Fred Anderson brings his Awaken the Spirit workshop program to the DAC Health Ability Fair in Port Alberni next Wednesday. (Awaken the Spirit photo)
After a childhood of moving through 21 different foster homes, an adolescence struggling with alcoholism and bouts of drug addiction in adulthood, Fred Anderson advises others to look beyond the problems of the past. Now sober for several years, this is part of the message the speaker brings to First Nations communities, with an emphasis on personal empowerment to affect positive change.
“From going through those homes as a kid - not feeling that I really belonged in my community - you get torn, you lose your sense of identity about where you’re from,” recalled Anderson, who was born in Rivers Inlet and belongs to the Heiltsuk First Nation from British Columbia’s central coast. “I don’t have any regrets about that. I can go into our jails now and talk to our men, I can go into our communities and talk to our people who are suffering, who are addicts.”
Anderson’s upcoming workshop, The Warrior in Me, takes place from 9-3 on Wednesday Oct. 11 at the Alberni Athletic Hall. It’s part of the two-day DAC Health Ability Fair hosted by the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, marking the 20th year the event is offering health-related information.
As First Nations communities and the rest of Canada struggle to come to terms with a painful colonial legacy marked by banned potlatches, mismanaged resources and the residential school system, Anderson cautions about the perils of fixating on problems.
“There’s billions of dollars put into our First Nations communities to keep our people stuck,” he said. “By doing that we keep our focus on the problems, not the solutions.”
Anderson has travelled to numerous First Nations communities with his Awaken the Spirit programs, including Nuu-chah-nulth reserves along Vancouver Island’s west coast. Now 51, he first trained to be a councillor at the age of 18. The speaker believes that the potential for positive change exists within every woman and man.
“Self-esteem and confidence is not something that you find. You’ve got it, you’re born with it,” said Anderson. “Once we get to that stage, then our people can start to move forward. There are people all over the world that have gone through far worse than we have, and they prosper in our territories - and they can’t even speak English.”
Anderson incorporates humour into his workshops, and has travelled with First Nations comedian Don Burnstick, who performed at last year’s DAC Health Ability Fair. He illustrates the effects of negative thought through a slide show about an experiment with water that was exposed to different spoken messages. The water was immediately frozen, and amazingly, the effects of the messaging can be seen in microscopic photographs of the crystallization. Water particles exposed to hate take a brown and shapeless form, while positive messages bring intricate designs.
“It looks like a snowflake, and also a pentagram on the inside of the snowflake,” described Anderson. “Our bodies are 60-80 per cent water…we unconsciously say things to ourselves for 20 years, for 30 years, what is that doing to us? There are sicknesses coming into our communities that there never was before.”
The Warrior in Me will be followed by an open discussion on Wednesday, a closing summary, then dinner at Maht Mahs, DAC special recognition presentations and evening entertainment. On Wednesday Oct. 12 a variety of social and health related presentations are scheduled. The DAC Health ability Fair is open to everyone.