This is the story of how everything changed for me.
I was 34 years old and in a detox facility in Victoria, probably for the second or third time that year. I have always met solid people in detox facilities. This time I got talking with a guy I’ll call “Trey.” It turned out that Trey knew a couple of my sisters from jobs they had when they were younger. We didn’t have a lot in common other than that, but after we had spoken for awhile, I mentioned that I was from Kawacatoose (in Saskatchewan). He told me he was sponsoring a Native American Church (NAC) meeting soon after he got out of detox and the man conducting his ceremony was also from Saskatchewan. His name is Kelly Daniels.
Trey asked if I’d like to come and I said “yes.”
My companion Rachel and I joined him, his girlfriend and another one of his friends. We drove up to Kamloops together. It was a memorable car ride because all of us were from very different backgrounds and if it weren't for that medicine, we would have never socialized with each other. For example, my bro’s girlfriend used to be a jail guard, and I used to be a con.
It was a nice ride though. My partner and I hadn’t spent much time together, and I was healthy again, so it felt like we were a couple of love-struck teenagers going on a road trip, just cuddling the whole time.
Things felt heavier when we drove up to the house where the ceremony was being held. Until that night I had never actually seen a tipi in my life, other than the ones at tourist stops (which natives call “white tipis”). But this was the real deal - 28 feet across and about 20 feet tall. It had a lining on the inside for the cold and an eagle feather tied to the centre pole, and it was that beautiful creamy colour that tipis get when they’ve had many fires in them.
We went inside the house and introduced ourselves. I met a whole crew of peyote brothers and sisters who I had bumped into at various other times but two people I met that night were two whom I thank the Creator for every day of my life - Frank Asapace (in the pictures) and Kelly Daniels.
Before the ceremony started, all the men sat around the living room talking, drinking coffee and eating soup. I overheard Frank say something about the drive from Saskatchewan, and I mentioned that I was from Saskatchewan as well, but I grew up in Victoria. He asked where I was from, and I told him Kawacatoose, but I had never been there or met anyone from there. He smiled, and said, “My boy, I’m from Kawacatoose. It’s gonna be a good one tonight.”
I felt the weight and gravity of what was happening as we filed into the tipi. I was an urban transplanted native, so these guys were a whole new breed of Indian. I was pretty damned impressed.
On the coast, not very many people wear Pendleton coats, cowboy boots and big buckles. Until then I never thought I’d covet a pair of cowboy boots, but I did then.
The ceremony was amazing. From start to finish I felt it. The familiarity of being part of something at the core of me. This is where I belonged and how I was supposed to be spending my life. These were the ways I was supposed to be learning. This is what I had lost when I was adopted.
I cried that night. A lot. I cried for my mother, who I never met. I cried for a father I never knew. I cried for the mother and father who adopted me and raised me as their own. I cried because no matter how much we loved each other there had always been something missing. I cried because I finally found that missing piece. I cried because I knew I could finally be OK.
There was powerful healing that night not only for me but all of us.
Kelly Daniels is a Cree Road Man from Red Pheasant reserve just outside of North Battleford, Saskatchewan. He grew up learning the Ceremonial ways. We didn’t talk much that night, but it was a connection that would be an important part of my healing journey.
This was the first ceremony my companion and I sat in together, and it served to strengthen our bond a lot. She saw the obvious potential for my healing. Until then I had been lost, but Grandfather Peyote loves us and is kind. He took pity on me that night and blessed me, not only with meeting a man who would later adopt me as his son but Oki Ma Maskiky blessed me with the first glimpse of the beauty and power I had inside myself. I had never seen that before. I thought I was pretty on the outside and ugly on the inside, spoiled because I stole, lied and used, because I was bad. Oki Ma Maskiky showed me I only acted bad because I hurt and if I followed that path, the Medicine Road, I would heal and be alright.
Aho. Thank you, Grandfather. I love you.