Kenneth Jackson and Todd Lamirande
Nation to Nation
There’s a story Randy Kakegamick tells about the neglect he faced as a child.
It was late one night and his mom was out so he took off wandering the streets of Ottawa.
A drunk man chased him into an alley and attacked him thinking his bag of white cookies was cocaine.
He was eight-years-old.
“It’s forever instilled in my head being attacked by a grown man; being a little boy. I woke up in a pool of blood and I ran,” said Kakegamick, 42, showing the scar over his left eye.
The Ojibway-Cree man never stopped running until about three years ago.
He was in jail, a familiar place for most of his adult life.
When he got bail he went into the LifeHouse program at the Ottawa Mission that helps adult men get sober.
It wasn’t easy. He had been drinking for years.
“I went for a cigarette there’s somebody drunk right there,” he said.
He didn’t break.
“I just had to look toward where I was,” he said.
And where he didn’t want be.
From there he set out on a journey to stay sober and has been ever since.
He soon realized some of the demons chasing him weren’t by his doing.
He explained this last winter to a class of students in a social working program at the University of Ottawa where he was brought in as a guest speaker and invited Nation to Nation, which has been following his journey over the last year.
“All of the it dawned on me not ‘till I’d say two-and-a-half years ago. I didn’t know about all this until I tried to thoroughly think about the impact residential schools had,” he explained to the students.
Both of his parents attended Indian Residential Schools. So did his grandparents.
“What they did to me was they killed my spirit, they killed the child in me, they practically murdered the child in me,” said his mother, Frances Kakegamick.
“We were there from the end of August to the end of June then we got sent home. You get home you don’t know your parents, you don’t know your mom and dad but you know who they are. This went for years and as I got older, I was there for seven years, it became extremely hard ‘cause there is no contact with your parents in terms of hugging, them letting you know how they feel about you, that they loved you.”
That inter-generational trauma moved through their family like a ripple across a pond reaching Kakegamick even if he didn’t realize it growing up.
When he finally did, it helped in his recovery.
And no one knows that more than his mother.
“He hurts from time to time, but he’s a lot stronger than he ever was and I am really extremely proud of him and where he’s at today,” said Frances.
Going back to his culture was a big factor in Kakegamick believing in himself.
“It came from going back to the drum and going back to singing and putting on my outfit for the first time. That afforded me so much confidence just to talk to people and go out to pow wows,” he said.
He also hit the beads.
Beading slowed thoughts racing in his head saying he could have one drink.
“I would gradually do bead work at night if I started thinking about going out and try to trick myself into thinking I would be all right on my own, going to the bar or meeting people, being in risky situations,” he said.
It also helped him believe he could go back to school, which began with finishing high school and then going to Algonquin College, where he’s enrolled in the music industry arts program. He already graduated the digital music production program.
“It’s a big deal for me and it’s really awesome. I just started feeling proud of myself. It took a while because of the horrible things I have down in my past from drinking, I’ve been abusive with partners, I’ve been abusive to my parents, mentally,” he said.
Today, he and his parents are in a good place.
They all have a common goal – Kakegamick’s young son.
The vicious cycle of residential schools ends here.
“I don’t see that same type of lost little boy that I was when I look at him,” said Kakegamick. “It’s a good thing I don’t see little Randy there. He’s not lost. He’s got direction, he knows what he wants, he has a voice. I can hear him now that I sobered up.”
Staying sober means ignoring that dark passenger.
“It’s always patiently waiting,” said Kakegamick.
It’s up to him to ignore it, just like it was to stop drinking in the first place.
No one can do it for him.
– Broadcast camera operator was Brendan Hennigan and John Cooke did the editing.