever did that.”

I couldn’t lie to (R)  because I loved him, and I sure as shit could not lie to him last year when he called me on the phone disclosing that he could not continue living anymore. I did know in my heart why he wanted to die. It made sense. It was logical.

When you live with the memories of being a victim of child sexual abuse and physical abuse, which we both suffered and cannot trust anyone, or feel close to anyone, life feels pretty pointless. Its awful feeling like the world is pitted against you and the pressure inside the skull hurts so much you just want to die for relief. I understood the issues and thoughts (R) was describing. All of the stress from dealing with perpetrating abuse on top of all the abuse he had endured must have been way to much to deal with. I know I would have killed myself if I had to deal with that. I am glad I never did those ‘things.’ I was sad and hurt that he did. I watched my mother get beat and raped. That was an unforgivable act. I knew (R)’s spiritual tearing was very deep.

I couldn’t lie to him.

“Dude, you know I won’t lie to you. I love you. I often think sometimes that dying would have been easier than what I’ve had to live through in order to get to where I am. I lived for years on end in sheer emotional and mental agony, and suicidal, just to get to a place where I do actually want to live everyday. It would have been easier to die, but I had chosen to live. It does get better. It takes a long time, but it can happen. It ain’t easy bro.”

We talked a little longer. (R) said he had to end it all. I told him that I would miss him and that he knew I trusted him to do what he needed to do out of necessity and not malice. He just wanted the pain to stop. Me and (R) understood each other deeply. We both cried and said “goodbye.”

Soon after (R) was gone. He died blue, in a house that I used to party in when we were young.

When I got the news that (R) was gone, I was instantly reminded of a time when I was (D)’s twelve step sponsor. He was a former white supremacist skinhead. He would often call me upset that he couldn’t stay clean. He was proud he was not being violent or racist. That was a big accomplishment for him. But the benzos had him by the balls. Then one night he called me and said he was going to get high instead of meeting me like we planned the week before. I gave him alternatives. He declined. We got off phone.

(D) called back later that evening, he told me that he was going to kill himself. We talked awhile. He said that I understood him like no one else had. (D) said his hatred burns so deep because of the abuse he suffered and he couldn’t continue living and putting his parents through more hell with his addiction. I had to be honest with him. I was sad about his decision, but I could relate to his feelings. I explained to him that I could be there for him as long as he lives to the best of my ability. But we both knew I could not relieve what ailed him. He was calm cool and collected. I know why he felt he had to do it.

I told him I would miss him and asked him not too do it. But he had too.He said good-bye and hung up the phone. I was standing there in my kitchen crying. I knew he was slipping away.

He overdosed hours later in a hotel room. That was eight years ago.

…My questions:

Why did I survive?

How did I end up being the go-to “goodbye” friend?

Why am I still alive?

Will living get easier when I am in a silent room alone?

Will the memories of my screaming bloody raped mother ever leave my mind and body?

Will the pain of my childhood bruised face ever heal?

Will my bruised ribs ever heal, so I do not have to continue breathing memories of constant short breathes?

Will I ever dream in peace?

Will I ever be loved enough that someone wants to be next to me everyday in the most vulnerable ways?

Will it be possible to find a person to be a constant in my life every night?

Is it possible to meet someone who does not intentionally or inadvertantly hurt me?

Where are my three friends now?

Will I see them again?

Or is it only in my words that I am able to help them heal through my healing?

Do I miss them?

Or do I miss the connections I shared with them?

…so many questions, but the biggest one…

How and why have I survived this long?