John grew up on Manitoulin Island. As a young man, he moved to Toronto and lived in a foster home. He only spoke Ojibwe at the time. After some time, he moved back home as his mother finally got a house to get all her children back. In returning home, he felt like an outsider. He was always getting into trouble and went back to the city.

As a young man, he would go back and forth from jail with short stays. When released, he had no family and nowhere to go. Tired of a life of struggle, he got a job in construction. With no home, he slept in the park. John learned about Na-Me-Res and called every day to get into the shelter. When he was accepted, it was a turning point.

“It was the cultural and spiritual aspect. That is what got me. It was real. It is a way of life. It isn’t just on Sundays.”

He started requesting teachings, and it helped a lot. He would occasionally fall off the wagon but had his own place. He was asked to return to the circles and teach others to speak Ojibwe. After leaving to attend Lakehead and Fleming College, he returned to volunteer with outreach. He was hired to work the front desk and has stayed on ever since. Twenty-two years later, he is a senior staff member and still teaches the language classes.

“All the teachings, I share it now. I noticed a lot of people had lost the simple teachings. I have been gifted by the elders.”