l was born in Sioux Lookout, Ontario. My earliest memory is spending time with my “kokum” Clara as a young child. She made the best food. At school they called me stupid and retarded. I had trouble learning and stuttered when I spoke. It was really hard to talk the way other people talked. I would go to my aunt’s in Hudson and play with the family dog. Those were times when I felt safe and happy.
There were a lot of parties and drinking at my house. My brother guarded the door while adults were fighting outside the bedroom.
I remember helping my grandparents with chores like dishes and helping out around the house. I remember hunting for beaver, moose, ducks with my grandfather. We’d go fishing and catch lots of fish. We used to go camping for a few weeks at a time in the bush. I really enjoyed those times.
We ended up moving to another relative’s home in Sandy Lake. Then we stayed at my grandparent’s house for a few months. We moved to different foster homes out of Sandy Lake and lived in Dryden, Fort Hope and different reserves and towns. I didn’t like moving around so much, especially to homes with parents who were mean and really strict. We eventually moved to live with some other relatives and had a good home for about 5 years. I have lots of good memories. We did things as a family. We would go to the store together, go for drives and take the dogs out for long walks in the bush. I was teased a bit in school but not as much. After I was moved from this home I was unhappy and didn’t listen to anyone. I used to be dared to do bad things and I would do the dares even when it got me into trouble.
We kept moving.
My brother & sister and I returned to live my mother and father in Sioux Lookout. We lived together for two years. I was 13. It was some pretty good years. We got along well together. My dad was starting to get sick. He used to cough a lot. I was always very close to my father and we had a special relationship. We had many talks together and I could share my feelings with him.
My mom was drinking and not taking care of us and my dad had left to go to Winnipeg for his medical appointments. I tried to take care of my mother when she was drunk and I asked to go visit my grandmother in Sandy Lake. I asked if I could stay with my grandmother until my father got better.
The three of us lived with my grandmother for a long time. We ended up moving back to Sioux Lookout and then we found out that my father had cancer. He had difficulties getting around. My parents ended up fighting a lot. My older sister ended up taking us in to live with her and her boyfriend and then we all went to live at an uncle’s house for about a year. It was a very good year. I remember watching movies and playing video games with my cousins. Finally there was no more fighting in my life.
At school, things were good when they put me into wrestling. It helped me to get my anger out. I remember in grade 10 I won 3rd place in a tournament. I learned a lot from my coach about life and how to handle my emotions. In grade 11 I won second place. I won the most improved player MIP medal that year. I found a very good friend through wrestling and we were as close as brothers. He would help me at school after that. I could go to him if other kids were teasing me and he would get them to back off.
My father died just after my 17th birthday. I remember that before he died I gave him the wrestling medal I won and he was so proud. I tried six times to kill myself. I was so angry my father left me. I wanted it to be me that died.
Things got very difficult at home. My sister l was struggling with my mom who was living with us at the time and she was drinking even more since my father died. She moved us out and we lived with her boyfriend and his parents for a few months before they broke up and we got our own place. We were always arguing. I got into a lot of trouble at that time. I ended up being charged for sexual assault . I had started a friendship with a girl and we used to hang out. I was not sure of her age. I remember that we really got along. We had the same disability and could understand each other. When I got arrested I didn’t understand what was happening to me. Nobody told me who I could date or explained that she was much younger than me and I should not be with her.
I had an assessment and when I was told I had FASD It really helped me to understand myself when I got my diagnosis. I was given a counsellor and got support from ODSP and the Sioux Lookout Association for Community Living. I graduated with my Ontario Certificate when I was 20 years old. I wasn’t able to graduate with my diploma because of my disability but I did receive a special graduate certificate. My sisters and relatives and my mother came to my graduation. It felt really good.
I had a job working at the grocery store and was there for a few months but had trouble getting along with some of my coworkers so I quit. I was in more trouble. I got involved with the same girl and didn’t tell anyone. I thought that we loved each other and kept in contact with her.
At home we had no food in the house and we were behind in rent and going to be kicked out and I was afraid. My sister overdosed and went into the hospital. I could not watch her destroy herself so I moved out. I ended up homeless and tried to find different friends to live with.
I moved into my friend’s and parent’s house in December last year. I always enjoyed going over there to play games; having meals and lots of laughs together. I found out my younger brother had left home and moved in a month earlier. I ended up buying myself a comfy bed and found that everyone was very happy to have me living there. I didn’t know they were worried about me for a very long time. I started to get more support from the association for community living and workers helped me with work and my life.
Things were going well for a long time but my relationship with the girl I was not supposed to be involved with was found out and I was charged again. I was under house arrest for 5 months and during that time I ended up really finding myself. I could not go anyplace without someone approved by the court. I couldn’t run away. I met Robert from the WJS Attendance Centre program and began to understand how to deal with my feelings and talk about them with others. I learned how to trust the people in my life who loved me and those trying to help me. I became much more involved in my Aboriginal Spirituality. I attended cultural nights, drumming and pow-wows when possible. I was given my native name which is “black thunderbird” in English.
Today I am living well. I have found peace and purpose in my life and have been trying to live my traditional way. I had a dream about a feather that came to me from an elder. Later I was given a pipe and an eagle feather in a ceremony. I was made a pipe carrier and given this sacred responsibility. I’ve started to write in my journal.
I’m starting to appreciate my strengths and use them. I like to help people and be friendly and talk to others. I’m starting another job in a restaurant. I love to cook and hope someday to be a chef.