Denny Thomas is from the Kamloops Indian Band. He is a self described grassroots First Nations. I met him on a golf course last year and was immediately taken by his kindness, humor, and bright spirit.
To Denny, his culture is his blessing and his dancing is the center of his spirit.
Here he describes what his culture means to him; he shares what cultural activities he takes part in and what they mean personally.
“In the beginning it was cool to be a dancer. Then I chose a different lifestyle that took me away from my strength. Now, three years sober I’m back at it and it’s a very different world as an adult. I use to go to a pow wow with 20 dollars and be well fed and looked after. Today 20 dollars doesn’t even get me out of the drive way.
The real challenge though was when I was young. I had all of these older people telling me rules of the do’s and don’ts, yet they were doing all the don’ts at the time. So I started to look in terms of good or bad and right or wrong and realized that there truly is healthy and unhealthy.
I smudge once in awhile, and that allows me to release what I need to and to have protection in my life. I pow wow – I’m a fancy dancer. This is my centre of my spirit. I was good at it when I was younger but never had a full regalia.
Today, I’m halfway there to have a full regalia. I’m working out steady to be able to dance hard for the people. I sweat, which is rare; I go to my brother up north and sweat. This purifies my spirit and rejuvenates my energy, getting rid of negative feelings and replacing them with positive feelings.”
What does Canada Day mean to you? I understand this is a divided issue?
A lot of people don’t like that I love Canada but there is nowhere more beautiful and powerful than here in BC. We have mountains, fresh water, and trees that supply oxygen. I couldn’t ask for more beauty. Now Canada Day is history and needs First Nations flavor added to it.
What racism have you experienced due to your cultural heritage?
Oh man, I grew up in the 80s were racism was very high. Plus not only do other cultures dislike us, we fight heavily amongst ourselves. Today racism isn’t as bad as it was because (I think) of all the crossed blood lines now. But it is there, plus we are as people fighting too much with each other to see the real problems in our communities.
What messages can you share with others?
Well, I say work to be healthy because that would mean a person is going to work hard at staying away from drugs and alcohol. Working at being healthy builds self esteem and that leads to self worth. Self worth is something nobody can take away from you. If you work at improving your medicine wheel of emotions, mental, physical, and spiritual, you will always be walking in a healthy lifestyle.
These are beautiful words of wisdom from Denny, who is inspiring others by sharing his workouts as he shapes up for cultural dancing!