Transcript: Vernon Linklater | Oct 10, 1990

(music plays)

The opening sequence begins.
Fast clips show the daybreak on a lake, birds flying in the sky, and a house covered with snow.

A song says TALK TO ME, SO I CAN HEAR
YOUR VOICE LIKE A LAKE
SO DEEP AND CLEAR
SOARING THROUGH THE
TOPS OF THE TREES,
DANCING BY MY WINDOW
LIKE A WIND BLOWING THROUGH
MY DOOR, DISTANT VOICES,
DISTANT VOICES
DISTANT VOICES
DISTANT VOICES

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Vernon Linklater. Heavyweight Boxing Champion. Social Worker." He is in his early thirties, with a moustache and combed black hair in a ponytail. He wears a white sweater.

Vernon says I REMEMBER
MY FRIENDS,
THEY WOULD SAY, LET'S
SKIP SCHOOL AND DRINK
OR LET'S DO SOMETHING.
AND I WOULD ALWAYS
SAY, NO, NOT TODAY,
I'M GONNA GO BOXING.
AND I'D GET
RIBBED ABOUT IT,
I'D GET A LOT OF TEASING
WOULD COME MY WAY
AND A LOT OF
PEER PRESSURE.
BUT, I USE BOXING
AS A WAY TO -
I REMEMBER ON A
BLACK AND WHITE TV
I'D SEEN THESE GREAT
BOXING CHAMPIONS
AND A PROFESSIONAL
AND I SAID,
I COULD DO THAT!
I JUST NEED SOME
TIME AND, I GUESS,
I DID IT THAT
WAY BY GOING
TO THE CLUB
AND NOT DRINKING
OR NOT SMOKING
DOPE.
I WENT TO THE CLUB
INSTEAD OF DOING THAT
WITH MY FRIENDS AND I KEPT
ON GETTING BETTER AT IT.

[loon calling]
The title of the show appears in yellow letters. It reads "Distant Voices, with Eva Solomon, CSJ."

(music plays)

A woman in her mid-forties, with long curly brown hair sits by a desk in the corner of a living room. There's a window behind her. She wears glasses, a blue and black patterned shirt.

Eva says VERNON LINKLATER
CAME VERY CLOSE
TO BEING JUST ANOTHER
PRISON STATISTIC BECAUSE
OF HIS BOUTS WITH ALCOHOL
AND HIS ANGER OVER
THE PREJUDICE HE ENCOUNTERED
AS A NATIVE PERSON.
INSTEAD, HE PICKED UP A
PAIR OF BOXING GLOVES AND
HE LEARNED THE HARD LESSON
OF CHANNELLING HIS ANGER
AND AGGRESSION INTO A
SPORT THAT DEMANDED
THE VERY BEST IN
TERMS OF DISCIPLINE
AND SELF-CONTROL.
IN THE PROCESS, HE
BEGAN TO COME TO TERMS
WITH HIS ALCOHOL AND DRUG
ABUSE AND TO LEARN
THAT HIS HERITAGE WAS ONE
THAT DESERVED HONOUR.
THE ODDS WERE
STACKED AGAINST HIM,
BECAUSE THE LINE BETWEEN
ACHIEVEMENT AND FAILURE
FOR NATIVE CHILDREN
IS SO OFTEN WALKED
IN VIOLENCE AND FEAR.
VERNON FLEW IN THE FACE
OF THE STATISTICS
AND THE
OVERWHELMING ODDS.
KNOWN TO MANY AS ANGRY
BEAR, HE WAS BORN
ON THE COUCHICHING RESERVE
NEAR FORT FRANCIS.
AND HE MOVED TO
THUNDER BAY IN 1969.

The caption changes to "Three time Canadian Amateur Champion in the Super Heavyweight Division."
A black and white picture of Vernon wearing wrestling hand wraps and shirtless appears.

Vernon says THE STORY FOR
ME TO BECOME A FIGHTER,
I WASN'T THINKING OF
BECOMING A BOXER.
I REALLY DON'T KNOW WHERE
THAT THOUGHT COME FROM.
BUT I REMEMBER AS A
GROUP, MY PEER GROUP,
WE ALL DECIDED TO GO
TO THE BOXING CLUB
TO SEE WHO WAS MAN ENOUGH
OR WHO WAS TOUGH ENOUGH
TO REALLY SEE WHO COULD
KNOCK SOMEONE OUT,
OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.
BEFORE THAT THOUGH,
MY BROTHER LINDON,
MY YOUNGER BROTHER,
HE'S ABOUT 50 POUNDS
LIGHTER THAN ME, I
WAS TEASING HIM.
AND I DIDN'T KNOW THAT
HE WENT TO THE CLUB
A WEEK BEFORE
AND HE HAD ABOUT
THREE BOXING
LESSONS ON ME.
AND I TEASED HIM
AND HE SAID, STOP.
AND I KEPT ON TEASING
HIM AND FINALLY
HE THREW A BOXING
COMBINATION.

A close-up shot shows a building that reads "Thunder Bay Amateur Boxing Club."

Vernon continues AND HE HIT ME ABOUT FOUR
TIMES IN THE CHOPS HERE
AND I FELL DOWN AND
I STARTED LAUGHING.
I WASN'T CRYING, I STARTED
LAUGHING, I SAID,
HEY, THAT WAS
PRETTY GOOD.
WHAT DID YOU
DO TO ME?
AND HE TOLD ME
THAT HE BOXED ME.
AND I WAS
INTERESTED THEN.
I THOUGHT, WELL, IF
LINDON CAN DO THAT,
HE KNOCK A BIG GUY OUT,
GET A BIG GUY DOWN
LIKE ME, WELL, I
COULD TRY IT TOO.

The caption changes to "Height: 72 inches. Waist: 38 inches. Bicep: 17 and a half inches. Neck: 18 a half inches. Reach: 30 inches."

A clip shows Vernon training.

Eva says IS THAT WHEN
YOU FIRST GOT YOUR
NICKNAME ANGRY BEAR?

Vernon says I GUESS MY FIRST
YEAR OF AMATEUR FIGHTING.
I WAS WORKING AT
CONFEDERATION COLLEGE BUBBLE,
AND ONE OF MY BOSSES
THERE, CRAIG STANLEY -
I WAS LATE FOR WORK BECAUSE
I RAN IN THE MORNING,
I WAS TRAINING
FOR A FIGHT.
I HAD TO COME IN FOR
WORK AT 7:00 A.M.
SO, I HAD TO GET UP
EARLY BY 5:00 AND RUN
AND COME TO WORK, BUT
I TOOK A SHOWER
AND I WAS LATE.
I GOT INTO WORK ABOUT
10 AFTER 7:00 AND I WAS
KIND OF MAD THAT I MISSED
TEN MINUTES OF WORK
AND SO I KIND OF STORMED
INTO THE BUILDING
AND HE WAS THERE.
AND HE TOLD ME
THAT, YOU KNOW,
WHEN YOU WALK IN
THE DOOR THERE
YOU KIND OF LOOKED
LIKE AN ANGRY BEAR.
AND THEN, A COUPLE
PEOPLE WERE THERE
AND THEY ALL KIND OF
STOPPED, LIKE EVEN ME,
I THOUGHT, ANGRY BEAR?
YEAH, IT SOUNDS
PRETTY GOOD.
AND THEN EVER SINCE
THEN, A LOT OF PEOPLE
HAVE BEEN CALLING ME
BY THAT NAME ONLY;
AS ANGRY BEAR
OR THE BEAR.
I REMEMBER WHEN I
FIRST STARTED OUT,
MY COACH SAID,
JOG, GO JOGGING.
AND I WAS ABOUT 17
AND I SAID, JOGGING?
WHAT'S THAT?
I DIDN'T KNOW
WHAT JOGGING WAS.
I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT
SKIPPING WAS.
ALL I KNEW ON TV WAS THE
END PART OF THE SPORT
AND THAT WAS PUTTING
THE GLOVES ON
AND BEATING
PEOPLE UP.
THAT'S WHAT I'D
SEEN, THAT'S WHAT
I JUST WANTED
TO DO.
BUT I DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO
TRAIN PROPERLY AND BECAUSE
OF LIKE, THUNDER BAY
THERE'S HARDLY ANY PEOPLE
THAT ARE CAPABLE OF
BEING PROVINCIAL
OR CANADIAN CHAMPIONS.
SO I, MORE OR LESS
TRAINED WITH MY BROTHER
AND WE TRAINED
NOT KNOWING MUCH.
ALL WE KNEW
WHAT WAS ON TV.
AND WHAT ONE OF MY OLD
COACHES TAUGHT ME.
AND IT WAS MOSTLY, WE
DID IT ALL OURSELVES.
WE WOULD INSTEAD
OF DOING PUSH-UPS
OR ON A MACHINE, WE
COULDN'T AFFORD TO GO
TO THE COMPLEX OR THE
BUBBLE LIKE THAT,
WE DID IT ON
OUR OWN.
WE DID MAKE-SHIFTS
WITH WOOD,
WE'D LIFT WOODEN
WEIGHTS, EVERYTHING.
WE USED A LOT OF OUR OWN
INGENUITY TO START AND
THEN LIKE HAND WRAPS, I
REMEMBER MY MOM HAVING
SOME LEATHER AROUND AND
THAT'S WHAT WE USED.
WE COULDN'T AFFORD
1.50 DOLLAR HAND WRAPS
THAT WERE AT THE STORE.
WE COULDN'T AFFORD
A MOUTH GUARD.
WE PUT COTTON BATTEN
IN OUR MOUTH.
WE DIDN'T KNOW
ANYTHING REALLY.

Eva says YOU WERE SAYING,
VERNON, THAT IT WAS
A PICTURE OR A
SCENE ON TELEVISION
WHERE THERE WERE SOME
CHAMPIONS BOXING
THAT MADE YOU SAY,
WELL, YOU CAN DO THAT.
AND IT'S OUT OF YOUR OWN
PRIDE AND DIGNITY
THEN THAT YOU WERE
INTERESTED IN BOXING.
IS THAT WHAT REALLY
GOT YOU MOVING?

Vernon says YEAH, I WAS MORE OR
LESS, I WAS WATCHING TV
AND I WOULD SEE THESE GUYS
AND IT WAS MAN AGAINST MAN.
AND ALL THEY HAD
BETWEEN THEM
WAS A PAIR OF BOXING
GLOVES THAT WOULD -
AND I REMEMBER ONE GUY,
WELL, THE GREAT MOHAMMAD ALI.
HE WAS MOVING AROUND
AND BOBBING AND WEAVING
AND HE SHOT A RIGHT HAND
AND HE KNOCKED A GUY DOWN.
AND I THOUGHT TO MYSELF,
I COULD, YOU KNOW,
I WISH I COULD DO THAT.
I THOUGHT OF IT AND THAT'S
HOW I KIND OF WENT
TO THE CLUB KNOWING THAT
IF I BOXED AND TRAINED,
I'M SURE I COULD
KNOCK PEOPLE OUT.
AND I WAS JUST KIND OF
SAYING IN THE SENSE
OF POWER THAT I WOULD
HAVE OVER PEOPLE.
ALL THIS WAS GOING DOWN
TOO THAT I WAS GROWING UP.
A LOT OF PEOPLE WERE
BUGGING ME BECAUSE
OF MY HERITAGE.
I COULD LIVE VERY
WELL IN A RESERVE,
I COULD HUNT AND TRAP AND
SPEAK MY LANGUAGE BUT,
WHEN I COME HERE
IN THUNDER BAY,
I DIDN'T KNOW
HOW TO ACT.
I DIDN'T KNOW - PEOPLE
WERE TEASING ME.

Pictures show Vernon and his friends.

Vernon continues I DIDN'T KNOW WHY OR
I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW,
I DIDN'T EVEN UNDERSTAND
THE WORDS THEY WERE SAYING.
BUT I THOUGHT THEY
WERE SAYING HI TO ME,
I WAS VERY NAIVE.
AS IT TURNED OUT, PEOPLE
WOULD HOLD ME DOWN
AND BEAT THE CRAP OUT OF
ME BECAUSE I WAS INDIAN.
AND I WONDERED
WHY AND I SAID,
THAT'S NO REASON
WHY TO BEAT ME UP.
AND I WAS ANGRY,
I WAS VERY UPSET,
VERY TROUBLED.
AND SOMETIMES I DRANK
AND BEAT PEOPLE UP.
I REMEMBER DRINKING AND I
SAID, NEXT PERSON I SEE,
I WANT TO BEAT THE
CRAP OUT OF THAT GUY
AND IT WAS AN OLD MAN.
AND I HIT HIM, I JUST
COME OUT AND HIT HIM
AND ANOTHER GUY, HIS
SON, COME ATTACK ME
AND I KNOCKED
HIM DOWN.
AND ONE OF MY FRIENDS,
HE WAS A TAXI DRIVER
AND HE'D SEEN
THIS HAPPENING
AND HE PUT ME IN A TAXI
AND WE ZOOMED AWAY.
THOSE WERE BOUTS OF
FRUSTRATION AGAINST
THE MAJORITY THAT
LIVED IN HERE
AND THAT WERE
WHITE PEOPLE.
I DIDN'T REALLY
UNDERSTAND THE WHITES,
WHY WERE THEY
BUGGING ME?
I DIDN'T SEE MYSELF
AS AN INDIAN EITHER.
I WAS JUST LIKE, WHY
ARE THEY PICKING ON ME?
I'M NOT HURTING
ANYONE.
BUT WHEN I HAD
ALCOHOL IN ME,
I WAS VERY ABUSIVE
TO ANYONE.
ANYONE THAT SAID SOMETHING
TO ME THAT I DIDN'T LIKE,
I WOULD BEAT THEM UP.
MY FISTS WERE THE ANSWER
AND I NEEDED SOME PLACE
TO VENT MY ANGER SO
I WENT TO THE CLUB
THAT WAY AND I
KIND OF GOT BETTER
AT WHAT I WAS DOING.
I WAS A FASTER
LEARNER.
I USED BOXING AS A
MEANS TO BE PROUD.
I ALWAYS WALKED
WITH MY HEAD DOWN,
I DIDN'T LOOK AT PEOPLE IN
THE EYES, UNTIL BOXING.
AND MY FIRST COUPLE OF
FIGHTS I WOULD WIN
BY KNOCK-OUT AND
THAT GAVE ME A SURGE
OF WITHIN ME TO BE
PROUD OF WHO I AM.
AND THEN I STARTED
WALKING MY FACE,
LOOKING AT PEOPLE AND LOOKING
AT PEOPLE IN THE EYES.
AND THAT'S HOW I REALLY
WANTED TO GET OUT
OF BEING A
NOBODY, I GUESS.

The caption changes to "1990 Commonwealth Games Bronze Medalist." A picture shows Vernon receiving a medal.

He continues A LOT OF PEOPLE, EXCEPT
MYSELF AND MY FAMILY,
THEY DIDN'T SEE ME BEING
A CHAMPION IN BOXING.
I CHOSE THAT ROAD
BECAUSE OF MY FATHER.
HE HAS A B.A., MY OLDER
BROTHER HAS A B.A.,
MY YOUNGER BROTHER HAS A B.A.
AND I WAS IN COLLEGE
AT THE TIME AND, I GUESS,
MY OWN FEELING WAS
I DON'T THINK I'M NOT SMART
ENOUGH TO GET A B.A.
I THINK I'LL SETTLE
FOR A COLLEGE DIPLOMA,
WHICH I HAVE.
AND I WANTED SOMETHING
TO BE EQUAL TO THEM
AND I LOOKED AROUND AND BOXING
WAS THERE AND I THOUGHT,
WELL, ANYONE CAN GET A B.A.
BUT THERE'S A FEW PEOPLE
THAT COULD BE
CANADIAN CHAMPIONS,
EVEN A BRONZE MEDAL AT
THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES.
I DIDN'T KNOW AT THE
TIME, BUT I USED THAT
AS AN EQUALITY FACTOR WITH MY
OWN FAMILY TO SAY, YEAH,
HE MAY HAVE A B.A. BUT I'M
THE CANADIAN CHAMPION.
AND SO, LIKE, MY BROTHER,
MY OLDER BROTHER RON,
HE SAID, HMM, WE GOT
A B.A., YOU KNOW?
I KNOW HE WASN'T PUTTING
ME DOWN, BUT I THINK
HE WANTED ME TO GO TO COLLEGE
OR GO TO UNIVERSITY
OR FURTHER MY EDUCATION.
BUT I SAID, YEAH, THAT'S
GOOD YOU HAVE A B.A.
WELL, I KNOW THIS GUY
HE'S 44 YEARS OLD
AND HE'S GETTING HIS
B.A. BUT I'D TEASE HIM
BACK SAYING, WELL,
I'M THE CHAMPION HERE.
I'M THE THREE-TIME
CANADIAN CHAMPION,
CAN YOU SAY THAT?
AND THEN HE STOPPED
BUGGING ME BECAUSE OF THAT.
SO I USED THAT AS A MEANS
TO BE EQUAL TO EVERYONE.

(guitar music plays)

Eva says WHEN VERNON LINKLATER
BEGAN TO REALLY TRAIN
AS A BOXER, A LOT OF
PEOPLE DIDN'T SEE HIM
AS A CHAMPION.
HE HAD TO STAND AGAINST
THIS PERCEPTION,
AGAINST HIS FAMILY
WHO WANTED HIM
TO GET A UNIVERSITY
DEGREE, AND AGAINST OTHERS
WHO LABELLED HIM
A DIRTY INDIAN.
BECOMING A THREE-TIME
CANADIAN CHAMPION
WAS A MATTER OF CHOICE, AS
HE EXPLAINED TO HIS BROTHER
WHO GAVE HIM A HARD TIME
FOR NOT GETTING HIS DEGREE.
IT WAS THE PLACE WHERE
HE KNEW HE COULD FIND
ACHIEVEMENT AND SUCCESS.
HE HOPES HE'LL BE GOING
TO THE 1992 OLYMPICS
AS A CANADIAN
BOXING CONTENDER.
EARNING A MEDAL
FOR HIMSELF AND
FOR NORTHERN ONTARIO.
HE ALSO CHAMPIONS AT
CAUSE FOR THE YOUNG
OFFENDERS HE COUNSELS.
HE TELLS THEM ABOUT
THE SELF-RESPECT
HE NOW CARRIES, A
SELF-RESPECT THAT'S
BRIGHTER THAN
ANY MEDAL.

Vernon says I'M WHAT YOU CALL
A CHILDCARE WORKER.
I WORK WITH
YOUNG OFFENDERS.
AND THE POPULATION FOR
NATIVE IN THAT CATEGORY
MAY BE 55, 50 TO
60 PERCENT NATIVE
AND THE REST
NON-NATIVE.
THE KIDS THAT I
DO WORK WITH,
I MORE OR LESS, WORK
WITH NON-NATIVES
AT THE BEGINNING
AND THEY'RE SCARED.
THE REASON WHY THEY'RE
SCARED IS THEY NEVER HAD,
IN THEIR WHOLE LIFETIME,
HAD A NATIVE PERSON,
A MINORITY, AS AN
AUTHORITY FIGURE.
THAT REALLY PUTS THEM
INTO BEING DEFENSIVE.
AND MY JOB IS TO GET BY
HIS DEFENCE AND TELL HIM,
I'M A CHILDCARE WORKER,
I'M NOT AN INDIAN.
YOU'RE A Y.O.
THAT'S WHAT WE CALL
THEM, YOUNG OFFENDERS.
YOU'RE HERE FOR A REASON;
IF YOU DON'T LISTEN TO ME,
THERE'S OTHER WAYS
WE CAN DO THIS.
NOT BY FORCE BUT
WE CAN PUT YOU
IN A SECURE SETTING
OR WE COULD PUT YOU
SOMEWHERE ELSE WHERE
YOU WOULDN'T HAVE
THIS FEELING OF
BEING FREE.
I WORK WITH
KIDS LIKE THAT.
I REALLY TEACH THEM
THE UNDERSTANDING
OF HOW NATIVE PEOPLE ARE,
HOW MINORITY PEOPLE ARE.

A clip shows Vernon talking to a group of people in a park.

He continues AND WHEN I DO WORK
WITH THE NATIVE KIDS,
I TRY AND TEACH THEM
MORE, TO BE YOURSELF.
DON'T PUT YOUR HEAD DOWN,
BE PROUD OF WHO YOU ARE.
YOU HAVE HERITAGE AND
THAT'S GOING FOR YOU,
YOU HAVE A LOT OF PEOPLE
THAT BELIEVE IN YOU,
YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE
IN YOURSELF.
I MIX THEM ALL UP
TOGETHER AS A FAMILY.
THESE KIDS ARE 15 YEARS
OLD; THEY'VE GOT IN
TROUBLE WITH THE LAW AND
THEY HAVE TO BE THERE.
THEY'RE PHASE ONE
YOUNG OFFENDERS.
I GET A KICK OUT OF THEM,
I EXPLAIN TO THEM WHAT
I WENT THROUGH AS
A YOUTH.
I COULD'VE BEEN
A MUSCULAR GUY
WITH TATTOOS
AND IN PRISON.
I COULD'VE BEEN
THAT KIND OF GUY,
I COULD'VE BEEN A MURDERER
IF I KEPT ON DRINKING.

The caption changes to "Native people compose 2.85 percent of the Canadian population. Native men compose 10.6 percent of the prison population, while native women compose 14.4 percent."

He continues EVEN ME WHEN I
WAS GROWING UP,
I DIDN'T THINK, YOU WEREN'T
YOUNG, I WAS ALWAYS OLD.
I TELL THEM NO, I WAS
YOUNG JUST LIKE YOU,
I DID THIS WITH YOU
BUT IT'S DIFFERENT.
NOW, YOU HAVE
TO LISTEN.
I HAVE TO, IN MY JOB,
I GIVE THEM A SENSE
OF THE MORE YOU
UNDERSTAND PEOPLE,
THE BETTER YOU'LL
HAVE TO UNDERSTAND
YOURSELF AND
THAT'S HOW IT IS.
MY JOB, I
LOVE MY JOB.
A LOT OF KIDS DON'T
BELIEVE THAT
I AM THE BOXING FIGURE
THAT THEY'VE SEEN ON TV
AND THEY'RE
IN DISBELIEF.
WHEN IT REALLY SINKS
IN THEIR HEAD,
THIS GUY'S MY
PRIME WORKER AND
HE'S THE CHAMPION
OF CANADA,
IT REALLY GIVES THEM
A SENSE OF PRIDE
THAT THEY'RE ALONG
WITH ME ON A TEAM,
AS OPPOSED TO
AGAINST THEM.
AND THAT
REALLY WORKS.
A LOT OF KIDS, THEY
HAVE A BAD FEELING
OF AUTHORITY FIGURES
AND WHEN THEY SEE ME,
OH, I DON'T
LIKE THAT GUY,
HE'S A BIG GUY, I'LL
HAVE TO FIGHT HIM.
BUT WHEN THEY SEE ME
AS A BOXING CHAMPION,
OR AS A NICE GUY,
A COMICAL GUY,
THEY PUT DOWN
THEIR HANDS,
THEY PUT DOWN
EVERYTHING AND THEY
COME IN FRIENDSHIP.

[chatter]
Vernon plays basketball with kids.

He continues WHEN WE WERE GROWING UP
MY FATHER WAS DRINKING
AND THERE'S A LOT OF
ALCOHOL ABUSE THAT WAY.
HE WOULD COME HOME AND
JUST BY THE SOUND
OF HIS VOICE THERE,
YOU'D KNOW HOW DRUNK
HE WAS AND HE'D
REALLY SCARE THE HELL
OUT OF MY MOTHER AND
THE WHOLE FAMILY.
AND I WAS KIND OF, I
WAS THE SECOND OLDEST
AND I REALLY HAD TO...
WHENEVER SOMETHING LIKE
THAT HAPPENED I WOULD
REALLY HAVE TO GET THE
KIDS EITHER IN BED
OR HIDING OR EVEN TAKE
THEM OUT OF THE HOUSE
AND COME BACK AND SEE
WHAT HAPPENED LIKE,
YOU SEE FIGHTING.
IT WAS, I GUESS, PART
OF THE SICKNESS CALLED
ALCOHOLISM AND I WAS A
VICTIM OF ALCOHOLISM.
BECAUSE OF THAT I
GREW UP, I DRANK,
GOT MIXED UP WITH
DRUGS AND WENT
ON THE WRONG
SIDE OF THE LAW.

Eva says YOU TALKED ABOUT
DRINKING AND ALCOHOL.
DID YOU SEEM TO THINK THAT
ALCOHOL WOULD EVEN
GIVE YOU MORE POWER OR
WAS THAT A DETERRENT?

Vernon says I WAS DRINKING
BEFORE I WAS BOXING,
AND I KNEW THERE
WOULD BE TROUBLE JUST BY
THE FAMILY HISTORY OF
ALCOHOLISM IN OUR OWN
FAMILY AND PEOPLE
THAT I SEE.
ALL MY FRIENDS WERE
DRINKING, THEY WOULD FIGHT,
THEY WOULD BE
POOR OR WAKE UP,
THE REGULAR ALCOHOLISM.
I KIND OF KNEW THAT I
COULD DRINK AND WORK OUT.
BUT IT WAS MORE ABUSING MY
BODY AND EVEN WORKING OUT.
WHAT'S THE USE OF WORKING
OUT ON A HURT BODY?
THAT'S WHAT I THOUGHT.
I USED BOXING AS A MEANS
OF ESCAPE FROM ALCOHOLISM
AND INSTEAD OF DRINKING,
I WENT TO THE CLUB.
IF I THOUGHT OF DRINKING
I WORKED OUT HARDER
AND I JUST BECAME, I USED
I GUESS, MY ADDICTION
WAS BOXING, MORE OR LESS
TO PUT IT THAT WAY.
INSTEAD OF DRINKING
AND BEATING PEOPLE UP,
I WOULD TRAIN, SKIP, SPAR
AND THEN BEAT PEOPLE UP.
I DON'T SEE MYSELF AS
BEING AN ALCOHOLIC.
AS A CHILD, I GREW UP
TO BE A HEAVY DRINKER.
I WAS BIG BONED GUY; I
DRANK MORE THAN PEOPLE.
BUT ALSO, IF THERE WAS NO
BEER IN FRONT OF ME,
I COULD DRINK A
CASE OF POP
AND THAT'S HOW I
VIEW MYSELF.
I HAD A FEW BLACKOUTS.
I REMEMBER GOING TO A
TREATMENT PROGRAM
AS A TEENAGER;
OPTIONS FOR YOUTH.
AND I REALLY DIDN'T
UNDERSTAND THE QUESTIONING.
THEY SAID, WELL, YOU'RE
GOING THROUGH DENIAL
AND LIKE I'D BE LIKE NO
I'M NOT, I'M NOT.
BUT NOW THAT I'VE
OVERCOME IT, I DON'T
KNOW IF I'VE OVERCOME
ALCOHOLISM, I COULD SAY
THAT I'M DRUG FREE AND
ALCOHOL FREE TODAY.
I DON'T QUESTION HOW I
STOPPED, I JUST BELIEVE
TODAY THAT I JUST
CHOSE NOT TO DRINK.
AND I HAD TO DEAL WITH
THAT FIVE YEARS AGO.
I USED ALCOHOL AS A MEANS
OF A CALMING EFFECT.
WHEN I WAS COMFORTABLE
WITH MYSELF I PUT MY HEAD UP,
I HAD THIS I DON'T CARE
ATTITUDE BUT I KNEW WHAT
I WAS DOING AND I WAS
LOUDER, I WAS FUNNIER,
I WAS STRONGER.
NOW, THAT I DON'T DRINK,
I'M STILL THAT KIND OF GUY.
I DON'T USE ALCOHOL
ANYMORE TO DO THAT.
IT'S MORE I BELIEVE
IN MYSELF, I GREW UP.
IF THE PERSON INSIDE
THEM, IF THEIR FIRE
IS STRONG INSIDE, IF
THEIR SPIRIT IS STRONG,
THEY COULD PUT THEIR HEAD
UP AND JOKE AND TALK
TO ANYBODY AND THAT'S
HOW I FEEL TODAY.
BEFORE I USED ALCOHOL AS A
TOOL TO GET ME STRONG,
TO GET ME TO TALK.
BUT NOW, I DON'T USE THAT
FOR ALCOHOL ANYMORE,
I USE MORE OF A
HAPPINESS.
I JUST SHY AWAY
FROM EVERYTHING
AND I LIVE HAPPILY.
WHEN I SAY HAPPILY,
I'M NOT, LIKE I HAVE
A LOT OF PROBLEMS,
PERSONAL PROBLEMS
THAT I DEAL WITH DAILY.

Vernon practises boxing with girl in a playful manner.

He continues BUT, ONE OF THEM NOW
IS NOT ALCOHOLISM.
ESPECIALLY ME NOT BEING
A PRACTICING ALCOHOLIC.
I DON'T THINK
IT'S A PROBLEM.
SO, I'VE DEALT
WITH IT OTHER WAYS.
THE BELIEF THAT
ME BEING ANISHNAWBE
AND GOING TO SWEATS,
THAT REALLY HELPED ME.
THE EAGLE FEATHER THAT
I RECEIVED FROM PEOPLE.
I USE THAT WHEN I REALLY
THINK MAYBE I SHOULD GO
AND PARTY TONIGHT OR MAYBE
I SHOULD HAVE A DRINK.
I THINK, WELL, IF I
DID, I'D THROW AWAY
FIVE YEARS OF CLEAN, SOBER
LIFE, I WOULD PROBABLY GAIN
MORE OR LOSE A LOT
OF MY FRIENDS.
MY MONEY THAT I HAVE SAVED
WOULD BE SPENT ON BOOZE.
I DON'T WANT TO DO THAT
SO I CHOOSE NOT TO
AND THAT'S HOW
IT IS TODAY.
I DON'T DRINK.

[chatter]

Eva says WHAT'S INTERESTING IS
OUT OF YOUR OWN INGENUITY,
YOU END UP WITH THE SKILL
THAT MAKES YOU A CHAMPION.
AND I THINK IT WAS
IN NEW ZEALAND
RECENTLY THAT YOU
WON A MEDAL.
CAN YOU SHARE SOME
OF THAT EXPERIENCE?

Vernon says I LOOKED TOWARDS
THE 1990 COMMONWEALTH
GAMES AS A PLACE TO
MAKE MY COMEBACK.
I DIDN'T THINK I
WOULD WIN A MEDAL
AT THE START BACK
IN EARLY 1988.
BUT AS I TRAINED AND AS
I WON TOURNAMENTS HERE
AND THERE, I KNEW I
COULD WIN A MEDAL
AND I WAS TRYING TO
SHOOT FOR THE GOLD.
I TRAINED HARD.
I DID OKAY; I WON
MY FIRST FIGHT,
I BEAT AN AUSTRALIAN.
AND THEN I HAD TO FIGHT
THE BOY FROM NEW ZEALAND
AND I LOST TO
HIM ON POINTS.
BUT, I PUT UP A GOOD
FIGHT, I PUT UP A GOOD
SHOWING THAT PEOPLE
RECOGNIZED ME
AS THE GUY FROM CANADA
WHO COULD PUNCH.
THAT'S HOW I WIN MY FIGHTS
MOSTLY, WITH KNOCKOUTS.
THAT'S WHAT I TRIED TO
DO IN NEW ZEALAND BUT
I COME BACK WITH A BRONZE
MEDAL AND THAT
WAS REALLY A DREAM
COME TRUE FOR ME.

Vernon hits a speed bag in a gym.

He continues I'D LIKE TO BE AN OLYMPIAN
FOR THE 1992 GAMES.
WHEN I RETIRE, I'D LIKE TO
OPEN UP A FIRST NATIONS
BOXING CLUB.
JUST THE FACT THAT BEING
FIRST NATIONS IT WON'T BE
JUST NATIVE PEOPLE;
IT'LL BE OPEN
TO ANYBODY THAT
I WANNA COME.
BUT, THERE'S GOING TO BE
MORE THAN JUST BOXING.
THERE'S GOING TO BE A
LITTLE BIT OF LIFE SKILLS
PROGRAM, LITTLE BIT OF
MATH, LOT OF SCHOOLWORK.
AND MY DREAM NOW IS TO
TRAIN A WORLD CHAMPION
OR TRAIN AN OLYMPIC
CHAMPION AND I'D LIKE
TO BE IN THAT CORNER
WITH MY PRODUCT,
MY BOY TO THE WORLD.
MAYBE EVEN TURN
PROFESSIONAL
WITH THAT YOUNG FIGHTER
AND GO EVERYWHERE.
I KNOW THUNDER BAY ITSELF
COULD PRODUCE MORE CHAMPIONS
IN THE BOXING RING OTHER
THAN JUST BILLY POWELL.
I REMEMBER A COUPLE
OTHER GUYS BEFORE ME
THAT WERE CHAMPIONS,
BUT THUNDER BAY
THERE'S A LOT OF
YOUNG PEOPLE.
AND THERE'S A FEATURE
HERE, THE WORLD BOXING
CHAMPIONSHIP IS
IN THUNDER BAY.
I'D LIKE TO BE PART OF
THAT, REGARDLESS OF RACE,
I JUST WANT TO GIVE THEM
THAT EXPERIENCE THAT I HAVE.
AND LET THEM
GO WITH THAT
AND WE CAN TAKE
ON THE WORLD.

(music plays)

Eva says FOR VERNON, PART OF
GROWING UP AND BECOMING
A MAN WAS RENOUNCING HIS
DRINKING AND DRUGS.
HE DID THAT ABOUT
FIVE YEARS AGO,
AROUND THE TIME HIS
FIRST SON WAS BORN.
BECOMING A MAN ALSO HAD
TO DO WITH RENOUNCING
SOME OF HIS
ANGER, THE PART
THAT SOMETIMES
LASHED OUT BLINDLY
AGAINST THE PREJUDICE.
TODAY THOUGH, VERNON
CAN LOOK TO THE MIRROR
AND BE PROUD FOR HE
HEARD AND HEEDED
THE INNER-DISTANT VOICES
THAT SPOKE TO HIM
OF DIGNITY AND
SELF-RESPECT.

(music plays)
The end credits roll.

Produced and directed by Jim Hanley.

Photographed by Mark Mackay.

Co-produced by Jim Hyder.

Editorial consultant, Elinor Barr.

Interviews by Eva Solomon and Jim Hyder.

Associate producer, Dan Robinson.

Writer, Patricia Michael.

Post production supervision, Steven G Strachan.

Editor, Patrick Malone.

Assistant editor, Keith Singer.

Technical director- Sound recordist, Rob Sim.

Camera equipment, Sim Video.

Aerial and additional photography, Mark MacKay.

Location manager, Ron Macey.

Location construction, Bill Kelly, Larry Wright.

Stills photography, Dan Robinson.

Production Assistants, Shelley Klinck, Rhonda Kara Hanah.

Title theme composed and performed by Rodney Brown.

Closing theme and additional music, Mark Seagully.

A co-production of TVOntario and Sleeping Giant Productions.

Sleeping Giant Productions logo. Copyright 1990, TVOntario and Sleeping Giant Productions.

Watch: Vernon Linklater