Chris is Anishnaabe/Ojibway and originally from Wiikwemikoong Unceded Territory, with ties to M’Chigeeng/West Bay and Sagamok Anishnawbek. Parts of his family are residential school survivors. Another part is chiefs and warriors. His mother wanted to get her family into a new environment and moved to Peterborough when Chris was a young child.
At an early age, Chris fell in love with hockey. It was everything to him. As he got older, it became too expensive for his mother, who was a single parent and at times struggled with alcoholism. He had to stop playing. Chris lost focus, grew angry, and without strong guidance, dropped out of high school. This was followed by more choices that led to a dark
place. It got to the point where he was sent to live in a youth shelter. Not long after, Chris was dealing drugs, got caught, and was incarcerated for a short while. It was the best thing to happen. With no desire to return to prison or that lifestyle, he started to clean up and rehabilitate himself.
He was able to reconnect with his culture through pow wow, singing, dancing, and building community. This new way of life opened Chris up to possibilities. He always had an interest in acting and storytelling. He made a plan and was accepted into the Centre for Indigenous Theatre in Toronto. He then went on to the prestigious National Theatre School
of Canada in Montreal. After six years in school, moving back to Ontario with no money and nowhere to stay, he was accepted into Na-Me-Res. He graduated to Sagatay and then to permanent housing at the Homewood property.
“They gave me hope and a welcoming home. The language classes, the drumming, the pow-wow, the life skills classes. It is more than a place to stay. You are given the tools, the discipline, and cultural connection to live a better life. It’s like your North Star.”
Today Chris is in his first year of the Birmingham Conservatory at the Stratford Festival. He hopes to stay with The Festival and pursue storytelling on their stages, as well as writing and sharing his own stories.
Moe is Ojibway and a member of the bear clan. He grew up in Toronto. When Moe was six and a half, his father was murdered, and he learned he was adopted. He had no idea he was an orphan. He spent the rest of his childhood in CAS care living in six foster homes while suffering from abuse. When he was old enough – Moe hit the streets.
He was in a dark place while mourning the death of his mother. One late night the Na-Me-Res outreach van appeared and brought him to the shelter. He sobered up a while and started talking with the elders – little by little. He learned to smudge and began taking sweats.
“I didn't know where home was. I was an orphan and didn't know. I had no sense of family or what it was supposed to be. I am really grateful for Na-Me-Res has helped me a lot.”
Moe has been living in his own place in Etobicoke for the last sixteen years. It is a quiet home away from any trouble. To this day, Na-Me-Res provides a sense of purpose and spirituality. He smudges daily, has his feathers, and participates in rain dance ceremonies.
The cycle has been broken. Now his greatest hope is to meet his adult children, who he had to give up as a young man.
Cameron’s Ojibway name is Zoongide which means strong heart. He was forced to leave his family at a young age due to intergenerational trauma. He moved from Winnipeg to Toronto and found himself on the streets. After only a few days, by the hand of fate, a man named Byron walked by him, stopped, and asked if he was indigenous. Cameron replied yes, and Byron, who had an extra token, took him to Na-Ma-Res on the streetcar.
Staying at the shelter opened his mind and readied his heart for forgiveness. He was able to find a new way of seeing and truly connect with his culture - for the first time.
“They opened the door, and I just walked through it. I was ready to understand.”
Taking the programs helped him gain independence and money management skills. Sitting in the circle and hearing other people's stories made him realize he was not alone. It helped Cameron decide what he wanted to do. Music has become his passion and his calling.
Today Cameron has a young family with four kids and is following his path as a hip-hop artist. You can find him on YouTube as Damian Krypt.
Dave is Ojibway and was born in Sault Saint Marie. When he was five years old, a fire killed his two brothers, and his sister died in a car accident. His Mom moved with him to Toronto. They lived in Regent Park, and he went to St. Paul’s school. He started causing trouble and was often in jail.
When he was 21, he had his first son. He turned his life around, started his own business, and stayed out of jail for 11 years. After going through a divorce, he turned back to drugs and alcohol. Things went downhill, and he is now just picking up the pieces.
Dave heard about Na-Me-Res when he was incarcerated. He applied and was accepted but only lasted three weeks. He returned to jail. Five years later, he was welcomed back and is now in transitional housing at Sagatay.
“If you don’t dig deep, it’s not going to work. I just started caring. I was tired of letting my kids dow. It is so good for indigenous men to have. I am so grateful for the opportunity.”
Dave has always worked in construction and works today building custom office furniture. His goals are to hold down the same job, find a place to live, stay clean, stay happy and never give up.
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.”
Lucas is Ojibway from the Delaware Nation of the Thames. After growing up with six brothers and his father, he was sent to prison as a young man. A six-year sentence turned to thirteen and then to sixteen until thirty-three years later, he was released. A lifetime of incarceration. A lifetime of institutionalization.
He participated in the Na-Me-Res Native Inmate Liaison Outreach(NILO) program. It was from there that he found his way to Na-Me-Res. He was accepted into the transitional Sagatay residence, programs, and classes. After two short stays, followed by a successful addiction treatment program in Ottawa, Lucas was welcomed back to Sagatay for a third stay. This time has been different. He was ready. He is 19 months sober and has turned a corner.
“You stumble, you get up, and you get help. I’ve got my spirit back. Luke is back.”
Every day he smudges, journals, and prays. He used to think it was a sign of weakness to be open and to talk. That is no more, as the rest of the guys will attest. He has come a long way and is now preparing to find a new job and a permanent home