Posts By: First Nations Drum

Indian Resource Council has large presence and receives strong support at the 51st Annual Global Petroleum Show

The Indian Resource Council (IRC) hosted the Indigenous Energy Pavilion (IEP) at this year’s 51st Annual Global Petroleum Show (GPS) in Calgary, Alberta.  The Global Petroleum Show is North America’s Leading Energy Event with over 51,000 attendees from 115 Countries.  The IEP was the gathering place of over 200+ First Nations represented organizationally and 40+ First Nation companies during the 3 day event.

The IRC held a 3 day conference within the Indigenous Energy Pavilion that featured talks around Traditional Knowledge and History, Engagement with First Nations, Hiring of Indigenous talent, Information sessions on Bill C48 and Bill C69, Upcoming changes to the regulations in the Indian Oil and Gas Act, presentations from IEP participating companies, and more.

Indigenous companies participating in this year’s pavilion included BitCrude, Circle for Aboriginal Relations Society, D Jean Enterprises Inc., Top Notch Oilfield Contracting, Indian Oil and Gas Canada, Indian Resource Council, Ermineskin Resource Development Inc., Heart Lake Group of Companies, Total Containment Inc., Spirit Staffing Inc., Comec Energy Services/Genmec ACL, Cold Lake First Nations, and First Nations Major Projects Coalition.  

The IRC held meetings with numerous trade commissioners during the event who are keen on doing business with First Nations across the country, contact our office for more information.

The IRC was host to the Young GPS program, which provided youth with information on Indigenous communities participation in responsible energy development. IRC demonstrated to multiple groups how its members are making the energy industry more sustainable by applying real world solutions for real world challenges.

The IRC was nominated in the category of Indigenous excellence at the Global Petroleum Show Awards Gala alongside companies such as Innotech Alberta, Tamarack Valley Energy, and Project Reconciliation.  This year’s winner of the Indigenous excellence award was Steel River Group from Calgary, Alberta.

IRC President/CEO Stephen Buffalo presented on a panel at the GPS Strategic conference on First Nations-led Projects: A Path Forward, alongside fellow panelists IRC Board Member Delbert Wapass, Clayton Norris – VP Indigenous Services MNP, and Honourable Greg Rickford Minister of Energy – Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs Government of Ontario.  The panel was well received with many follow up discussion on First Nations projects.

For more coverage and highlights, follow #GPS2019 on twitter.  If you would like to be part of the energy for GPS2020, contact the Indian Resource Council / National Energy Business Centre of Excellence Office today at

Honouring Dr. Emily Faries In Light of Her Retirement

Dr. Emily Faries

Dr. Faries is an Associate Professor within the University of Sudbury Indigenous Studies Department, and has been at the institution since 1995. She is retiring at the end of June 2019. Her contributions have been numerous over this time period, and her dedication to Indigenous education deserves to be honoured. 

At the University of Sudbury, Dr. Faries was a key player in the James Bay project, which helped bring postsecondary education on site, to some of the James Bay Coast communities. She helped build the community support for the project leading up to the first course offered. She taught many of those on-site courses, despite all the travel involved. Her great dedication could be seen by actions such as providing extra help for students on Sundays and helping them with their bursary applications. She knew how to hold students to a high standard and, as a gifted teacher, helped every student reach new heights.

Dr. Faries is a quiet, undemonstrative person in most of her interactions – but very passionate when it comes to education of Indigenous people. Many students, both in Sudbury and James Bay, have expressed great appreciation for Dr. Faries. She has had a great impact not only within the University of Sudbury community, but on a larger scale, as demonstrated by her Indspire National Aboriginal Achievement Award, to name one of her accomplishments. 

We wholeheartedly thank Dr. Emily Faries for all she has done for University of Sudbury students, and wish her all the very best in the next steps of her journey.

2019 BC Indigenous Business Award Program Calls for Nominations

VANCOUVER – BC Achievement Foundation has launched its 2019 Call for Nominationsfor the eleventh annual Indigenous Business Award program. Nominations are encouraged from throughout the province and will showcase business excellence in the following categories: Young Entrepreneur, Business Partnerships, Community-Owned and Business of the Year awards for one-to-two-people, three-to-10-people, and enterprises with 10-or-more people.

As the program enters decade number two, its alumni boasts 76 small, medium and large-size businesses, 32 community owned enterprises, 21 successful young entrepreneurs, 23 partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses along with 13 award of distinction recipients.  An independent jury panel evaluates the nominations guided by the viability, success, and competitiveness of the business. Awardees will be celebrated at a gala presentation ceremony on October 17, 2019 in Vancouver. 
2018 Awardee Aunalee Boyd of Ay Lelum House of Fashion believes that winning the award plays a role in their ongoing success and for that, they are very grateful. The Indigenous Business Award program is a key platform for connections and positive change and the theme for the 2019 program is cultivating innovation.  

The award program is made possible thanks to a partnership with the Province of British Columbia and the program’s generous sponsors: New Relationship Trust, TD, Teck, BC Hydro, CN, Enbridge, Encana, FortisBC, Vancity, and Western Forest Products. 

For further information, please visit: and Nominate Nowon line! The deadline for nominations is Friday, June 28, 2019 – BE PART OF IT – .

Courtesy of BC Achievement Foundation.

Haudenosaunee Gather for a New Approach to Indigenous Education

David Jock (left) Danny Beaton (right) support Tyendinaga FNTI and Suzanne Brant (middle) for holistic approach to Indigenous Education and Haudenosaunee University

Story and photos by Danny Beaton (Mohawk)

In memory of Alicja Rozanska

This month of March was a good time for the birthplace of The Peacemaker, Tyendinaga, because elders, educators, healers and spiritual leaders gathered to show their support for the communities’ vision and dream to expand the First Nations Technical Institute. Tom Porter arrived at the FNTI to be filmed for future generations and students just before Dan Longboat arrived to participate with the message that western concept facilities could be surpassed with a traditional indigenous Haudenosaunee school of the universal embracement of unity for all indigenous nations and students to learn from Mohawk traditional educators. Mama Bear clan mother Louise McDonald from Akwesasne arrived not long after spiritual leader Tom Porter returned to his home and Iakoiane added a message of urgency that the Haudenosaunee could build up this Sacred Fire on Tyendinaga Territory because Canada was in crisis as were all of societies on Sacred Mother Earth.        

David Jock Bear Clan Mohawk Speaks Out

FNTI Suzanne Brant and all staff and all founders of FNTI Institute of higher learning and understanding are living at this time the great ancient vision of our peoples, which was to come all together in one sacred circle. Everybody represents their colours of the families of the Earth, our Mother, everyone has come together in respect and love for one another, the caring and sharing of one another and all our spiritual gifts. This school has brought us all here to the fire of the sacred teachings. In translation, it means he will always return to us. Remember we will always return to the sacred fire of peace, righteousness and empowerment for all spirits and souls of this Mother Earth. This place is the well. This is the Spiritual Fire. Here in this place we are strong with the sacred sinew of the sacred four-legged, the sacred deer.

It is here that we are all drawn to. We must come here to find it. It is a healing and it is an awakening of the great understanding of the Great Spirit Creator. We are now at a place that is complete. We have found each other and continue to come and learn from each other, continue to be at peace within ourselves. This school will be a place of mind, body and spirit. Let us get strength to live long, well and carry respect in our hearts for each other as well as human kind and all creation. In this school we will learn to create higher beauty and unconditional love for creation and all life. Let us learn to love all things in this beauty as it grows from the earth to the sky world.

Dan Longboat (left) said Suzanne Brant is creating a legacy for all students in Canada wanting to upgrade their understanding of indigenous culture here in Tyendinaga

My grandfather’s words to me were that the Sacred Woman is of this earth and all female life and water and birth. The spiritual village in the sky world is there having ceremony as I speak to you. So you see our school is an ancient vision. We are gathered here and we will continue with all things great and small. We will continue to learn from the living world of our Great Creator and our Mothers of Life and everything moving in the sky world. May we all rise to the highest part of the tree and embrace the heart and it will embrace us back. These are the teachings of importance to all Human Kind.                 

We are learning once again how to speak as spiritual circle people on this Earth, our Mother.

We come from a female blood, a blood river that connects all rivers of life. We are here in Tyendinaga area of the great birth of The Peacemaker, our greatest spirit orator. It all began here with earth, wind, water and fire. Here the fire was met with sky fire, the burning sky fire and when we looked at that, the sky opened. That beautiful spirit came here and gave fruits to the tree of life once again, so that we might visit the spiritual circle of our ancestors. A chance to come home to all the healing powers of Mother Earth, to come home to the Sacred Life of our Ancient Mother, a Celestial Circle. She came here from the priceless sky and her spirit washed all the grounds of earth, and all the clay. From her womb came the birthing of all human life, from birth came all human spirit, through her all the birthing of human life, truth and purity from Mother Earth. We are here in Tyendinaga for the spiritual raise from the Eagle Mound, the birthing place. We are here in that Peacemaker’s spirit with his promise that he would always return here and return to our hearts and minds and body.

We are to keep our life full and our walk spirit clean from the earth to the sky. When we have finished our journey here, we will travel first to the west and then to the star direction of the North Star and that sacred Milky Way with Celestial Mother. We shall receive all the love and support that is needed to live forever, spirit great with the one who has created our beautiful bodies that we are all visiting in at this time to the sacredness of the water shell and that powerful powerful being; we are the continuation of all things great and small. We are the tree, we are the earth, we are the waters, the rivers all connected to one great birthing water. We are also together in the Sacred Family of our Great Creator, sons and daughters of Mother Earth, Rainbow children of this Earth with sacred covenant of Wampum. We have been given so many teachings of that Sacred Fire from our ancestors and their ancestors.

We are learning once again to speak as a spiritual circle people with our Mother Earth and my people are from the land of the partridge, Akwesasne. I have come to the land of the Peacemaker Tyendinaga Territory, birthplace of the Great Peacemaker and here is where I am so honored to return to after many years. I have come here to be with my sister Suzanne Brant and Umar Keoni Umangay, her strong vision and add some of my work to the vision of peace and unity to FNTI. Students are coming to learn but they are also coming to heal; that is part of the work we do here. We will bring the learning full circle and healing to all four directions of our medicine circle of life. Our beautiful way of life will be shared as one family, we will fulfill the vision of our Creator. We can learn so much from plant life, insects and waters, even the stone can teach us something; we are Mohawks. We are White Stone Nation and we are here gathering at the Sacred Fire on Mother Earth once again for future generations to come and who want peace.

Mother Earth is supporting us all, loving us all. She wraps us in her love and here we are still remaining on this earth as spiritual beings having a healing experience and we all will become better Human Beings at FNTI. We will sustain this village so that our children will play in that loving circle of Grandmother, Grandfather, auntie, uncle, Mother and Father, brother and sister of Creation, sons and daughters of Mother Earth. Our Great Creator wishes us to return home when our work here is done and our ceremonies are complete so that we find that beautiful road, the road to our Great Creator. We are here to help each other learn from each other in a good way, a spiritual way. We will become stronger for our communities everywhere, loving each other in a sacred harmony to make the world a better place for all mankind and we will become a part of the Sacred Fire. Everyone in that sacred fire has healing gifts to help creation and we will share our gifts once we leave FNTI.

Living the sacred vision of our ancestors that have called us all together for this great work is such a great honor for myself and our teachers and elders, who have come here to support this new Haudenosaunee University or Universe to seek our spirituality of our people’s loving spiritual beings. To connect our blood linage, all rivers connected, so that we can walk in balance, we might walk in beauty and carry that deep truth of heart, which is unconditional love, forgiveness for all things great and small. That we can leave here when we are complete as one great peaceful spirit that I was born into. Born in the womb of a mother, born of love pure, born of blanket and cradling and love from all female life. So we will leave this world of respect for all things great and small.  Our love for Mother Earth and Grandmother Moon, the Celestial Stars will keep us close to our ancestors. Thank you all for listening.

Remembering Colten Boushie: We must run for office, get elected, and then write the law


February 9, 2018, is a date too many First Nation members remember far too well. It is the day a jury rendered their not-guilty verdict for Gerald Stanley on the charge of second-degree murder. Stanley shot and killed Red Pheasant Cree man Colten Boushie in August 2016.

As noted by CBC, “Indigenous people who were part of the jury pool were peremptorily challenged by the defence and none was selected to sit on the jury.” The not-guilty verdict deepened the social and political wedge that was long ago lodged between non-Indigenous Canadians and First Nations by a government whose policies were intentionally designed to destroy Indigenous cultures, languages, and ways of life. The verdict exacerbated racial tensions and fanned the flames of fear between Whites and Indigenous.

Using history as a guide, the not-guilty verdict should have come as neither a shock nor a surprise. Canadian First Nations’ only hope for a guilty verdict was in hope itself, not history. Canadian Indigenous are relegated to second-class citizenship in a nation that takes pride in its collective decency as a people when compared to other nations. We must use this sense of pride to our advantage. Our goal must be Reconciliation, Justice, and Peace and we must never become what it is we despise in our pursuit of these Rights.

The path to these ends means working within the system to change the system. If laws are needed, then we must run for office, get elected, and then write the law. As non-elected, we must lobby and engage non-Indigenous lawmakers with the aim of turning them away from their political indifference and turning them into a political partner. These things need to happen at the city, province, and national level.

As noted by CBC, the jury could identify with Gerald Stanley. They didn’t identify with the young people of the Red Pheasant Cree Nation so they feared them. Our government seems not to identify with us as a people, so let’s become more a part of the government since we already identify with ourselves and show them there is no reason to fear. It’s time for a political plan and peaceful political action that yield results.

The best way to honour the life and never forget the tragic and unnecessary death of Red Pheasant Cree Colten Boushie is to never stop working toward positive social change.

Indigenous Ingenuity wins a Major Award from the Canadian Association of Science Centres

Montreal – On Friday, May 10, in Halifax, the Canadian Association of Science Centres held their annual CASCADE Awards Gala. The Montréal Science Centre was awarded Best Exhibition or Show – Large Institution for Indigenous Ingenuity.

A success in more ways than one

The Indigenous Ingenuity exhibition is an interactive quest exploring innovations created by Indigenous Peoples across Canada. Launched in 2017, during the celebration of Montreal’s 375th anniversary and Canada’s 150th, the exhibition was a tremendous box office success – so much so that it was remounted in 2018-19 after touring to British Columbia. In total, it enabled more than 250,000 visitors to discover the ingenuity of our First Peoples. “One of our goals was to foster a sense of pride in our Indigenous visitors and to build bridges between cultures. We now can claim: mission accomplished!” said Cybèle Robichaud, Director of Programming at the Montréal Science Centre.

The fruit of a rigorous collaborative process

The success of Indigenous Ingenuity can be attributed in great part to a collaborative process with members of Indigenous Nations  who were involved in every stage of the development of the exhibition. In addition, representative Indigenous people were featured at the heart of the interactive quest: Elisabeth Kaine, Jacques Kurtness, Monique Manatch and Marie-Josée Parent, to name a few.

Indigenous Ingenuity was realized with the financial support of several organizations, including the Science Centre Foundation, Canada Lands Company, the Government of Quebec, the Society for the Celebrations of Montréal’s 375th, and Canada 150.

About the Montréal Science Centre

The Montréal Science Centre is a complex dedicated to science and technology, with more than 700,000 visitors annually. It is characterized by its accessible, interactive approach and its showcasing of local innovation and know-how. Its partners are Volvo, TELUS, La Presse+, Rhythm 105.7, 92.5 The Beat, 96.9 CKOI and 98.5.

The Art of the Weld

When you think of art forms, welding is not a medium that comes to mind. The work of Ralph Courtorielle creates a compelling argument for its inclusion. A journeyman welder, Ralph completed his welding training at Northern Lakes College and is currently teaching Pre-Employment Welding at the College.

Ralph had been working in the trades for over ten years, doing the work but not getting the wage he would as a journeyman welder, compelling him to enrol in the First Period of Welder Apprenticeship at Northern Lakes College. Welders work in diverse fields including oil, gas, or mills, and there are many opportunities to be self-employed. Though now a journeyman welder with a Red Seal designation, a national certification that allows him to weld throughout Canada, Ralph is a perpetual student and continues to learn. “Every year there is something new or more efficient in the field of welding, and I find this interesting,” he observes.

This love of learning has translated into a passion for teaching. Ralph takes great pleasure in passing on what he has learned. He considers himself a mentor, not only teaching the technical aspects of welding that lead to employment, but also the artistic aspects of the trade.

“I think the reason that I am connecting so well with the pre-employment students is that I am a product of pre-employment training myself. When I first picked up the welder, it was as though I was meant to do it. I want to show students that, though welding can be taxing on your body and physically demanding, there is a lot of room for the creative. It is not all hard work; there is fun involved.” Ralph enjoys turning a flat sheet of metal into something useful or beautiful.

For those, such as Ralph, with an artistic gift, welding can also be a creative outlet. When he and his family were unable to find a headstone they liked for his mother’s grave, Ralph donned his welding mask and gloves. He lovingly created a custom headstone, incorporating meaningful aspects of Indigenous culture and spiritual beliefs, to honour his mother’s life.

Originally from Grouard and now living in High Prairie, Ralph is married and the father of three sons. He enjoys playing baseball and spending time with family. Over the last few years, he has played in baseball tournaments all over Alberta and has gone to national championships as far away as Montréal.

Ralph reminisces about his time studying at NLC and the support he received from his instructors. “Passing the red seal journeyman exam was harder than anticipated. The College instructors provided us with excellent exam preparation and review in class. Instructor Chris Montgomery-Hewett was very thorough and drove home the details like the safety aspects and the math that is involved in welding. Jeff VanWyck and Jody Rees both helped me along with welds for my third year exams, in particular stick welding.”

With his artistic approach to welding, don’t be surprised if you see his work featured in an exhibition at some point. Until then, he will continue to pass on his passion for the trade to up-and-coming welders.

“I get the peace I didn’t have as a kid by providing it to these kids”

Eric Schweig is a Canadian actor of mixed Inuvialuk, Chippewa-Dene and German heritage. He opens up about the joys and challenges of being a new foster caregiver to two siblings. As a former foster child himself, he knows all too well the obstacles that youth can face when growing up in care.

“I was the oldest of seven children who were all adopted out,” explains Eric. “I ended up being a street kid myself for a long time. Most of my friends were foster kids who were always running from their group home and situations. We were all just out there on the streets together.”

Eric’s journey is a testament of resilience. He overcame his difficult childhood and a struggle with alcohol abuse to eventually become a successful actor starring in the Last of the Mohicans (1992) and Big Eden (2000). He is also an artist specializing in carvings and an advocate for Indigenous issues including adoption, the foster care system, addictions and suicide.

He spent a number of years working at Native Health in Vancouver with the homeless. In 2017, a friend challenged him to take his advocacy for youth a step further. “He said: ‘Eric, you’re always looking after people—why don’t you raise the bar and consider fostering?’” The conversation was a spark that eventually led Eric to partner with Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society to foster two siblings.

Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society provides holistic services to urban Indigenous children and families in the Vancouver. Their restorative service model strives to connect Indigenous children to their culture by training foster caregivers and providing opportunities to incorporate cultural practices into caregiving.

When asked about the transition to fostering, Eric laughs. “I went from 30 years of bachelorhood to Mr. Mom over here! Everything changed overnight. You have to learn to compromise pretty quickly. I went from only having to consider myself for every decision to centring everything on my foster kids. It was a real 180.”

The rewards are well worth the effort, says Eric. “Sometimes people ask me if it’s hard being a single Dad. My response is: my childhood was hard. Being on the streets was hard. This is easy.” Being able to provide a home for youth in care is a kind of full-circle catharsis for Eric. “I know what it’s like to be out there without support, and it’s an awful feeling. The peace I didn’t have when I was a kid—I get it vicariously through these kids being at peace here. It’s a good feeling.”

Learn about foster caregiving at Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society (VACFSS). Caregivers are needed and provided with training, support and the tools for success in joining in our “Circle of Caring”. Information sessions are held on the first Tuesday of each month at 3284 E. Broadway, Vancouver.

Gary O’Neal: An American Warrior in the Highest Sioux Tradition ‘Guerrero Americano’ Part III

Gary O’Neal
Gary O’Neal

Part III – Part I and II can be found on

O’Neal became attracted to martial arts, and he trained understanding the superior power of the mind over the strength of the physical. “I always trained my subconscious,” said O’Neal. “I’m a conscious being. I’ll tell you the secret that I did. I trained my mind first, before I did the action. It’s just like watching a video. I would see it, and then I would repeat it in my head a lot. Then I could do it, and I just went out and did it.”

This talent proved invaluable for the dyslexic SF demolition expert with a background as a poorly performing student when studying in a formal, civilian educational setting who is now required to use math to do his job. “I got over on that – as to the [math] formula – I could look at the steel, I could look at whatever we just happened to need to build or destroy, I pretty much knew what the formula was going to do and how much I needed,” said O’Neal. “After memorizing the formulas I could look at something and see the formula in my head and transcribe in my head, and then plant the charges, or whatever I was building.”

O’Neal credits the ability to visualize and then perform a task with saving his life and the lives of men under his command. “I was able to solve a lot of problems like that,” said O’Neal. “In combat, the tactics, I could see what was going on so I knew where I needed to move, I knew where I needed to go, I knew where I could take my guys. I just knew it. I took my natural ability and perfected it and adapted it.”

His talents caught the eye of military brass so O’Neal was often selected to participate in research and development projects like designing parachutes. “I could see something and make it tactical,” said O’Neal. “I was in some of the toughest units in the military. I’ve served with Navy SEALS. I’ve worked with indigenous forces as a UW (unconventional warfare) expert, and learned their language.”

These days, O’Neal said he can read a lot better but relies mainly upon audio books and video instructions – a formula that helped him get through college.

A society without warriors to protect it is not a society for long. O’Neal selflessly served his nation overseas for decades. He served a nation respectful of pluralism and the Right to strident dissent, including the Right to protest against not only the war but their nation’s soldiers fighting the war. I asked O’Neal for his thoughts on those Americans opposing the nation’s involvement in Vietnam – a war he was risking his life to prosecute – including the conscientious objector, the “draft dodger,” the draft-card burner, and those who vented their rage against U.S. service personnel like himself upon their return home.

“I don’t take issue with them because there’s a place for everybody,” began O’Neal. “We’re not all warriors. We’re not all doctors. We’re not all lawyers. We’re not all plumbers, or educators, or whatever. The pacifist and stuff like that, I never had a problem with them. I believe in individuality. I believe in everybody has an opinion. I believe in Freedom. I believe in the U.S. Constitution, and that every man is created Equal. I never see skin color. Yellow or brown man. I’ve never seen that.”

O’Neal’s libertarian views stem from his upbringing. “My dad and my grandparents, they taught me that,” said O’Neal. “They read it in the scriptures. You always give everybody a chance. There are bad people in all races, and there are good people in all races. You just got to weed the bad people out and hang out with the good people.”

In January 2016, during the US presidential primary election season, O’Neal was keynote speaker and introduced then-GOP primary candidate Donald Trump at a campaign rally before 10,000 people in Pensacola, Florida. “I only had four minutes, and I think I was up there 12 or 15 minutes,” said O’Neal. “I was wondering why I’m not getting a signal [to stop] but Trump wanted to hear what I had to say.”

He got the gig through a friend, but as a pre-condition O’Neal insisted he be able to spend time with Trump before agreeing to deliver the keynote and introduction. His purpose was to talk with the candidate, man to man, and learn his views instead of relying on reports in the media. “I like him,” said O’Neal of the current president. “He’s brash, but he doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He’s not politically correct, and he don’t give a shit. He tells it like it is. That’s why I spoke with him.”

O’Neal made clear he’s not a partisan or political party loyalist and shared his dislike for politicians in general. “To me, there’s no difference between Democrats and Republicans,” said O’Neal. “They’re all hogs that eat out of the same hog trough – and that’s feeding off taxpayers’ dollars. We need to cleanse our government.”

Gary O’Neal: An American Warrior in the Highest Sioux Tradition

(Part II, Part I can be found here)

In his book, American Warrior: The True Story of a Legendary Ranger, Gary O’Neal tells about the time when he was still too young to join the military without parental consent, at 16 he “borrowed” an older cousin’s birth certificate – unbeknownst to his cousin – to “legally” enlist in the Army.

O’Neal was eventually caught when the Army noticed two soldiers with the same identification number receiving pay. “I just wanted to be in the Army to get away from where I grew up,” said O’Neal. “I just basically ran away from home. I saw a target of opportunity.”

Growing up with dyslexia caused O’Neal difficulty in school. This was during the late ‘50s and early to mid ‘60s, long before the affliction was recognized as a possible root cause for poor performance. “I had problems reading and I had problems spelling. The math. I’d get things mixed up. Back then, they always called me ‘stupid’ because I couldn’t read,” said O’Neal.

Reading, writing, and arithmetic were O’Neal’s self-admitted “Achilles heel,” his weak points, which led to disrespectful taunting and ridicule by ignorant classmates, often followed by a school yard fight and O’Neal getting in trouble. “I got tired of people calling me stupid. And I knew I wasn’t stupid. I could drive a tractor at 8 years old, I could milk a cow when I was 5. I was riding horses in rodeos, and I’m roping, and I’m doing all kinds of stuff. Tearing engines apart, putting them back together. Planting wheat, and planting corn. At a young age I was doing a man’s job. I wasn’t stupid.”

The military method of teaching – explanation, demonstration, practical application (explain-see-do) – supported with basic written material suited O’Neal well with his talent, or “gift” for having the aptitude for seeing something done then being able to do it himself. “The handouts and books were confusing to me,” said O’Neal. “The training in the military fit my disabilities. I seen it, and I did it. Just like mimicking. It was really easy for me.”

Training to work with demolitions as an infantryman, O’Neal was required to calculate a mathematical formula to do his job. “I had to do formula. I had to do algebra and trigonometry,” said O’Neal, who credited, “good instructors” in the Army, one who in particular noticed and approached him about his dyslexia. “One of the instructors said, ‘Gary, you got dyslexia?’ and I said, ‘What’s that?’ and he said, ‘Let’s check that out,’” said O’Neal. “So I went to the doctor, and they checked it out and said, ‘Yeah, you got dyslexia.’”

Fortunately for O’Neal, the US Army, and the nation, properly training and deploying dyslexic demolition experts for battle in Vietnam was as simple as ensuring recruits had dyslexic demolition instructors. “One of my instructors had dyslexia too,” said O’Neal. “And he showed me how he did it. With one eye. Before this, I’d look at a paragraph, and most people if they saw what I saw would get sea sick.”

Being treated better by the military – “the only color that matters is O.D. Green,” said O’Neal – than by peers in civilian life made military culture one he found attractive. His first deployment to Southwest Asia was an assignment to the 173rd Airborne Brigade (infantry), where he served at Battalion Recon, then Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP – pronounced lurp), and then on to Rangers. O’Neal served with the Rangers for the duration of the Vietnam War when he came back stateside to help form Ranger battalions.

He accomplished all this before becoming a combat engineer in Special Forces (SF), sometime in the 1970s. Applying for SF was a decision he delayed for many years based upon his own erroneous assumption he didn’t possess the right qualities and experience.

“I wanted to be SF in Vietnam, but I didn’t have enough education in the woods to do what they was doing in Vietnam,” said O’Neal. “Come to find out that I did a lot more.”

O’Neal became attracted to martial arts, and he trained understanding the superior power of the mind over the strength of the physical. “I always trained my subconscious,” said O’Neal. “I’m a conscious being. I’ll tell you the secret that I did. I trained my mind first, before I did the action. It’s just like watching a video. I would see it, and then I would repeat it in my head a lot. Then I could do it, and I just went out and did it.”

To be continued in Part III, the final part of this series, to be published in the March First Nations Drum.