First of all, I am one of the members of the Whapmagoostui First Nation. I was raised in Whapmagoostui in all my life, my name is John-Clarence Kawapit, 32. I would like to put some lines here and tell you what I’ve been through in all my life, and I won’t be ashamed to talk about me and my family, because I really want to get a better life and understanding of what is going on in my life. I have been put away from my loved ones too many times because of alcohol. Alcohol is the major problem in my life.

I was raised by parents who were alcoholics and I was abused so many times. I got beaten up almost every time my parents drank. I used to hide under the bed or behind the furnace, and I’d remember sometimes when my parents drank alcohol, they used to let me drink one or two beer just to put me to sleep, and I was only seven or eight years old. Ever since, I’d start growing older and I always wanted to drink alcohol and get drunk. I wanted to be like my father because that’s the way I’d see him drinking all the time, when he drinks alcohol he would beat up my mother at all times and I would watch him doing that. I was so scared every time my parents were drinking, my father would use a broom stick when he beat us up.

Ever since I saw my father doing the things he did, I thought they were normal things to do. I thought my father was a cool guy, a guy who can use alcohol and beat up his wife, so since I start growing up and reached 18, I started going out with girls, I would do the same thing, what my father did to my mother, beating them up badly. I lost so many relationships with girls, just because of my drinking and beating them up. I am an alcoholic still, and I am in prison at this moment.

I’ve been in jail so often, almost every year since I turned 18. I know I have hurt so many lives since I started drinking. The last time I got charged was last year, I got arrested because I’d assaulted my wife. I have a wife and a child. I nearly lost my wife because of what I’ve done to her. She was planning to leave me behind and DIVORCE me…. When I went to court in September last year, the judge gave me a chance, he gave me a conditional sentence and I was a client of the Justice Committee of Whapmagoostui. I was sent to the bush for seven months, and then in February this year, I failed again and got sent back to Jail and then I got released again on March 15th. I failed because of alcohol. I was arrested while I was intoxicated.

When I got released again in March, I was sent again to the bush and did my time there. I was in the bush without a counselor, but I was with an elder for a while and then I was sent to another camp where there was no one there to counsel me, but I was with other campers which was ok. When I was there I got really depressed and sick.

When I came back to Whapmagoostui, I would stay there for two nights and then I got sent to the other camp by canoe. I was so depressed that I didn’t have much time to spend with my family, I was very disappointed when I was at that camp. I had a breathing problem and I’d asked the Justice Committee to move me nearer to Whapmagoostui. They said they couldn’t say no or yes, because they did not have the authorization to do that. So I went anyway, when I arrived in Whapmagoostui, I didn’t go to my place (home), I waited for someone down the river to get me and take me to my father’s camp. I thought this would be ok. I’d stayed there for two weeks, and on July 3rd the probation officer asked me to meet with her. The policemen stopped me and arrested me, took me to Amos detention, this is why I’m here, I’d put my foot where I was not supposed to go.

I haven’t drunk or done drugs since last February. I am writing this letter because I really need help. I was doing my traditional healings, I’d started to go to sweat lodge since I had really needed help, it did really help me and I had a good experience while doing my traditional activities. I’ve been trying so hard to get a better life and working so hard to solve my problems. Even that I’m here in this prison I am still seeking a better life but it is very hard to find a way to think in a positive way, there is not much choice in prison, all we do is smoke cigarettes and play some cards and watch television each day, you see. Even I’d tried so hard to work it on myself, it seems like nobody cared what I was trying or doing to get myself straight.

I have worked so hard in these past three years. The first year I started to get a better life, I was working on that thing called cocaine, I was really on it that drug and I knew, it nearly killed me but I’d stopped using somehow and in the second year, 2000, I decided to stop smoking dope and I did it again, I stopped. And now this is my other step I wanted to take, it’s to stop drinking. I am crying for help, I am desperate for help. I know I have to do it for myself. I know that the alcohol is poison for me. I know I’m not the type of person who can drink alcohol. I know I can kill someone if I was a monster, and I know I can’t do it without God’s help. Since I’ve been here, I’ve prayed every night and ask God to help me to get through this mess I’d made and I ask our Father to protect me while I’m here, that’s the only thing we can do here in prison is to pray.

When Native people are here in prison, they don’t get much help. All we do is worry our loved ones. Here in prison we don’t eat proper food, we eat second-hand food or leftovers. We don’t see outside, we can’t take fresh air, but we do go out 3 hours a day but no fresh air, when we have a chance to go out all we see is a concrete wall – cement. We don’t see trees, you see.

I’ve seen so many people here in prison and every time when I arrive here, I always see the same faces, and they always have the same stories when I’d ask them what are they in here for – alcohol. That’s an example, we don’t get any help at all in prison. We are Native people and we have to do something about it. That’s what I always told our brothers I’m living with right now, and here I am writing a letter to our fellow Crees. I hope and I pray you people out there won’t take my story in a wrong way. I am writing this letter because I need your support, love and care. I am really sorry if someone gets mad over this letter I have written. I am so tired of being scared all my life, I’m even scaring myself for writing this letter. So I guess that will be all for now. You might hear from me again someday.

Yours truly,

John-Clarence Kawapit