Crazywater (2013) - full transcript

A revealing exploration of substance abuse among First Nations people in Canada. - stop by if you're interested in the nutritional composition of food
[film projector
clicks and whirs]

♪ Come forth to my grave

♪ Bring with you young woman

♪ For young woman I crave

♪ Young woman I crave

♪ If you can't bring me woman

♪ Won't you bring me a drink?

♪ Good corn whiskey
should do, I think ♪

[blows goose caller]

♪ Should do
I think ♪


Okay, somebody got a bullet?

So this is how you do it.

This is called a goose caller.

An Inuvialuit goose caller,
and they're free.



[buzzes into
a goose-like honk]

You see how much
it's sticking out?

See where my thumb is
and my fingers are?


And then you put your teeth
right here.

Your teeth on this side.

[goose call honks]

I want one.

Don't bite it.

Very lightly.

[blows goose honk]

Good job.

[toots goose call]

Holy man!

Honkers coming in!
Coming in low!

[Dennis]: Our kids
are four and six years old,

and by taking them out here,

I expose them to
some of the traditions

that kept us strong,

and maybe even freedom
from some of our past burdens.


I was born in Inuvik.

Where we grew up
was called Co-op Hill.

About half of the kids

came from homes
where there was alcohol abuse,

and the other half didn't.

[school bell rings]

We saw a lot of drinking.

When I look back on it,
it was staggering.

People were drinking hairspray,
they were drinking solvents.

The drinking got
totally out of control.

It was almost like wildfire,

and I can understand it, too,
because I'm an alcoholic.

When I drink, I can't stop.

I either drink till I pass out,

or I drink
till there's nothing left,

and I can't find any more
in town or anywhere,

and only then,
and only then will I stop.

[neon buzz droning]

The first time I drank,

it was the summer going into
Grade Seven,

going into high school.

There was a, um, a group home,

a receiving home,
we used to call them,

just down the hill
from our house,

right next door, basically,

and there was all
kids that were in care.

They all stayed inside
this little house.

And one of the boys went,
and he broke into a warehouse,

and he stole
a case of church wine.


And, uh, me and my little friend
were riding our bicycles,

our little banana bikes,
we were riding around,

and this guy said,
"Hey, you want a drink?"

and we just dropped our bicycles
right there, right on the road.

I was so excited,

and we started
mixing it with pop.

I remember
we mixed it with Coke,

and we were drinking it,

and I remember right away

I started getting
that really warm feeling,

getting that buzz
from the alcohol...

and I just remember that feeling
of, "Holy shit, man.

"This is what it is.
This is what they're after."

It was magic.

It was such a wonderful feeling,

and from that day on,

I believe that's when
I became alcoholic.

[birds calling]

I'd just been sober
maybe a year or two,

and I was looking for

anything to help me
get some sanity back.

Somehow I came across
the book "Crazywater."

It was our story
told by us, basically.

It was the first time
I heard other Native people

talk, like, candidly and openly
about their drinking.

Finally feeling like
someone knew

what the heck
I was going through,

let alone other
Native people in Canada.

You know what, Brian?

I had no idea
what to do

other than
string myself up,

until someone
handed me your book.

I think it was
one guy's story

about how he
was grieving,

grieving his loss.

That was the first time,
the first time I, uh,

I ever heard of anybody
talking about alcoholism.

[Brian]: I knew that the story
of Native people and alcohol

was one that touches
all of our people,

and I thought that
if I could come up with a...

a way of dealing
with that in print,

it would leave something lasting

that would probably,

contribute to solutions.

[Dennis]: It's no secret

that we have trouble
with alcohol and drugs.

You know, all you've got to do
is just, you know,

go and look out
down in the inner cities

and on the reserves,

and, you know,
you'll see there's...

there's still a lot of
alcohol and drug abuse

in our communities.

I want to get people to start
talking about our own denial

about our own alcoholism.

How can anybody understand us
if we don't tell our story?

[Alex]: This fringe
is going to go on my apron.

I made this apron, I don't know,
about six months ago.

Hobiyee is
the highlight of the year.

It allows nations
to get together

and to show a tiny portion
of our culture

to those who come out
and witness such an event.

I was at
two residential schools,

Port Alberni and Alert Bay,
for two years.

[sewing machine whirring]

People have reasons
why they drink,

maybe a loss of job,
or loss of family, right?

But for me, it was
the abuse that I went through.

That's why I drink.

And I'll never forget
the first drunk.

It was a punch.

I didn't know
what people were telling me,

to just have a-- have a cup,

so I drank it.

It just kicked in...
[snaps fingers]

it kicked in right away.

I got really high, drunk,

and then I remember
standing behind this door,

the front door,
and people were coming in,

I'm standing right in there,

it's like I'm locked in
behind this door, and it's...

and then after that,
I don't remember nothing.


[distant sirens wail]

[Paula]: My grandmother
drank all the time,

and then the partying lifestyle
was handed down.

I inherited
all the sexual abuse

and all of the violence.

I was thrust into
a torturous lifestyle

by the age of three.

I'm just grateful
that I have the courage to stop.

I had been shooting up
in Edmonton since I was 11.

I think I was 28 years old,

and this is the corner

that I first came to
when I came to Vancouver...

where I, more or less,
claimed as mine.

I ended up staying here
for a long time.

Back then, I was only on 100,
$100 in welfare,

and that'd only last me an hour.

I had a very high addiction.

I probably went through
about 500, easy, a day.

I grew up in white society.

Because my stepfather
was in a residential school,

we were raised
that we weren't Indian,

that we were white.

My mom drank,
my stepfather drank,

grandfather drank,
my aunts and uncles all drank,

so it was around me

I started drinking
at the age of eight,

and got into the harder drugs
when I was 14.

But I've been clean
off the drugs now

for about nine years.

It's just the alcohol
I'm trying to kick.

With the alcohol, I always
get myself in trouble.

It's like a saying
I always have, you know,

I'm allergic to alcohol,
you know.

Every time I drink alcohol,
I break out in handcuffs.

[chuckling] You know, which is
totally true in my case.

There's such a stigma

about being a Native person...

and alcohol.

Where, like,
that's our racial profile

is we're fucking drunks,

and it's kind of
a well-deserved moniker, too,

because for the most part,
we have been.

[chuckles ruefully]

We, you know
through our history,

we've always struggled
with alcohol,

so there's a lot of shame

and a lot of guilt
around being Native.

You know, you have to have
pretty good self-esteem

to overcome
that, uh, stereotype.

[Alex]: I just kept on going.

Drink, drink, drink,
that's all I do.

That's all I wanted to do.

All the anger that--

that I had towards
the group homes,

the residential school,

it all just, I let it all go.

The last straw
was with the police,

and they said I'm under arrest,
and I said, "What's going on?"

then after a while they told me,

they said, "Well, we're charging
you for armed robbery,"

and I said, "What?"

They said, "The people
at the hotel identified you.

You were in there,
accomplice to a robbery."

I told them over
and over and over

that I didn't do this,
I didn't do this armed robbery,

but I got... pinned for it.

I did my time in Peace River
Correctional Centre.

There was 95% Natives
in that jail.

After I got out,
I just left it all behind,

and I continued
on my journey of hate

towards white people,

the cops, the government,

[Stephen]: You know,
I can understand

the point of the courts
giving me a nine o'clock curfew.

It's just for
the safety of the public,

because nine out of 10 times,
I get released from jail,

and I end up back in jail
the same day. So...

I have to stay here
for a couple of months

till I get some
programming behind me,

some treatment behind me.

It's either here or jail.

I mean,
it's not the type of life

I'd wish for anybody, you know,

but for some people,
they need it.

For me, I need it.

You know, because I know
where I'd be right now.

You know, I probably would be
on the streets, drinking.

This one I did when I was 15.

I was all messed up on cocaine,

and, uh, you know,
my arms were bare at the time.

I figured I'd do
a tattoo on myself.

This one here, I did this
when I was 16, um... 16 or 17,

and it represents confusion.

This one I did when I was...

did some time in the hole
when I was doing federal,

and this is made from a staple
and burnt paper and water, so...

All my tattoos have
a tale of some sort, so...

My life story.

Being in jail, it changes you.

You sleep with one eye open

because you don't know

who's going to come
into your cell.

You know, it's a dangerous life.

You know,
you've got to deal with

all sorts of people, you know,

from sexual predators
to murderers.

Guys who don't give a rat's ass
who you are, you know?

They're all out for themselves.

I became part of a crew
when I was young.

16 years old, part of a gang,

just 'cause I needed
the protection.

'Cause I'm young, in a big jail,

lots of big guys around me,
and I'm the little guy.

You know, you watch it on TV,

and, you know,
it looks so glamorous,

it looks so good, you know,
but it's not,

because once you're in,
you're in.

[Dennis]: So when
we moved into Inuvik,

when alcohol became
readily available

where you could actually
go to the liquor store

and buy alcohol

without kind of
any legal implications,

a lot of my dad's
generation really...

their alcoholism
really took off.

It used to really kind of
give me a lot of anxiety

coming back here.

My whole past kind of happened
on these streets right here,

right along this road here.

This is where
my ghosts are, right?

[school bell rings]

There was a lot of joy.

Of course there was
a lot of joy, you know?

Growing up in Inuvik was,
it was a fun place,

but there was a lot of...
a lot of hurt, too, eh?

A lot of really dark, dark times
that I went through here.

I was so absorbed
by all the dysfunction,

and all the shit
that was going around me,

I couldn't learn.
None of us could learn.

I quit school. I turned 17.

My mom said, "You're 17 now.
You got to work.

You got to go
get a job somewhere.

I don't care."

Oil industry was going on.

Some of my older friends
were working,

they'd coming to town
with lots of money,

big cheques, man.

I started phoning around
the oil companies,

and I got a job.

So 17 years old,

I come back to town,
I got my cheque.

I'm a man now.

What do we do?

We drink from Friday,
Saturday, Sunday,

and we drink and laugh,
drink and laugh.

Sunday we're all broke.


Flat broke Sunday!

Somehow, we scrape up enough
to get a bottle,

and we're in someone's house,
and we're sitting there,

and the depression sets in
on Sunday,

when we run out of money.

Good morning.

Hey! What's up?

Hanging out?


Remember fucking
going out to work,

and then coming back

with thousands
of dollars in the bank

and just pissing it
all away?

-Then going back to work.

And then going
back to work,

and then coming back,
and then--

Over and over.

Then E.I. kicks in,

or your pogey
kicks in,

and you sit in the fucking
bar all winter long.

We did that
for, what, 14 years?

15 years?

When Esso
was up here,

when oil companies
were here.


Then they all left and just...

left you with nothing.

But still, even when
you had nothing,

you could still go out

and get fucking
loaded, too, right?

Oh, again,
it's the brotherhood.


Who's got the money pays,

and then when
you got no money,

then somebody else
takes over.

It just, it just, just circles.

Yeah, for sure, man.

People can get drunk day,
after day, after day.

Lots of them get out of it,
but lots of them don't.

[crows caw]

[Desirae]: Ever since
I was a little girl, I was...

I was very quiet.
I always kept to myself.

We're going to get ready
to go to the park.

Oh, okay.

And I was always with
my grandmother, my kokum.

My mom was
in and out of the picture

a lot of the time,

but I used to always miss her,

and I needed
to be with her, and...

I always longed for that.

I don't know
too much of the story then,

and I can't remember a lot--

is that my grandmother couldn't
look after me, my kokum,

because she didn't have
the funds or the means,

and she was in school,

so she, um...
she ended up putting me in care.

My foster brother,
or so-called it,

sexually abused me, and...

My social worker
that was in my life

used to come and see me,
and she'd say,

"You're here
for a reason, you know?

Your family
doesn't want you," you know,

and really drilling
these things into my mind

as a four or five year old,
you know,

and I was totally...

totally just felt outcasted,

you know, and I was like, "Why?

Why would they put me here?

And why did my mother
leave me," you know?

I started running away
at 11 years old.

At 13, I was doing
weed and alcohol,

and it was normal to me.

It was something that
wasn't too hardcore

because I had lived with my mom

who was very addicted to crack,

and all those different
harder drugs,

so me doing something
lightly was like,

"Oh, it's not that bad.

I'm just drinking
and smoking weed."

[Dennis]: Well, my dad,
he was a good guy,

but he drank a lot,

and when he wouldn't come home
for basically days at a time,

I would go looking for him,

and I remember standing outside,
wanting him to come home,

and what can you do
when you're a little kid,

six, seven years old?

What can you do but cry?

I wanted him
to come home so bad,

but he wouldn't come,

and that's alcoholism, man.

You just...
Nothing matters, I guess.

[Desirae]: Like, I came out
of my blackout one time,

and there was blood all over,
and this big gash on my head,

and someone had bottled me out.

My ex was crying, and I woke up,

and I was like,
"Why are you crying?"

and then I got to look
in the mirror,

and I was like, "Oh,"

and all I did was just
tie a rag around my head,

and just kept on drinking.

[eagle cries]

[Stephen]: You know, if I was
feeling sad, I drank.

If I was mad, I drank.
If I was depressed, I drank.

Um, if I was lonely, I drank.

You know, now I'm dealing with
all these emotions and feelings

that I've never
dealt with before,

and it's hard.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

[hum of bustling crowd]

[Dennis]: I remember Christmases
were especially hard for us,

because that was
usually the time

that he would go
on a big bender,

and it would last
for days and days.

I remember my mother
throwing him out

because he couldn't sober up,

and I remember him losing jobs
because he couldn't sober up.

I never really...
got to spend much time with him,

and I think that's kind of

where my resentment
towards him grew.

Every Christmas,

they would have a Christmas
party for the kids.

We got into the gymnasium,

and it was just
full of families.

I think we might have been
the only Native kids there,

and by that time too,

I'd already made assumptions
about Native people.

Santa called all the names
of all the kids,

and all the kids went up,

and we were waiting,
and waiting, and waiting...

and he never called our names.

We found out later

that it was the parents
that were supposed to bring, uh,

bring the gifts there.

What does that do to a kid,
eight, nine years old?

I felt like
it shut the door on my...

on my worth as a human being
or whatever.

But I loved my mom so dearly.

I wanted to be close to her.

And the only way
to be close to somebody

is to live in the lifestyle.

That's the closest
you're going to get, right?

I got pregnant, and I said,
"I've got to clean up.

I've got to not do
any weed or anything,"

and I had my son, Darius, at 16,

and I lasted about nine months.

Through those nine months,

I had fallen off

and started to use
heavier drugs like ecstasy.

I went to
a battered women's shelter,

and in that shelter

I was like, "I'm done
with breastfeeding.

I need to go get drunk."
[chuckles] You know?

And the day--

the day I went to go
put my son on formula

was the day I walked
into the liquor store

with my two kids,

my two-month-old
and my three-year-old,

and I took them to the park,

and I just sat there,
and I drank,

you know, all by myself.

[Paula]: I have three children,

and I was so spiritually hurt
from getting molested

that, um,
I couldn't be a parent.

I loved my children
with my heart,

but I didn't love myself.

[voice breaking]
I was shooting up with my son

and my oldest daughter.

She witnessed me doing...
pulling tricks,

and, uh, my son
and my other daughter

used to keep six
while I did drugs,

and when they were
five years old,

they got taken away.

The more I hurt for the kids,
the more I used drugs,

which is the cycle, I think,
of a lot of mothers

that have children
in foster care.

And the tears that I cry

is because I missed
watching them grow up.

[Alex]: It's been...
14 years, possibly?

Maybe 15 years
since I saw my son.

When my son was born,
I was-- I was so happy.

I was just so relieved.

The mom made sure
that I didn't go anywheres,

because she knew I drank a lot.

I stayed in the hospital
with her

until probably
close to midnight.

She wanted to make sure
that the bars,

or the liquor store was closed,

because I was
really edgy and excited

because I wanted
to go and celebrate.

Getting ready to
go out to the whale camp.

The whale camp has been
a big part of my...

big part of my life,

so I just want to bring
my kids down there.


I got a big box of donuts,
and buns, and bread.

Okay, right on.
What is it?


That's what we call donuts
and bannock and bread.

Lots of work.

It's just like gold.

[Dennis]: For me
to make any change,

I have to hit a wall,

and most alcoholics
are like that.

You have to hit a wall,

and you have to have
a gun to your head,

and somebody has to
cock that barrel and say,

"You gotta make change now."

When we had our children,

I hadn't found
true recovery yet,

I hadn't really
conceived a higher power yet,

and I knew if I didn't get help,

that I was going to curse
my children with my disease,

because I was cursed
with this disease.

Jennifer, she said,
"You've got to change,

or you're going
to lose your family."


When I have anxiety,

and when I'm feeling
kind of out of sorts,

it kind of rubs off on my--
on my children,

especially on my son,

because he's
really sensitive too.

I try to talk to him
about his feelings,

and I tell him, "Hey, Hayden,

I know you're going through
some anxiety,

and I know-- I know you're
going through being shy,"

he always talks about being shy,

and I tell him,

"I know what it's like to be shy
'cause Dad is shy too."

I guess the best memories
I have of my dad

was when we would
go out hunting,

because I knew that
when we went out hunting,

I would have all his attention,

and I wouldn't have to deal
with-- with his drinking.

I remember the first time
he let me harpoon a whale.

It was just out here,
as a matter of fact,

with my cousin Larry Semmier,
and my other cousin, Ebun.

Larry was driving the kicker,

and Ebun was sitting
in the middle

trying to roll a smoke,

and I was harpooning,

and my dad was in the--

in the middle somewhere
just telling us what to do,

telling Larry
how to follow the whale.

I'm there with the harpoon,

and my dad said, "As soon
as the whale comes up,

as soon as you see it,
throw the harpoon."

That whale came up like that,

and I threw my harpoon,
and it stuck in there,

and he said,
"Throw your float out.

Throw your jerry can."

I threw it out,

and pretty soon
that whale took off,

and I was bobbing away
in the water

with a big 22-foot canoe,

and I didn't know how the hell
I fluked it in one shot.

Boom! Killed it,
and it was stone dead,

and holy man,
you would have thought

I won an Academy Award
or something... [laughs]

the way he was praising us up.

He just couldn't stop
telling everybody

I got it with one shot, so...

That was pretty good, man.

When you're a kid
like that, it's...

and your dad gives you
that kind of praise, it's...

there's nothing
better than that.

Hayden, come on, we're going
to go pull up the whale.

Nice and easy.

[Dennis]: In our addictions,

we stray from
the important things in life,

which is family and faith.

By giving your children

to come out on the land,

you're giving them
a connection to their family,

and you're giving them
a connection to their faith...

See all these marks
right there?

When they're swimming
under the ice,

sometimes by mistake,
by accident,

they get scraped up on the ice.

It's a female.


Boy, nice muktuk.

This one,
you could make a strip.

[Dennis]: I bring my kids
out to Baby Island

because I want them to know

that they have a place
on this earth.

To me, this is
where they belong.

[kids chat and play]

Darius had seen me
and my addiction

before I even had my son,

so when he was three and a half,
like, he remembers these things.

He's very smart.

That day
when they got apprehended,

I remember them
sitting in the van,

and I was crying,
and I was hyperventilating,

and my younger son was crying,

and Darius looked at me,
and he said, "Don't worry, Mom.

I'm going to
take care of my brother."

And that was the day
I made the decision.

You know, I made a decision

that no matter what was
going to come in my path,

I was going to pull up my socks
and get walking, you know?

That I wasn't going to blame
anybody anymore for my past.

[ball clanks against bat]

[embers crackling]

So it's...

Just wash your eyes,

and wash your ears.

Wash your mouth
so you speak the truth,

your nose so you smell
good things,

your heart
so you feel good things.

That's what we do
with the smudge.

It's a big part
of my recoveries.


[Paula]: I got to a point
where I couldn't take it anymore

because I was getting beat up.

I was owned.

I asked the creator
to get rid of my resentments,

help me with my fears,

and protect me from myself,

because it's me
who chooses these things

without even thinking
it's my choice.

[Alex]: This is
my first blanket I've made.

This is for my son,
for his grad,

because this is the first one,
so I have to give it away,

and I'm giving it to him.

My son doesn't know my past,

but I want him to understand
where his dad was.

I sort of told him
why he was taken away,

but I never really
elaborated more,

but I feel he needs to know.

I want my son to have
what I didn't have growing up.

But when I was working,
it was so hot.


It was, like,
I don't know, mid-30s.

I used to
walk by this place,

and knew I was
going to come--

I was going to be living
in this building here.


So, what was
the addiction like?

Like, what was
your constant feeling?

The constant feeling
was being high.

Easing the pain.

High on, uh,
alcohol, drugs.


I did meth,
but not as often as...

I did it
for maybe a month,

you know?

This is the old
U Gym right here,

where I used to go.

What was
that program like?

The program was to help me
stop my addiction

of drugs and alcohol,

to um...

more or less give myself
a second chance in life.

[gulls cry]

And, you know, I do apologize
for not being around.

It's just the way
things happened.

Some people said it was
selfish of me to move away...

because I did
lose focus on my life.

I gave up on myself.

And it was hard for me,

because I didn't know
how to be a father to you.

All those years
I've been in care...

I thought it was pretty bad.

I didn't like it,
but it was...

I dealt with it

Me, my sister and my
brother, we all moved.

We were in the same
foster home, right?

And they got
to see their dad,

but I was the only one
that was left out

because, yeah,
you weren't--

you weren't there.


[Dennis]: My dad was, uh...

He knew that I was angry at him

because of the way
I treated him.

He continued to drink
until he died.

He never did sober up.

This was his favourite hat,
I guess.

He liked shiny stuff, eh?

I imagine this hat
was pretty white at one time.

He died in a drowning accident.

I lost, uh, I lost
three members of my family.

This is my sister, Dalma,

her daughter, Asta, and my dad.

They all perished
on the same day

in a boating accident
in July of 2008.

They were on their way
down to whale camp.

[Dennis]: We got a phone call
saying that they're missing.

We built a search camp,

and we started
dragging the river,

and I just remember
that whole time...

[voice shaking] wanting to,
uh, talk to him,

wanting to
apologize to him, maybe?

Um... and a few times
I found myself talking to him

when I was dragging the river.

I wanted to...

apologize to him, I guess,

for the way I treated him,

and, uh... I wanted
to have that conversation

that I never did have with him.

[singing softly]
♪ Jesus

♪ In a holy rage...

[Dennis]: And, uh...

I had that
conversation with him,

and I believe he heard me.


This is where our family was.

This is our kind of
family retreat,

so after my dad died,

it just didn't feel
the same anymore,

so we just stayed away.

In sobriety,

I've learned
to reconcile the past

and come to terms with it.

I have to accept it.

And as a family,

we decided that
in order to do this,

we need to purge
all the old junk

that he's been collecting
over the years,

and just burn it
and get rid of it.

We're trying to let my dad go,
too, you know?

Are we doing waters?

There is juices there.

Okay, I'll pour some
juice too, then.

[Paula]: I've been volunteering
for the City of Vancouver

for three years
in a woman's clinic.

I do volunteer so much that...

I think it's...
it's what keeps me sober.

UGMs offers a really big meal
for the women.

Some of them, this is
the only meal that they get

on the street.

It's a community

of respect
and love down here.

I think it's important

for everybody to realize
there's a way out,

because we all know
there's a way in.


Hardly any of us know
the way out.

So it's all about
in here,

your prayer in here,
what you mean in here,

because if you're ready,
then the universe is ready.

[everyone chatting together]

You quit everything,
like even smoking cigarettes?


I quit everything,
even men.


That's no good!

That's no good
for your health at all!


[Paula]: Recovery is not only
recovering about us,

but recovering as a community.

We don't feel
we belong anywhere,

and we're such community-based,
nomadic people,

it breaks all our hearts, right?

And that's a part that
keeps us addicted, too,

is at least when we're using
drugs and alcohol,

we're in a bar room
full of other Indians

who are into drugs and alcohol,

so that keeps us all connected
in a really dysfunctional way.

You have to ask
yourself, "Am I done?"

Am I done
hurting people?

Am I done
hurting myself?

Am I done
hurting the world?


Am I done
blaming the world?

Yeah, there
you go. Yeah.

Am I done carrying
this baggage

that goes back
two blocks?

Yeah, yeah.

Am I ready to let it
down and let it go?

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

And it's like these cars
that are driving by,

how many years
I let drive by me

on this corner.

[Desirae]: I know when
I'm, like, really stressed out

I should make an art piece
or something,

because I find
that's where my peace is at...

but I've never been taught.

I've just kind of done it
off the top of my head.

I'm making a painting
of a mommy and a baby.

The mommies
and then the baby.

Do you see it?

[Desirae]: I decided

that I wanted to make
a painting for my mom.

I think for me and my mom,

like, our relationship
is just now

growing into, like,
a mother-daughter relationship,

and she's now there
for my children,

which is really cool,

and I think it'll just
represent a lot,

like, for her to be able
to recognize

that she is a mom

and that she's doing good,

Lookit, Mommy!


[laughing fondly]

And your blue nose.


There's going to be
a lot of healing, I feel,

in the next few years
with my family,

but a lot of work.

What dancer is he?

He's a fancy dancer.


[Desirae]: When I think about

breaking the cycles
with my children,

I'm breaking cycles
within my nation,

and that's what
gives me strength.

[telephone rings]

[Stephen]: Hey, this is
Steve Wolf calling in.

[Dennis]: What happened?

How did you end up
back in there?

[Stephen]: On the beginning
of September there,

I lost a really good
friend of mine,

and took it a little hard.

Thought I could handle
having one beer,

but it ended up being
a whole bunch more later,

and I went on the run,

and then they caught me
two weeks later,

and I got charged

for not complying
with my probation order,

my bail-- bail order,

so I'm, uh, really anxious,

I'm worried,

because I don't know
how many times

I've gotten out of jail,

and, you know,
just want to do good,

but then there's always

that little bit
of a bump in the road

that makes me kind of swerve.

You know, it's, uh...
it's really hard.

[Dennis]: All of us guys
and women who've sobered up,

we all know what it's like
to have no control over it.

We all know
what it's like to slip,

and we all know what it's like

when someone dies
or something bad happens, and...

and, uh, you know we...

it's almost like
we have no defence

against that first drink.

When I quit drinking, I...
I tried to do it alone,

but, man, inside
I was just, like,

just torn up, you know?

It wasn't until
I started reaching out

and asking for help,
talking to other people.

It made it easier.

[Stephen]: Oh yeah. Yeah. So...

Scary, I guess.

You know, I've been doing this
20 years now,

coming in and out, in and out,

and, you know, like,
I've had enough.

You don't belong in there.

Don't give up, and, you know,
you don't have to do it alone.

We're rooting for you, man.
We're on your team.

I know what we could do.

You guys want to try
a harpoon throw?

You guys got to get ready
for whaling, you know.

You got to learn
how to throw a harpoon.

Okay, Hayden,
harpoon him good!

Oh, yeah!
You just missed him.

You guys, that's the whale
right there.

Try this one.

[Dennis]: My higher power

is the love
that you have for me,

and the love that I have
for you,

and the love that we have
for one another.

Okay, watch Lucas first.

Oh, just about!

[Dennis]: For the longest time,

I didn't know
what the hell to believe in.

I didn't believe
that there was something

that was greater than me,
I guess.

Here's your harpoons.

Good whalers, boys!
Good hunters!

Oh, right on, Hayden!

You're ready
to go whaling.

[Dennis]: The care and concern
that we have for one another,

that's what I call "god,"

and I had to make it
as simple as that.

Alcohol and drugs
wasn't my problem.

All my life, I got told
that it was my problem,

but it was my solution.

The problem was me.

I was just spiritually unfit
to live in my own skin.

That's what's happening
with our people, I think.

All people
who are suffering from...

from addictions

are suffering from being
spiritually sick.

And our culture,

it teaches us
how to love ourselves.

I need to pick up the tools

and be the matriarch
of my family.

Like, I'm coming up
as the grandmother

and the mother,

and I can't do that

while smoking drugs
or doing alcohol.

[Desirae]: As a Native woman,

I can stand as strong
as I am today, right?

I can have the backbone
that I need,

not only for my own people,
but for my kids,

for my family, for my mom.

Look who it is!

How are you?

Give a hug.
Give Kokum a hug.

Now I can play.

Now you can play, yeah.

Hi, my girl.
How are you?

[Desirae]: I am really happy

that me and my mom cleaned up
around the same time,

because I get to walk with her.

Give me a hug.

Aw... What
are you doing?

I've always looked at...

Like, our relationship
is more like sisters, really

than it has ever really been
mother and daughter.

I'm trying to
build something.

I'm going to build a house.

[Desirae]: But I'm grateful
that she's there for my kids,

and she can help me
with my kids,

because that's where
I need help now.

[Paula]: We'll do it
all together.

A family project, okay?

I want a...

I want a robot.

You want a robot now?

Okay, so he should have
two like that.


Where's the bend?

Now we need to
make a head, see?

You got any more
straws for a head?

With all the mistakes
that I've done in my life,

I don't want to repeat it,

and so I try sometimes too hard.

Go get me
a yellow straw.

I'll make
a better head.

[Desirae]: It is
really tough for me

to always be respectful,

'cause I did
a lot of growing on my own,

but now she can show that love
to my children,

which is what
I'm extremely grateful for

that they actually have
a grandma,

and I'm learning now
the walls that I put up,

and what I need to take down,

and to be more gentle and kind.

Look, Mom,
I made you something.

Cool. Awesome.

[Paula]: Me and my daughter

have done a lot of work
on ourselves.

Mother and daughter.

My Pumpkin.

The baby...

[Paula]: I think
because we did that,

we got to work on our hearts
and healing.

Yeah, see all the yellow?

New beginnings for us.

I hope that Creator
keeps us clean

for the rest of our lives,

and then somewhere,
maybe 10 years down the road,

we're going to have a really
healthy relationship,

but right now,
it's still in its infant stage.

We're still learning
how to walk with it.

You know, when her kids
get to be teenagers,

and my other grandchildren
get to be teenagers,

they're going to see
a sober grandma.

They're going to see a kokum
that loves to go pow-wow.

[Desirae]: This year,

we're all going
to be three generations

dancing the Sun Dance together.

It's pretty exciting to...

to be able to go back to that,

and just also
make my grandmother proud

that I'm starting to take on
the ways that she walked.

[Alex]: The culture--

because I never thought
I would ever have that,

I thought I'd lost it--

just like it was drilled
out of us back in the day.

Elders and our leader talk about

it's good to make
our own regalia.

One of the things
I really worked on are these.

These are...

I made, like,
six sets of leggings.

It's the wolf.

This goes...

goes on there.

But I will eventually
add some buttons.

The more buttons you have

is the sign of wealth
for the ts'amiks

and the matriarchs.

[Paula]: My mom,
she gave me everything.

All the beadwork
she did herself.

Traditionally, we don't show
any part of our body,

so I'm covered from my toes,
all the way to my arms,

all the way to my neck.

Boy, that's
really nice.

And that's to show respect
for my body.

When we go pow-wow dancing,

a lot of people don't realize
we're in prayer.

It's not to put on a show,

it's to be connected
to that centre pole,

and to dance for the people
who are on the outside.

We're dancing for
the whole world to be better.

[drums beat steadily]

[singers begin low]

Ladies and gentlemen,
please welcome,

from the Nisga'a Nation...

[singing and drumming together]

[distant cheers]

[Alex]: Being
part of the community,

being involved in everything,

it's really important to me

because it is my identity,

finding who I am.

I believe

that we all have
that little light in our heart.

It may be dim,

but it's not burnt out.

It's there.

And once you start believing,
it gets brighter.

[they give a cheer]


♪ You don't drink
from the bottle ♪

♪ The bottle drinks from you

♪ You don't laugh
when it's empty ♪

♪ The empty laughs at you

♪ And I promise
she'll leave you ♪

♪ Though you've heard it
all before ♪

♪ This time you'll be crying

♪ As you watch her
close the door ♪

♪ You don't drink
from the bottle ♪

♪ The bottle drinks from you

♪ You don't laugh
when it's empty ♪

♪ The empty laughs at you