Norman was born and raised in Winnipeg and is a member of the Brokenhead Ojibwe Nation. His childhood home was chaotic, marred by family violence and excessive alcohol use.  After many beatings, his mom moved out taking Norman and his brother with her. These childhood experiences traumatized him, feeling like the only way he could gain approval from his father was to display aggression, intimidation, and anger. These behaviours negatively impacted his relationships with other children, youth, and adults.  His behaviours contributed to negative school experiences and eventually he left school at grade 8. His behaviours also lead to encounters with the law. Throughout his childhood and teenage years, he used drugs beginning with alcohol that led him to becoming an addict.

He lived on the periphery of gang life and became a drug dealer to support his addictions. Although he used different street drugs, he primarily turned to alcohol to cover the guilt and shame of not having protected his mother from the beatings. 

Life for Norman continued to be unsettled with homelessness and ongoing addictions during his 20’s. Family was not a support option as many of them were living a life of violence, suffering from addictions or in jail. Norman decided to deal with his past and present situation and enrolled in some treatment programs.  In 2017 he experienced a spiritual awakening. This awakening was the beginning of a journey to find himself, to discover his aboriginal roots and to develop a connection to the Creator through birds such as eagles and pelicans. During this time, he became sober.

Norman lived at Morberg House, a transitional residence for men overcoming homelessness, addictions, and mental health challenges. While there, he pursued his high school education.

In late February 2020, Norman discovered Winnipeg Inner City Missions and moved into Place of Hope to become a participant in the 1st Steps to Employment Project. The Covid pandemic rolled in but that did not stop Norman from graduating in the spring, successfully completing grade 12 and receiving his diploma from Urban Circle Adult Education Centre.  He is the first family member that he knows of, to graduate from high school! What an accomplishment and inspiration!

His goals are to continue getting an education, hopefully attain a Social Work degree and some day he wants to work with children and youth, inspiring them to stay clear of gangs, drugs, and alcohol and to choose healthy, productive life journeys.

Norman rides his bike for hours every day, going down to the banks of the Red River in downtown Winnipeg, where he will often spot eagles and pelicans soaring above. Norman is soaring with new hope and into new life!

While he appreciates his home at WICM and the supportive staff, the staff appreciate his positive and forward-thinking outlook on life. 

-documented by Linda Kirton

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