Dishinikawshon Jesse: A Life Transformed


  • Jesse Adrian Thistle



As an aboriginal man amputated from my Michif clan at the age of three, I am, just by my being, a reject part in the Canadian “system.” The ‘system’ first attacked my family in 1869-70, then in 1885, and drove my kin into the hills seeking respite from British imperial expansion and the nation-state project of Canada. For a century and a half afterwards Canada never gave us the chance to heal from the loss of our sovereignty, the loss of our kin groups, the loss of our economic agency, and the loss of our lands. Over time, and in extreme poverty conditions, the fabric of my people stretched and tore, frayed and unraveled, and by my generation it had dissolved altogether, a whole generation of my cousins and kin were subsequently let go into adoption. By 1979 many of us were broken parts without purpose in the Canadian system. Many of us drifted from one foster home to the next, and, when we became old enough, we gravitated into juvenile detention centres, adult jails and prisons, homeless shelters, mental health institutions, and long term care facilities. I myself was a young man without identity, without mode or instruction; I was a young man apart and by age 21 I had become homeless and addicted, in and out of jail. Below you will find my dark and desperate voyage through ‘the machine’ when I gambled blindly to find my purpose; it is a bloody, gritty, and visceral account of what happened when the “system” tried to fit me, a square peg, into a round hole, and is a story of what happened when that square peg stole back the agency that was robbed from my people in 1885.