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How a Romanian Guy Ended Up In Canada Lobbying For The First Nations

Updated on February 26, 2019

This has been the most common question I have been asked this past year (2017): "How does a Romanian guy end-up in Canada lobbying for the First Nations?" It is a valid question since I am often out at protests, or talking to politicians about First Nation issues, be they educational matters, environmental, health, or treaty related.

The first part about how I ended-up in Canada is pretty simple: after the 1989 Romanian Revolution, my parents decided it was time to move. The dictator was disposed of but things were murky and uncertain in the country. After the fall of the dictatorship there was a vacuum of power and corruption ran rampant. Looking for a stable country available for us, Canada ended-up as the destination. I came here as a teenager and with the Revolution at my back, I grew-up as an activist, going to protests, giving interviews where and when I could, standing for photos and talking to politicians.

In the last few years I have had members of the First Nations tell me that other First Nations people have been asking questions after seeing photos of me carrying the Unity/Warrior Flag. As in: "Who is this guy? Why is he carrying a First Nations flag if he is not of the First Nations?"And some are wary. I cannot blame them. For the most part, the white man has deceived them for centuries. I am a white man.

I was born and raised in Romania, in the 1980s and I suppose that is the key. Growing-up in a dictatorship, experiencing oppression, knowing what going to bed hungry means because there wasn't always enough food ... these things had a lasting effect on me. I cannot turn a blind eye to injustice, to unfairness, to oppression, to bullying, I simply cannot, or will not.

Growing-up in Romania was tough. Certain food items were rationed. Things like sugar and cooking oil, You would go with a card and get your monthly ration (I think sugar was two kilos and cooking oil was four liters), the person at the cash would stamp it and that's it, see You next month. Yet, even things that were not rationed were difficult to get. For example, the queue for bread would often go out of the store and around the building. It might take hours just to buy bread and if You were at the end of the line, good luck because You might not get any. There simply wasn't enough.

I remember going up to Attawapiskat, the Cree Reserve in Northern Ontario and going into the grocery store. The prices were unbelievable. A can of pop was $2,50, or You could get a case of 12 for about $22. I heard fruits were subsidized but a small bag of apples I think I saw for $16, or $17. A 375g package of cooked ham was $11. People up there simply cannot afford proper food. It was sad to see, to say the very least.

In Romania as kids, my parents would take my sister and I up in the mountains near my grandmother's village, in the late summer to gather fruits. We'd pick berries: blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Out of these we would make jam to last us in the winter. My grandmother would also grow a pig from the spring to the fall and that pig would be used from head to toes for food in the winter, as well. Nothing would be wasted, not even the tiny tail. We just didn't have enough food.

My friends at Dokis First Nations go hunting for deer and moose in the fall, while in the spring they go spear fishing from boats. They do not do this for fun, or some sort of entertainment. They live like this. They live off the land. There is no grocery store on the Reserve. To get groceries You have to drive out a good hour. So, in some ways, they still live off the land. Just like my family lived off the land back in Romania. I grew-up like that.

Last point I wish to make is regarding the Medicine Herbs. I carry two pouches. Or, better say: they carry me. Among other things, one of them has White Buffalo Sage, one of the four Sacred Medicine herbs used by the First Nations here in Canada. It is used for Smudging, basically bathing in the Smoke from It. This cleanses and protects. It is done in the same way in Romania some Spiritual people use Wormwood. That is what my second Medicine pouch contains: Wormwood. So, Wormwood and White Buffalo Sage are both around my neck. They come from two different cultures yet, used for similar reasons.

I see myself when I see people of the First Nations. I feel like I can relate to them in many ways. I feel closer to them than I feel with many other Canadians. We walk(ed) similar paths. Thus, I do what I can and I pop-up wherever the Great Spirit guides me to. I'm the White Wolf, the Strange One, Mr. Happy, or whatever You wish to call me: that Romanian guy lobbying for the First Nations. I'll keep going for as long as I can.

All the best to everyone! Mitakuye Oyasin.

P.S. The photo was taken by a Greenpeace photographer this past fall (2017) and that's me with the Warrior/Unity Flag. The Flag was given to me by Eagle Claw from O'Chiese First Nations, Alberta, Canada.

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    • fpherj48 profile image

      Suzie 

      12 months ago from Carson City

      Howdy,Wesman! Nice to have you in on the conversation. I'm sure Mr. Happy is........well......"Happy!!" LOL See ya around ole buddy.

    • Mr. Happy profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr. Happy 

      12 months ago from Toronto, Canada

      Good to hear from You, Mr. Wesman : )

      "Kinda lame I only now saw this." - That's what I said to myself last night when I was reading your article on the Arctic Wolf. I thought: "How did I not see this before?" Sorry, I left no comment. It was like three thirty in the morning. Haha!!

      The prices I mentioned were from the grocery store in Attawapiskat, which is one of the mosy northern reserves in this province. There are no roads there other than the ice road in the winter, when the water freezes and people can drive on it. Other than that goods have to be brought-in by barge when the water allows it, or on airplanes. So, to fly-in groceries and goods of all sorts is expensive.

      The people in Attawapiskat have it particularly bad because on their land, De Beers is opperating Ontario's only gold mine. The company makes lots of profit, the federal government taxes them a bunch and gets a cut, the provincial government taxes them and gets a cut but teh Native people got #$% all. Peanuts. Crumbs. Why? because they did not have an army of lawyers when they allowed De Beers to open-up a mine on their land and they got screwed. They live in third world conditions while gold is extracted from their land.

      On another order of ideas: I wish You best of luck on your Spiritual inquiries. Check out a traditional pow-wow around You maybe. Key word: "traditional", where they do the Sunrise Ceremony, where they might have a sweat lodge. Otherwise, You have the competition pow-wows but those are not very spiritual, focusing more on dancing, drumming and regalia.

      Anyway, here's the cutting of the pig in the late fall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-L5Hs57Tqk

      Thank You for dropping-by. Cheers!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      12 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

      I think I've been subscribed to you here for ten years now. Kinda lame I only now saw this. And it is from 2017.

      Anyway, I knew the most of it.

      Those prices you mentioned for simple stuff in the Native's areas are outrageous. What's going on there? Seems like some sort of gouging going on.

      Reminds me of living in Oak Cliff in Dallas. It's an all black area...where I was the only white person you'd see who (trust me here...heh) wasn't a prostitute or a cop.

      They called them "food deserts." There were no grocery stores around due to the crime rate, so the only place you could get food would be at fast food places, convenience stores, and things like a drug store.

      Places where food prices were jacked up sky high. And most of those people, of course, don't have transportation, and lots of them too poor to have regular bus passes.

      Sad situation. Everyone gets screwed.

      Had a friend from Serbia for many years. He used to always say he was "brother to the indian." He definitely was not that. He was more just wanting to be someone like you apparently are.

      I guess some people are just not so spiritual, others are, but there are many ways in which one can be a spiritual person.

      You can't tell from my work here on the network, but I think about spirituality and seeking quite a lot, and I continually conclude I know extremely little about any of it.

      I abhor waste to an extreme. This is because I'm rather poor, and also because when I was not, wasting things seemed to have been a hobby of mine....so I suppose I'm seeking to make up for youthful wastefulness.

      I don't know how to slaughter a pig though, but I would definitely be down for learning.

      Howdy Paula. CHEERS!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Suzie 

      12 months ago from Carson City

      Yes,Mr. Happy, I was referring to "our" Native Americans...as in those I know well and am so familiar with, in this particular area (of our 3 WNY Reservations)....Sorry I was not more specific. I am well aware this is far from the case, throughout this country and as you point out, in Canada. Thanks for responding & for the note. Paula

    • Mr. Happy profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr. Happy 

      12 months ago from Toronto, Canada

      Thank You for the visit, Mrs. Paula.

      "I have all but forgotten the plight, struggle & meager life that our Native Americans have long ago risen well above.." - This statement confuses me a little bit. Did You mean, your Native Americans living near You? I do not think You meant the Native Americans living in the United States because there are extreme hardships in Native American Reservations in the US as well.

      I am not very well informed on the situation with people of the First Nations in the United States but a quick web search of "Native American Suicides in United States" gets an answer from wikipedia saying that suicide: " is more prevalent than in any other racial or ethnic group in the United States.[1][2] Among American youths specifically, Native American youths also show higher rates of suicide than American youths of other races.[3

      Just one problem out of many. I am more than happy to talk to talk to You more on this and more issues relating to the First Nations and I thank You for your interest.

      All the best!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Suzie 

      12 months ago from Carson City

      Mr. Happy......You & I have interacted on an article or 2 at some point and we do follow one another, but it's been a while since we've crossed paths. I assume blame for this because as of the last 6 mos. or so, I have spent very little time here. I am seriously preoccupied in my real life activities & will probably be for some time yet to come. However, when I get the few precious minutes to hop onto HP, I come across articles that prompt me to comment. This, is one such article.

      I commend you for your support and help in terms of your involvement with "The First Nations." Being from Romania, having emigrated to Canada, should have nothing to do with this decision you made. I do not understand why people should be shocked nor curious as to "why" you have involved yourself. We, each of us, do what we do based upon how our spirit and our heart guide us.

      When you speak of the tough times, poverty, etc that affect the Native people, it is astonishing to me. I have all but forgotten the plight, struggle & meager life that our Native Americans have long ago risen well above..

      I live in an area in WNY, surrounded by 3 major Reservations. Far from poverty, these Native Americans are wealthy.....extremely wealthy. For the most part, this is due to Casinos and hundreds of gas stations & Tobacco businesses, that have cropped up and continue to multiply throughout these reservations over the past few decades. Being a matriarchal society, any native (by maternal blood) receives their share of the profits made from any Tribal-owned business. The Reservation only minutes from my home has a Sports Arena to rival any huge, luxury arena you've ever seen. Their Medical clinic is State of the Art in every respect and staffed with the finest of Drs, Dentists and medical staff in the entire area. There is never a charge for services nor prescriptions. Never.

      Being a Sovereign nation, of course, they have their own Tribal Court Building, Law enforcement, and Senior Living Apartment complexes....That are all maintained FREE of charge.

      I was married to an enrolled Native American for 16 years and we have 2 sons (now adults) BUT, remember, my sons do not have maternal native blood, thanks to their "pale face Mom" but we have family who live on the "Rez" and work for the Nation. My sons have grown up with Native Americans and attended school with them as well as played numerous sports together. Just let me add that while my sons were still in school, it was nothing to see brand new, very expensive cars in the school parking lot....and we always knew they belonged to the Native kids! My boys had them too but only because their Dad bought them for them!

      I'm certain this is a stark contrast to what you describe where you are in Canada.

      I'd love to converse with you Mr. Happy. Please feel free to email via our HP access. I look forward to chatting with you. Happy New Year

      Peace, Paula

    • Mr. Happy profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr. Happy 

      3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Wow ... okay, I was thinking I was seeing things. Such a pleasant surprise Ryu!

      I sent a "hello" to You the other day , in the Wind.

      Glad to see You - thank You for the visit and for the comment. You can always find me here. Might not be around every day as I was years ago but there are still people here who write great articles. It's an alright place.

      Anyway, sorry I gotta run but perhaps we'll talk again.

      Happy New Year and all the very best to You and di famiglia!

    • Ryu Ryan profile image

      Ryu Ryan 

      3 years ago

      So glad this came up. I missed you Mr. Happy.

      Your words never disappoint.

      Ryu

    • Mr. Happy profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr. Happy 

      3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Nice profile image Mr. Spirit Whisperer! I did not recall this one.

      Kind words from You as always - thank You.

      You know, when the dancers at Pow-wows dance, they often say that they are dancing for those that cannot dance. So, they dance for those who are sick, for those that are incarcerated, for those who have passed away, etc. In that way, I try to write for those that cannot write.

      Thank You again for the visit and for taking the time to leave a comment. All the best!

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 

      3 years ago from Isle of Man

      Your life experience has culminated in you having the purpose you describe in your article. So many people live in this world without any purpose other than to make a living. In this regards you are a very lucky man. Yours is a noble cause and from what you write you seek nobody's approval and are happy to devote your life in selfless action for those you feel do not have a voice in our society. Strength and honour my friend.

    • Mr. Happy profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr. Happy 

      3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Thank You kindly for taking the time to stop by and leave a comment as well, Mr. Bill. I appreciate it.

      Happy New Year to You and your family!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      For whatever reason I did not know you were from Romania. I find that fascinating, the roads we take to finally end up where we were meant to be. Nothing religious in that statement by the way....more like a kismet sort of thing. I love your activism and your "need" to be heard. One does not quiet a voice like yours; one can only listen with respect and hopefully internalize the message.

      Happy New Year my friend!

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