Tag Archive | Chetwynd

Big Mistake: Dawson Creek & Soldiers of Odin

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.

  1. https://www.dawsoncreekmirror.ca/absolutely-disgusting-dozens-blitz-beatton-valley-for-spring-cleanup-1.19255763
  2. https://www.dawsoncreekmirror.ca/dawson-creek-news/why-are-the-soldiers-of-odin-marching-in-dawson-creek-1.23463016
  3. https://www.dawsoncreekmirror.ca/dawson-creek-news/soldiers-of-odin-chapter-operating-in-peace-region-1.23463601
  4. https://www.dawsoncreekmirror.ca/opinion/editorial/i-don-t-know-is-the-last-bastion-of-the-ignorant-in-an-iphone-information-heavy-2018-1.23178371
  5. https://www.dawsoncreekmirror.ca/dawson-creek-news/spcrs-to-re-examine-volunteer-standards-and-procedures-wants-public-feedback-1.23467505
  6. https://www.dawsoncreekmirror.ca/dawson-creek-news/spcrs-to-re-examine-volunteer-standards-and-procedures-wants-public-feedback-1.23467505
  7. https://www.dawsoncreekmirror.ca/dawson-creek-news/peace-region-soldiers-of-odin-talk-with-the-mirror-1.23468983
  8. https://www.dawsoncreekmirror.ca/dawson-creek-news/dc-rcmp-aware-of-soldiers-of-odin-no-concerns-for-safety-nor-about-recruiting-efforts-in-mile-zero-1.23474365

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

Biography in Cree

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)

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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)

From Edm Journal

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)

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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.

hiy hiy

Cree Language Biography

by

Daniel Gallant

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.

English Translation

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.

Glossary

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

Kweskin: TA-change

Nikakweskinâw: TA-I will change

Nikîkweskinâw: TA-I have changed

Atamih: TA- indebted

Mâmawôhkamâto: AI- help

Nikahawîyakmâmawôhkamâton: AI- I will help anyone

Kehtin: TA-respect

Ayisiyinîmwak: TA-people (plural)

Nehiyaw’kiskinohamâkosi: AI- to learn cree

Nikatahkamnehiyaw’kiskinohamâkosin: AI- I will continue to learn cree.

cîhkesta: TI-enjoy

Kiskinohamâso: AI- to be taught

Dan Green “the electric indian”

I dedicate this story to those who were my friends and family by choice.

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When I was a young boy my family gave me the nick name “Goober Pea.” I was always listening to my grandpa Clay’s favourite singer, Burl Ives. I would put ol’ Burl on the turntable and listen to his vinyls for hours on end. I would sing along with Burl to many songs: Frosty the Snowman, Mr. In-Between, and Goober Peas.

“Peas, peas, peas, peas, eating Goober Peas. Wouldn’t it be delicious eating Goober Peas.”

Burl sang this song and my grandpa would tell me that it was about World War I and how the soldiers just wanted to come home, so badly, to eat their delicious big beautiful green Goober Peas cooked for them by their moms. I loved my granddad, and I loved eating peas. I loved the color green, it tasted so great.

My auntie Linda made me a handmade stuffed felt Goober Pea. Every time auntie Linda would see me she would grab my face and kiss my cheeks and say “I just love you so much Goober Pea.”

I would smile inside. Auntie Linda always made me feel so loved. I was filled with green Goober love. Auntie would pick peas from her garden and we would sit their joking and laughing and eating peas while singing the anthem: Goober Peas. But, i will let you in on a little secret, Goober Peas were not exactly as I was told what they were. They were not actually green, nor were they peas.

Goober Peas are more accurately described by Johnny Cash when he sings with Burl Ives. They are Peanuts.

But life was not always so great. I had experienced many abuses at home. I was exposed to grotesque physical and sexual violence, drug addiction and alcoholism in our family home. My step dad’s beatings got so bad I had to leave home.

After I had left home at age twelve, I ended up living on an old Metis settlement community and two Indian Reserves. I was a white boy rejected for being an indian, and accepted by the Indians because I was an indian; at least an indian by heart.

I hate myself so badly I had been hospitalized several times for suicide attempts. By the age of fourteen I was hospitalized a total of six months for three separate overdoses. After my second hospitalization I was released into my parents custody. I hated them and did not want to be near them. When I was released it was early December, 1989.

One night as I was sitting in the basement alone, I was hurting inside so bad that I just wanted to die. I was alone with a room full of Christmas lights. I took one of the strands of lights down from the window. I pulled out my knife and cut off the end and stripped the wires bare. I took out every single light bulb and smashed them with my closed fist against the wall. One light bulb at a time. The shards of glass embedded warmly into my knuckles. One of my favorite feelings was the burning sensation I would get, as I would pick out the glass from my knuckles. That was a habit, I started at the age of thirteen.

I turned on the radio to listen to my last song as I truly intended to die that night. It was a Testament song called Envy Life playing on the midnight metal show. Chuck Billy, the lead singer was a fucking big Pomo indian.

“Make sure your reach does not exceed your grasp. All that is to be done before you act. In a pact of invoking spirits from your past. You’re as good as dead. The lost souls of time. Envy life. Envy life.”

I took the end of the Christmas lights and plugged it into the wall, the other end I slowly put into my mouth. Then a bright blue spark snapped and bit my lips and the music stopped, lights went out. I heard the breaker in the wall above me slam. Then I heard my parents moving about upstairs. I quickly jumped up and turned the breaker back on. I touched the burnt end of the wires together and there was no more juice. I knew it was time to leave again. I packed my stuff and vanished into the wind.

After years of roaming the northern parts of BC and Alberta, I made my way down to the big city of Vancouver. I had many adventures. Some of these escapades ended me up in juvenile facilities for two years. When I got out I was 17 years old.

Sanchez

I headed back up north for a short visit so I could go get my friends from Moccasin Flats, the Metis settlement, and bring them to Vancouver with me. I had been placed in an apartment by child welfare after getting out of juvvy.

I was feeling more rebellious than normal, because I had decided to be ‘straight-edge’ when I got out of juvenile facilities. I was drug and alcohol free for a little over a year. I was angry and pissed off. I was not going to be held back, beat up, pushed around, nor told what to do by anybody. I was rebelling.

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I wore 14 holed doc martins. Green Army short and pants, usually shorts. Long sleeved black shirt that was a few sizes to big for my skinny frame. I had chewed holes into the sleeves in order to wear my sleeves like gloves, that way when I was skateboarding and wiped out, I would have a little protection on my palms. When it got cold my fingers and knuckles would swell up. I had gotten frostbite when I was about fourteen from hitch hiking highways in the north in the middle of winter. I think I permanently damaged my hands. I still have pain in my hands today when its cold. I shaved my long thick hair into a Mohawk that I dyed green.

The night I dyed my hair green my friends and I got into a huge fight with my neighbors. My friends had come down with me to the Vancouver area; to my apartment in Surrey.  My neighbors were gang bangers. We ended up beating a guy severely. Then later that night him and his gang attempted to do a home invasion on us, at my apartment. The end result was that me and my skinny Metis friend Jason, who was like a brother to me, ended up getting arrested for shooting one of the guys.

There was news cameras and police all over our yard. That next day when me and Jason were back at the apartment with everyone else,we watched the news and burst out laughing. “A party in North Surrey got out of hand last night when this man was arrested for shooting another man.”

There was me getting put into the police car with my long green hair, green doc martins, green army shorts and black long sleeve shirt. I looked like a hoodlum. Obviously Jason did not look as crazy as I did because he did not make it into the news that day. Robert was laughing so hard as he sat there with his arm around his girlfriend Amanda, “hahaha there is Dan Green the electric indian.”

After that day for the following months, years and decades I was known as Dan Green ‘the electric indian.’

Many of my friends like Robert have died while suffering from abuses that they lived through. Only a few friends have gone on to be successful in their careers. Jason is a respected cook, artist/artisan, and an amazing musician.  Me, well I have become a writer by my own rebellious virtue.

To this day I can be seen wearing green shirts, shorts, hoodies and pajamas. I ride a green bicycle and I love eating peas. I still hum the Burl Ives tune in my head some days. I love visiting my auntie Linda who still calls me Goober Pea. All while, back on the rez there are still a buncha people still thinking about that crazy electric indian named Dan Green.