“Growing up on a rez in B.C., all my best friends were Native. They cared about me and helped me out. But I got bullied really hard by the white kids. I started having panic attacks in social situations. I would pick myself apart with the insults people would say to me, believe them — let them manifest. I developed depression and, when I was 11, I started smoking pot and drinking to deal with it.
I dropped out when I was 15 and completely isolated myself from people. At 16, I got a job at a local saw mill, piling lumber, then went on to operating machines and eventually becoming a foreman. I really matured and developed into an adult during that job — it taught me a lot of work ethic.
Over the years, I worked really hard but, as I got older, the drugs got harder and harder. I was in a pretty toxic relationship with this girl and, when it ended, I didn’t know how to handle it. I went into a downward spiral of self-medicating and ended up in jail.
There was a lot of literature at the jail about mindful meditation so I studied it in my cell and, that alone, has changed my life. Although the bullying still affects me to this day, meditation completely rewired the way I think — with mindfulness, I learned how to deal with my emotions without drugs. The prison had really good Native healing programs, too, so we smudged every day, and did sweat lodges and pipe ceremonies.
Welding is my career — I’ve been doing it for 16 years — so when I finally found a job as a journeyman welder, I felt truly grateful. Now I can start putting money away, buy my own place and build my life.
Growing up I took part in the Native culture and learned a lot from them. I have learned the damage that angry words can do to a person, a community, a generation. And I’ve learned that we’re all connected with one another, and the earth and the whole universe. Anger is a feeling that will pass, but your actions can’t be taken back.”