This blog article is the first known publication in Canada related to Firearms, Gangs and Extremists that specifically comments on the intersections of gangs, extremism, firearms law and Internet in Canada.
This article is written with knowledge (of the author) that national security teams across Canada have failed to address the alarming fact that para military extremist training camps have emerged all over western Canada in the last two years. These training camps use both firearms and improvised explosives.
Also, gang units and national security teams are aware of the connections between gangs and extremist groups throughout Canada but choose to not address the interplay between gangs and extremists.
This article is written with the intention to contribute to a momentum of ideas for addressing a real problem: Firearms, Gangs, Extremists and the Internet.
In Canada there are stringent licensing requirements for issuing firearms licenses and buying firearms. Canadian governments (federal, provincial and municipal) started a national discussion on banning all handguns, along with other changes to existing firearms laws.
In recent years, extremism and terrorism has become a concerning reality in Canada. There have been numerous attacks, and depending upon who you talk to there have been more attacks than we are able to count and track. Some extremist and terrorist attacks in Canada have included firearms, however, I have yet to see any data on whether these firearms were legally owned or not.
Gangs have also wreaked havoc with gun violence in communities across Canada for decades. There is little data, to my knowledge, that evidences legal firearms are used in these attacks, rather, it appears that the majority of gang gun violence is perpetrated with illegal firearms. That being said, there seems to be a growing trend that somehow active gang members and extremists are able to acquire gun licenses; none of the proposed changes to firearms law address this matter.
Recent Media Coverage
Vice media has recently covered a story of Vernon resident Kaz Nowlin who has been a member of several right wing extremist organizations, including Soldiers of Odin (“SOO”) and III% (“3%”). Kaz and others openly advertise online that they are legal firearms owners and demand that their membership engages in training to protect Canada from, primarily, Muslim terrorists. Kaz and his crew have been engaging in combat training, while attempting to deceive media into believing they only use ‘air soft’ guns. SOO and 3% are not the only ones engaged in para military training in western Canada; and there are groups that are even more concerning (this will be saved for another day).
The SOO have garnered fame within media as being debated as a community interest group. The first Canadian SOO President was an employee of the Manitoba Provincial-Government who was publicly known to be connected to the Hells Angels. SOO is a right wing extremist group that has gained permissions to fly gang colors by the Hells Angels. Other members of SOO are known to have close affiliations with Hells Angels as well.
Journalists have contributed to recruitment campaigns of the SOO and similar groups. Since then, SOO has experienced a high turnover in members. Many SOO members have defected and became 3% members in western Canada. The 3% is an American right wing militia group that now intends to stand as a vanguard against Islam; both SOO and 3% are groups rooted within a movement that targets and promotes hate against an ethnic and religious minority in Canada.
Extremist groups and gangs now recruit and advertise online. The Internet is the primary tool to access mouldable minds, and is often an effective recruitment tool for dangerous people. Social media platformsare riddled with pictures of gangs and extremists in Canada who brandish their illegal firearms (aka weapons) without fear of reprisal.
While Vice has highlighted an issue with para military training, the article is only meant as a spring board for further enquiry. There are many things that the article does not address, nor expose. It merely ricochets off the target.
There is much to say about firearms law, and this article is not intended to dive into this murky and often nonsensical area of law and regulation.
It is important to highlight that Canadian Governments are intending and hoping to make Canadians safer by decreasing the amount of legal firearms, which in effect does not achieve the governments stated goals. Rather than approach the issue by speaking to real experts in the areas of gangs, extremism and firearms law to determine how to best prevent further gun violence and attacks, the governments are targeting legal firearms owners. This is wholly unfair and seems to be motivated by the political aspiration of optics, to make it appear that the government of the day is sufficiently upholding public safety.
There are more effective methods to approach gang gun violence, extremism and terrorist attacks than by taking measures against law abiding firearms owners.
Across Canada, both federal and provincial governments have sanctioned the legitimization of gangs and extremists by allowing them to take forms byway of incorporated companies and societies. Several of these legitimized criminal and extremist groups are known to be engaged with gun violence or para military training, yet authorities do not act on this. Some examples of government sanctioned gangs include groups mentioned herein: Hells Angels and Soldiers Of Odin.
Governments should be addressing the root of gun violence and extremist/terrorist attacks by responding more diligently to the behaviors of those responsible for much of the gun violence: gangs, extremists and terrorists. Legal firearms owners are not the root of the gun violence.
There are accessible, tangible and practical methods to curbing gun violence in Canada. This includes but is not limited to the following:
- Regulation and Rules may be established to prevent and revoke registration of federal and provincial incorporated companies and societies that are gang and extremist affiliated. Governments need to cease the sanctioning and legitimizing criminal and extremist organizations.
- Deny or revoke licenses to anyone who engages in any para military training with extremist groups (whether right wing, left wing or religious) for activities contrary to Canadian social policy including human and civil rights.
- Create Firearms Act Regulation that prohibit intimidation, threats or appearance of taking arms, or engaging gun violence, against any other citizen, group or nation; apply this to both community and cyber spaces.
- Create an effective reporting system for the Chief Firearms Office (“CFO”) and RCMP online that allows users to provide links and photo uploads of identifiable extremists and gangs who are brandishing weapons online; if not an online system, one that is more effective than the mere telephone system operated by CFO, as it is too logistically complicated to report online activity via telephone.
- Empower communities to effectively and legally respond to gangs and extremists. Create Canadian Internet Regulations that will deter gangs and extremists from using cyber spaces as recruitment and promotion because these groups pose dangers to our communities. Provide citizens, communities and incorporated non-government organizations with legal mechanisms to pursue injunctions and torts where gangs and extremists are brandishing firearms and other threatening behavior online.
- Develop checks and balance system to report police and authorities who refuse to investigate or take action when credible reports of gang or extremist activity are not acted upon. This can include tort liability, or any other mechanisms available to legislators.
If the root of the gun violence problem in Canada are criminals, gangs, extremists or terrorists, we should not be taking punitive measures against legal firearms owners, we ought to be focussing on those who are the problem.
I am one of a few people in Canada who have collected a small database of known extremists and gang members who do advertise para military training and brandish weapons online. To date, interest of authorities related to firearms brandished online by gangs and extremists is nil. This needs to change.
If the governments are serious about tackling gun violence they ought to address the roots of the problem.
It has been brought to my attention that Right Wing Extremist group, namely Soldiers of Odin (“SOO”), have been gaining publicity in Dawson Creek, BC.
Some community members are bothered by this, while it seems that local media, at least one non-profit agency and local RCMP appear to be responding in a way that exhibits their ignorance on right wing extremist groups, or even worse that they may support SOO. There are many reasons that the RCMP and the community ought to be concerned about right wing extremist groups that are recruiting new members.
I was born in Spirit River, Alberta, and lived in Rycroft as a young child. I spent much of my life at Moberly Lake and Chetwynd, BC. In fact, I began my academic career at the Dawson Creek Northern Lights College campus. I now hold a Masters in Social Work and Juris Doctor (Law) Degree. I am a registered professional with both the BC College of Social Work and the Law Society of BC (Decision).
I care about the communities in the Peace River District, which is my home. Members of the Peace River District communities helped me crawl out of a personal hell related to addictions, gangs and violent extremism. I understand hate groups and their strategies very well, as I have been there.
For those who do not know, I have been doing work for many years countering hate groups and white supremacist groups. In recent years, this has including contending with right wing extremist groups that claim they are not extremists and tout themselves as community interest groups, and more specifically the SOO. Anyone, including the RCMP, who state there is no reason to be concerned about this group has obviously not inquired into the activities of the groups members. The SOO have been linked to, and gained permissions from, the Hells Angels.
My sources report that the Hells Angels in BC, Manitoba and Ontario have established a network of affiliations with right wing extremists; this of course is not new information as the Hells Angels themselves have historically touted neo-nazi views and symbols. In recent years, it has become known that the Hells Angels are refortifying their links and granting permissions to right wing extremist groups and gangs to wear gang patches within the Hells Angels’ claimed territories (turfs); this is because these groups are often involved in drug dealing and their violent tendencies, which is good for biker business.
My academic research was centred on right wing extremist groups in western Canada, which has been cited by world leading scholars. Additionally, I have been consultant for media, governments around the world, law enforcement, academics and experts who work in the field of counter terrorism and counter violent extremism work. My work has been presented around the world to communities and world leaders.
Most recently, I was commissioned by the Canadian federal government to publish a paper for UNESCO about issues related to right wing extremists groups. In this paper written for policy makers, I address the increase of hate group activities, which include SOO. I address issues such as media being duped into essentially promoting groups like the SOO as community interest groups, rather than what they actually are. Also, how community professionals and agencies are also mislead about the nature of these groups who rely upon media for information.
Groups like the SOO utilize a recruitment strategy that garners controversial media discussions and then the group’s representatives tactically present themselves through rhetoric and what they call evidence of their good will. These tactics for recruitment are not foreign to right wing extremist groups. In fact fascist governments and hate groups have relied upon this sort of public image for a long time, This is what we call propaganda.
UNESCO has stated (in this report), and reiterated in my paper for UNESCO and others, media plays a role in perpetuating speaking platforms for hate groups, extremists and terrorists [also this report and this one have relevant materials too].
For those who do believe that Soldiers of Odin are inherently a ‘good will’ organization, I suggest you take the time to read this analysis of the group that I have provided and in this one (here). Experts have labelled SOO as a hate group (including Dr. Ryan Scrivens, Dr. Barbara Perry and myself). In spite of SOO’s statements that they are not a hate or extremist group, the origins and the banner of this group is inherently hateful. Additionally, SOO as an organization and it’s individual members have been at the very least affiliated with organized crime groups and do engage in harassment and intimidation campaigns. All of this plus they are actively promoting and disseminating hateful messages about immigrants, Muslims in particular.
I am very disappointed in the Community of Dawson Creek that includes non-profits, RCMP and local media for the public statements that present as supportive of this right wing extremist group.
I believe the citizens of Dawson Creek, and in the Peace River District, ought to take note that this group is not as it claims it is. It is possible that members of the community have joined the group with good intentions, however this group has been engaged in para military training and has been known to hold war preparation training camps based upon the paranoid view that Canada is under attack of a Muslim invasion.
The Soldiers of Odin are a hate group in the opinion of leading experts, including myself.
**For those who are interested in learning strategies of how to effectively respond these types of organizations, you may contact me for further information and support.**
Here is a list of all the articles from the Dawson Creek newspaper The Mirror (note that not one of these articles offers an in-depth analysis that provides a balanced enquiry of the criticisms of the Soldiers of Odin). For whatever reason The Mirror seems to be providing the extremist group with a recruiting platform.
I was recently interviewed about the Soldiers of Odin taking foot in BC. I see this as very problematic, in spite of the groups desire to claim they have no ties, nor intention, similar to that of the group they claim to be a part of. This, of course, is illogical; and in my opinion demonstrates how full of shit these guys are.
I decided to write this first letter to my fellow Canadians, and the latter to Soldiers of Odin as a whole.
Daniel Gallant is a registered Social Worker who studies law, and has been acknowledged as a leader on topics pertaining to right wing extremism in Canada. Daniel spent nearly ten years trapped within the white supremacist movement in western Canada, and has since dedicated his life to undoing violence, racism and hatred. His work has been presented to, acknowledged by and referenced by world leaders, governments, leadings scholars, global organizations, and law enforcement.
Dear Fellow Canadian Citizens,
Don’t believe the hype.
Soldiers of Odin (S.O.O.) are not here to protect you, nor your communities. This group claims, and may even believe, they are working for the greater good. But, this is clearly not true. I would like to tell you a few things about their organization.
First, S.O.O. is the by-product of the European white supremacist network. The group was designed in Northern Europe by hate mongers that aim to ‘cleanse’ neighborhoods from ‘immigrant hordes’. The group’s primary purpose is to engage in war and instill terror into its enemies, as that is a nature of war; for furthering context Soldiers of Odin were formed to target immigrants, Muslims and Islam. However, the Canadian leaders of this group want us to believe they have nothing to do with, nor are they alike or kin to, the hate group that birthed their organization, a little over one year ago.
Basically the Soldiers of Odin will do whatever it takes to hide behind every mask they can. Plainly speaking, if the group has no kinship with its white supremacist roots, then why did they join under the flag, and trademark, of the Soldiers of Odin. There does not appear to be any logical and rationale that could make this a plausible truth.
Soldiers of Odin began in Europe, formed by white supremacists, about a year ago. Now under that same flag, Chapters of the organization have spread throughout Europe and North America; all hailing anti-immigration sentiments and embracing right wing rhetoric. But, the Canadian chapter wants the citizens of Canada to be permissible and complicit in their inherently racist organization. This way they can both hide and fulfill their organization’s purpose. Hiding in plain sight.
WHAT IS IN A ‘NAME’
Soldiers of Odin are making claims that do not hold up to even the most basic logic testing.
For instance, let’s for a minute consider the name of the organization, “Soldiers Of Odin”, in itself demonstrates what the group is, and sets out to do. Odin is the god of war that honors those who die in battle to protect their race and soil. This is the odinist way. Anyone who claims otherwise, either is lying or does not understand the narrative they are supporting, which in itself demonstrates inconsistent messaging of this organization, or perhaps lies. These tactics are only utilized by those who have something to mask and hide.
Additionally, the term “odinism” was the construct of WWII era theorists, who were Nazis. The Nazis developed and branded odinism out of an ancient Nordic Pre-Christian Religion. The ancient pagan ‘religion’ was not called “odinism”, it is Asatru (and other variations of the like).
The Nazis created a new branch of neo-paganism, odinism, that had erupted into a real threat all over the world in the 1980s, which disguises itself as a cultural heritage ideology. Yet, just another way for extremist racists to hide their true ‘color’ (pardon the pun).
In our era of contemporary right wing politics and global issues pertaining to extremism and terrorism, these sorts of groups are emerging everywhere. And without a doubt, they are a threat to those that fall into identifiable categories. By this dynamic alone, is kin to the same way that racism plays out in our communities; it is schismatic in nature.
The main difference between Astatru and odinism, in a very rudimentary explanation, is that odinists worship the Nordic god of war. Odin is set out to protect soil and bloodlines. By this logic alone, Soldiers of Odin are there to protect their own race and land. This alone should be understood as racist in two ways:
- a) Soldiers of Odin was created as an anti-immigration organization to fight against the Muslim community, and
- b) which seeks to protect its (O.O.) own kind, and the S.O.O. membership is primarily ‘white’ people.
There is another discussion to be had about Soldiers of Odin and their impact upon indigenous peoples as well. But that is a more complex area of discussion to have in the future. But let me assure you, this is also an area where this group demonstrates pure ignorance and inconsistent messages. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to many people the S.O.O. will disguise itself, and it’s true purpose, function and structure by convincing members of the public otherwise.
SKINHEADS AND RACISTS
Soldiers Of Odin’s leaders claim they have purged out the racists from their organization. This is, flatly, a lie.
I was a part of the white supremacist movement in Canada for ten years. I have been engaged with online monitoring of white supremacist organizations now for nearly 12 years. I assure you that there is evidence that proves the S.O.O. are soo full of poop, on this point alone. This is actually a ridiculous claim. They are flatly denying the presence of racists in their midst to the Canadian Public, while on the other hand have embraced white supremacists within their ranks; and remember that they were also founded by white supremacists.
White supremacists and racists have been praying to odin before beating and killing people on our streets, for decades. Some of you may even remember David Bowie’s 1987 album Tin Machine warning us about racist odinists in his song entitled: Under the God. This is not a new issue.
Not only do the Soldiers of Odin have white supremacists in their ranks, but the leadership does engage in many forms of rhetoric that synthesizes the nature and conduct of, and is derived from, white supremacist groups.
S.O.O. has engaged in social media attacks against those who oppose or critique their organization; and this is why I have chosen to speak out.
Community leader and long-time anti-racist Alan Dutton has been interviewed about his opinion of Soldiers of Odin Chapter that was recently started in Vancouver. Soldiers of Odin members and leadership has began referring to the opposition as enemies and then referring to their critiques as “antifa”.
This is precisely what fascist, nazi and white supremacists do. In fact, the rhetoric and dynamic of attempting to discredit someone, by labelling them as antifa, is birthed out of the white power movement.
Antifa are people who are anti-fascist. Already, Soldiers of Odin have launched social media attacks against those they label as antifa, which surely they will label me. This is very problematic for a couple of reasons:
First, when did we as a society begin to say that Anti-Fascists are a bad thing?
Second, did Canada not take a formal position against the fascist Nazi Regime in WWII?
How can Soldiers of Odin claim to be upholding Canadian law and values when they are attacking those who stand up against racism and fascism. It seems that Soldiers of Odin are working contrary to our legal system.
The fact that S.O.O. is attacking antifa online, is indicative of the similar conversations found on white supremacist websites. This is a core contradictory element of their organizations discourse. This does demonstrate the ideological lineage of Soldiers of Odin’s members. I do not think, nor expect, most Canadians can easily identify these issues. But, I can, as I spent nearly a decade immersed in that lifestyle; and more than a decade of unlearning the doctrine.
My years within the white supremacist movement in western Canada, to my profound social change, and now my current role as an educator, researcher, advocate, Social Worker and future career as a lawyer, compel me to express to you that this group, in my opinion, are a threat to safety of ALL Canadians. Especially to minority groups and vulnerable persons.
It has been demonstrated to me, through my research on the Soldiers of Odin that there is a grave concern that emerges in the influx of their membership, and the fact that many people who are not attracted to white supremacy, are being duped into this new organization.
I will support any group that keeps our streets safe for ALL Canadians. However, not only are the Soldiers of Odin unsafe because they are inherently racist and war-minded as an organization (as is demonstrated by evidence found in their organizations founder and group name), they have also proven to be comprised of liars, racists, extremists and bullies who belittle immigrants and anti-racists. This alone should raise flags about who and what the Soldiers of Odin are.
Canadians should be concerned with this group that is reminiscent of the Heritage Front.
Daniel Gallant (MSW, RSW)
Juris Doctor Candidate – 2017
Dear Soldiers of Odin,
It has come to my attention that you have now ‘set up shop’ in Canada, by rapidly expanding Chapters of your ‘organization’ across Canada. Let’s not waste time, nor mince words.
Your organization has already demonstrated dishonesty, incongruence and hatred against your fellow citizens. Your politics are divisive and the evidence is found in your online campaign, organizational conduct, onslaught of misinformation and the fact that you have members who are members of various Canadian hate groups (both past and present). Heck, even your organization’s name speaks to the violent nature of your organization’s intent: war for the sake of ‘blood, soil and honor’.
There are several things I would like to hash out with Soldiers OF Odin and air publicly, some of which is in this letter, and more in my letter to all Canadians. We will surely engage more discourse as time moves forward, as I have a wealth of knowledge, insight, education and stamina.
Your ‘respective’ leader (Joel Angott) indicated (in Metro News article) that you all uphold Canadian law, and our collective Constitutional Rights. Obviously your organization does not understand what a Constitutional Right is. There are only a few ways in how S.O.O. could possibly frame the façade that you all uphold the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution. However, we both know this is complete bull-pucky.
If you had any clue what a Constitutional Right was, then you would not be attempting to claim your neighbourhood patrols protect Constitutional Rights in Canada. Let me explain further.
Canadian Constitutional Rights, are guarantees, in law, that Canadians receive to empower us as citizens. Guarantees that protect us of from the conduct and actions of government, police and authorities of certain variety. Moreover, Constitutional Rights are engaged as a legal protection that are sorted out through the legal system, not by walking through neighborhoods creating an environment of fear and intimidation.
I am sorry to inform you that you do not, in fact, nor law, protect Canadians’ Constitutional Rights. You are a group of self-appointed, not democratically elected, thugs who ‘patrol’ streets against our own citizens. These actions, even if righteous, are in no way connected to upholding our Constitutional Rights.
If S.O.O. were in fact upholding our Constitutional Rights you all would be working within legal strategies against the government and authorities, where there were Constitutional failings and pitfalls. You would not be involving yourself in right wing extremism and organized crime circles.
I do want to acknowledge, however, that we do agree on some matters. Our laws do not protect citizens well enough from pedophiles, rapists and other social ailments. But to be frank, I do not believe you are our solution to these matters. In fact, quite the contrary. This is where I find your organization very similar to white supremacist groups. Your group appeals to those people who are rightfully angered about the abuses and grievances they and their loved ones may have suffered. Soldiers of Odin capitalizes upon these vulnerabilities, and exploits citizens by doing so, while fooling un-suspecting people into your ranks. However, this mere tactic to garner public attention and community support is bound to fail because it is not transparent and congruent; rather it is coercive and manipulative.
Fortunately, there are those of us who have a deeper understanding through personal experience, education and formal research of how organizations like yours get started; and then move onto becoming a threat to Canadian public safety.
I hope that you take this input, how it is intended. My intention is to show you that your organization is publicly speaking out of line, on matters it knows not; and that the rhetoric you are attempting to sell is exposed for what it is: abusive.
Additionally, I do hope you become aware that there are those in our communities who care about sustainable public safety. Organizations like S.O.O., albeit believe they are righteous, are actually creating more divisiveness in our communities and are spreading hatred and fear in the very communities you claim to protect. The very fact that organizations of minorities are expressing concern, and your leaderships response is defensiveness and offensive rhetoric, both demonstrate and exemplifies your organizations nature; the intent of the Soldiers of Odin, hence, your organization’s name that pays homage to the god of war.
Let us, in summary, cut to the chase.
Soldiers of Odin membership includes racists, white supremacists, criminals and liars. S.O.O. was created to instil fear and conduct acts of violence in a war, that odin would adore. It is unfortunate that your predecessor, odin himself, would probably be very disappointed in your tactics and dishonesty.
Perhaps the next time you want to sell the Canadian public a stench ridden pile of steaming crap, you may want to consider a re-brand that does not overtly emulate the true nature of your group’s purpose: abuse, war & racism.
Daniel Gallant (MSW, RSW)
Juris Doctor Candidate – 2017
My undergraduate degree took eight years to complete. I took two years of Cree language at the University of Alberta. The reason I took Cree as a second language was two-fold.
(picture of me in 2004)
First, it was necessary to take a second language course in order to meet the perquisites for the Criminology program I wanted to apply for. I did not want to take the second bi-lingual language of Canada, French, because in my youth I used to hate French class. I was forced to learn French in elementary school. I did not know any French people or anyone who spoke French. I felt I was being forced to do something I did not want to do. That was in my first four years of elementary school. I would sit in class hungry all the time.
Throughout my childhood I was chastised by my parents for eating to much. I was always hungry. I would eat the food they provided and still feel anxious with hunger. Perhaps that is because we were constantly fed boxed food with little nutritional value; or perhaps it was because I was a “bottomless pit” and a “big mouthed biaffron,” as my step-dad liked to call me. Nonetheless, the food I ate left me feeling empty, hungry and anxious. So to quench my hunger I relied on sugar. I became a sugar addict at a young age. In between classes I would take packets of sugar out of my pocket and dump it into my hand. I would throw the sugar into my mouth and then I would chase it back with water from the fountain in the school hallways. I remember being resistant and outright angry that I had to sit in that “stupid class.” My heart would be racing as I licked my lips in search of any left over grains of sugar. The only thing that got me through my classes was the sugar I kept in my pocket; sometimes white sugar, other times icing sugar.
Since I had no interest in French language I decided I would take Latin courses to meet the prerequisites for the Criminology program I wanted to apply to. After registering for Latin class I had an epiphany: “why was I wanting to take Latin?”
I considered Latin because the white supremacist organization I was a member of, World Church of the Creator (now called the Creativity Movement, due to a legal battle over trademark infringement of the name) utilized Latin within their higher ranking members i.e. reverends and supreme leader. As I was only two years out of the grips of addiction at that point and only a year from when I had separated from white supremacists and racist skinheads; I was still facing many issues. I was in midst of an identity crisis. My intuitive thoughts and feelings were that I was best off to avoid Latin as it was to close to the the white supremacist doctrine. If I had truly wanted to leave that life behind me, I had to distance myself from that type of thinking. I grabbed the University of Alberta’s school calendar and looked to see what other options they had for second language courses.
I went through a long list of languages I did not have any interest in. Spanish was the only real interest I had because I had developed a deep attraction to several women with South American accents. After considering that motivating factor for taking a class, I had decided that my attraction of a women’s accent was probably not the best reason to base my decision on. I continued through the list and came across the Plains Cree language. A light went on. I lived on a reserve up north. I stayed in a cabin with two elders in their 90s who barely spoke English, they spoke Cree and Saulteaux (Anishnabe variation [Ojibiway, Oji-Cree]).
As I was not very insightful, and quite ignorant of the depth of my racist programming I thought to myself: “If I took a primitive language like Cree it may benefit me. I am trying to change my thinking. What better way than to challenge myself to take a primitive language with very little words. Maybe I could learn to connect to my more primitive self in order to simplify my intellectualism.”
I was quite full of myself. I was very ignorant. In retrospect, I had an abhorrent and archaic racist worldview that was riddled with paradoxes, oxymorons and contradictions. My thinking that Cree was “primitive” was grossly misinformed. I am ashamed of myself when I think back to that type of thinking, which I had for most of my life. It is embarrassing to know that I had even lived on Indian Reserves, my close friends had been First Nations, and yet I still viewed ‘them’ as wild indians that hunted with bow and arrows and barely able to speak. I was programmed by the society I was raised in to have an inherently racist perspective of indigenous peoples. After considering my thoughts at the time, I also had another pivotal consideration that led me to selecting Cree as a second language.
(picture of me in 2004)
When I was thirteen years old my Kohkum took me in. She gave me a home. She had never abused me. Neither did her daughters. The women in the Lalonde family were the most caring women I had ever known. They loved me, even when after I had dedicated my life to right wing extremism. I was not biologically attached to the family, but they treat me like they do the rest of the family. Even though I am not in close contact anymore the community network they have spreads across western Canada. Everywhere I go, I meet and see people tied to the Lalonde family. They know my personal story, or at least general pieces of it. I had even gone to a friends family christmas dinner in another city only to find out that one of my Auntie’s from the Lalonde family was close with the people I was dining with. I was, and am, welcomed and loved by people all over western Canada due to the fact that Kohkum took me in when I was young and loved me like no one else would.
Decidedly I enrolled in the Cree class. I ended up taking two years of the Cree language classes at University of Alberta. The class began by conversations between students and teacher; first we learned about one another. We did not even engage with Cree language until we got to know one another first. We got to know and trust each other. Even people from my class knew Kohkum, who lived in another province. She is a respected Elder and Matriarch.
As the class went on, I realized and experienced many profound personal and social transformations. The lessons I received from the Cree class are too long to list. I will emphasize these lessons within my future studies and autobiographic writings. For now, I am going to share with you one of the first assignments I was able to put together within the first year of my Cree studies.
Please take into consideration that I am NOT fluent in Cree language; I am not a Cree speaker; I do not represent the Cree language, culture, nor people; I am not claiming that this is a perfectly contextualized example of Cree language or literacy…but…
This is something I am proud of accomplishing. It took everything I had to not cry in gratitude when I stood in front of a class of indigenous students who welcomed me, even with my hateful past, and to give me the opportunity to grow and learn and unlearn my racist ideology. The students, professors, language holders, and Matriarchal Elders who taught me in those two years have profoundly affected my life today; more than a decade later. The work I do would not be possible without the inherent lessons I had learned from the students and teachers and the beautiful structure of inherent teachings built into a dynamic and complex language system of the Cree peoples. Throughout my learning process I had two close friends, who are my brothers now. They supported me and helped me throughout my time in the Cree language courses. These men are spiritual support for me.
Everywhere I go both Chief Jerry Goodswimmer and Gary Moostoos walk with me. I can hear their lovingly teasing comments about my learning and bastardizing their language. I can hear their laughs and see their beautiful smiles. These two men have profoundly impacted my life. They taught me love and had more patience for me than I think I have had for anyone or anything. They worked with me and mentored me to unlearn my racist mind. They also know I am still on this path, and I am doing the best I can. Gary had gifted me with the most valuable gifts I had ever received in my life.
(picture of me in 2005)
He showed me the truth about love and acceptance. My Kohkum, my Aunties, Gary, and Jerry…all of you…I love you and respect you. I thank you with deep gratitude for the roles you played in my life and the lessons you offer me even when you are not physically present.
Cree Language Biography
June 2, 2004
Nitisîyihkâson Daniel Clayton Gallant. Nîya nîstotanaw kekâtahtosâp kayâ sihaskiya. Nikînihtâwikinihk Spirit River, Alberta.
Nikîwîkinihk nisto provinces. Nohtâwiy Geoffrey Stanley Thomas, kikînipin. Kînihtâwikiw Walesihk. Kînipiw kekâmitâtahtosâp kikîhitahtopiponew. Kikînipiw Spirit River-ihk, Alberta. Nimihtatnipihâw nohtâwiy nipimohtehon.
Nitayâwâwak newo awâsisak. Peyak nitânis, Jessica Amy Rex, ohci nistosâp itahtopiponew. Kînihtâwikiw White Rockohk, British Columbia. Peyak nitânis, Madisson Lynn Gallant, nikotwâsik itahtopiponew. Kînihtâwikiw Fort Saint Johnihk, British Columbia. Peyak nitânis, Daryan Patricia Gallant, newo itahtopiponew. Kînihtâwikiw Chetwyndihk, British Columbia. Nikosis nîso itahtopiponew. Kînihtâwikiw Dawson Creekohk, British Columbia. Mâka epeyakoyân ekwa nimihtâtâwak nitawâsimisâhak. Nikîhayâwâw peyak atim, kitisîyihkâson Tyrus, nikotwâsik itahtopiponew.
Nikîhitohtân peyakosâp kiskinohamâkot’kamikwa pâmayes ayinânew ehayamihtâyân. Pâmayes nikîtitahtopiponân tepakohposâp nikîwîkin ohci nîso askîya kipahotô kamikohk. Nikamaciapacihtânminihkwewin ekwa nikîmâcikon’tamisiwepayihcikewin pâmayes ehitahtopiponeyân nistosâp. Papâmi nikîtitahtopiponân nîsotanaw nikotwâsikosâp nikîmâcihiyinîhkah. Nikîwâpamâwak mistahihowîcihtâsowak.
Nikîmôniyâwohpikin, nikîtâpwewakeyimâw môniyâwak ayâwewak sôhkisiwak ekwa tipeyihcikâte nehiyawaskîwin ekwa nehiyawayisiyiniwak. Ninisitaweyimâw nipakwatamawâw. Nikocîkweskînâw. Nikakweskînâw. Nikîkweskînâw. Nitatamihâw, nikahawîyakmâmawôhkamâton. Nikehtinâw ekosi ayisiyinîw.
Nikatahkamnehiyaw’kiskinohamâkosin. Nicîhkesten nikiskinohamâson. ay ay.
My name is Daniel Clayton Gallant. I am 29 yrs old. I was born in Spirit River, Alberta. I lived in 3 provinces.
My father is Geoffrey Stanley Thomas, he had died. He was born in Wales. He died at age 19. He died in Spirit River, Alberta. I grieved the loss of my father through my life.
I have four children. My one daughter, Jessica Amy Rex, is 13 yrs old. My 1 daughter, Madisson Lynn Gallant, is 6 yrs old. My one daughter, Daryan Patricia Gallant, is 4 yrs old. My son, Kieron Geoffrey Joseph Gallant, is 2 yrs old. But I live alone and I miss my children. I had one dog, his name is Tyrus, and he is 6 yrs old.
I went to 11 different schools by grade 8. Before age 17 I lived in jail for about 2 yrs. I started to abuse alcohol, and I started to abuse drugs before age 13. About the age of 26 I started to heal. I saw many social workers.
I grew up like a white person. I did believe white people had power and controlled Cree land and Cree people. I recognize my hate. I try to change. I have changed. I am indebted to helping all people. I respect all people.
I will continue to learn Cree. I enjoy my teacher thank you.
Môniyâwohpiki: AI- grew up like white person,
Pimohteho: VA-travel through life, live one’s life
Mihtat: PRE-V PART.-grieved
Tâpwewakeyim: TA-believe in
Môniyâs: AI- white people
Ayâw: TA- to have plural
Sôhkisi: AI-power or powers
Tipeyihcikâte: II-to control or govern-ii
Nisitaweyim: TA- recognize
Pakwatamaw: TA- hate,dislike
Nikakweskinâw: TA-I will change
Nikîkweskinâw: TA-I have changed
Atamih: TA- indebted
Mâmawôhkamâto: AI- help
Nikahawîyakmâmawôhkamâton: AI- I will help anyone
Ayisiyinîmwak: TA-people (plural)
Nehiyaw’kiskinohamâkosi: AI- to learn cree
Nikatahkamnehiyaw’kiskinohamâkosin: AI- I will continue to learn cree.
Kiskinohamâso: AI- to be taught
I throw this declarative poetic narrative out there for all those who continuously ask me my background and to the institution I am studying in and all of their silly little ticky boxes. They are missing a ticky box for me. Tonight after a talk with my auntie Audrey I decidedly post this piece.
This piece is unpublished at this time but was one of 30 pieces that I submitted and won award for as an emerging writer about land and aboriginal issues.
This year has been filled with travel all over BC and Alberta. Currently visiting the DTES of Van City aka East Van (downtowneastside of Vancouver). This morning I was driving to go for a coffee on Commercial Drive before meeting a documentary film crew I have started working with this month.
The documentary piece is a promotional story pitch to present to funders about my journey in life. I left home first at age 12 from Toronto to northern BC. By 14 I hitch hiked to East Vancouver and began my street involvement on the DTES. This resulted in struggles with addiction, gangs, right wing extremism, homelessness, criminality, and extreme violence.
In the work I do in the last twelve years I share many stories about my experiences. My introduction to my dear friend Garry Gottfriedson, who is also my writing mentor, was the first person I ever shared a poem I wrote. He asked me to. I trusted him. We then forged a strong bond. Now, with Garry’s guidance I am a published writer in both poetry and creative non-fiction.
That first poem I wrote was edited down into three smaller poems in a series. It was about the DTES prostitution, Johns, and feminist based social justice issues. I wrote the poem in Dr. Si Transken’s class, who later became my thesis supervisor for my Masters degree.
In 2012, Dr. Transken invited me to read a poem at the Art-ivism event which was largely feminist based activists and artists. I was honoured. So I honoured her by reading the first of the three poems I read. It was called God Is Dead.
This year, 2013, I was invited to be a return reader. This year I read part three of the poem, Pickton’s Princesses. Perhaps next year I will read the third called Chicken Soup.
As I was driving to commercial drive today, on the corner of Commercial Drive and East Hastings there was a chicken slaughter house. I could not remember where the slaughter house was, but I recall the smells and images from when I was living on the streets. But today there were signs in front of the slaughter house. Along with the signs were two beautiful social activists.
I had to stop. I was in tears for a moment sitting in my car. It was a surreal moment as often happens when I am reminded of my past and where I am now in life. It is a miracle. I got out of my car and went and talked to one of the gals. She invited me to email her my poetry. I then told her I would write this blog, link their website, and post my poems.
They are doing important work. She talked about how the abusive raising of chickens in an urban area through cruel practices is abhorrent, then went on to talk about the contrast of the prostitution in the neighbourhood that is still going on; twenty years after I had been down there, both the slaughterhouse and the prostitution and poverty. She was a beautiful mind. I wanted to hug her, and I would have if she was not soaking wet from the Vancouver rain. They have been out every week protesting for months. Good job people.
I find it interesting how the majority of social justice advocates I come across are women. From First Nations communities, to organized protests, and rally organizers. I guess there is truth in the concept that women can be more connected to self and the world then their counter-parts downtrodden by institutional hyper-masculinity; much like I was for a long time. But, we do recover when we work at it.
I am thanking Liberation BC for the work they are currently doing.
The first poem is called God is dead which was published in SFU’s West-Coast-Line No. 72 in 2012; also was read at the Aboriginal Weaving Words Storytellers festival and Artivism event at UNBC in 2012.
The second poem, Chicken Soup, was never read publicly, nor published yet. I did however read it to Garry Gottfriedson’s family in his living room on Boxing Day in 2011.
The third poem, Pickton’s Princesses, was also published in West Coast Line No. 72. It was read at Artivism event in 2013.