Mikmaq Artist - Thomas (Starwalker) Clair

 

I came to Ottawa when I was 17 just turning 18 in the fall of September 1980. It took me and my cousin a week of Hitching in the rain. We took nothing with us; no money , no food , no warm clothes. We slept in the woods alongside the highway, it was wet and cold ! We would take turns spooning to keep our front and backs warm. It was the longest road trip I ever been on. But I felt it was time for A change in my life. I didn't know what I was going to do once I got to Ottawa, with no money , hungry and no place to stay. It didn't look like it was the right choice I made, and my cousin told me the next day that he was heading back. I thought he was crazy, but a part of me wanted to go back home, back on the Rez , back to the same old thing, getting high and drinking. Being broke all the time and nothing to do but get into trouble. And I did just that. But now it was different, I made my Choice and I was going to stick to it. I was homeless and hungry and no place to go to keep warm. I would go in doorways and hallways just to keep warm and get a little sleep after the store closed. I would go picking KFC boxes out of the trash down on Dalhousie st. I was lost in my emotions and I didn't really think I was going to make it. I started doubting myself and thought, maybe the people on the Rez ware right "that I would never amount to anything", just another drinking Indian on the Rez , I started hearing all the put downs in my head That I had heard growing up . My cousins would put me down and make fun of me when I tried to do something right for my self. The people would put me down for who my mother was and how poor we were. I was made fun of because of my dark skin. And how ugly I looked , every negative thought I ever had and that people put on me ran through my emotions and my body. Sitting on the edge of the sidewalk with a box of bones from KFC thinking what do I do now? That was 34 years ago.

And Thats how I started here in Ottawa , prior to that I lived on the reservation in Elsipogtog New Brunswick, at a very young age ,I was sent away to a boarding school for 4 years, where I lost my language, I'll spare you the details of my stay there, and move to when they brought me home , back on the reservation, I didn't quite understand my language and I spoke English to my mother and family, my big brother thought it was funny ,so he would make fun of me ,until he seen that my cousins and so called friends were joining in on the fun and he knew it was hurting me emotionally, so he started teaching me how to pronounce Mikmaq words correctly with out having an accent .\ I grew up fast,I was basically on my own at the age of 13 or 14 ,hitchhiking around ,coming in and out of my ReZ still not really thinking about who or what, I went to be , just a feeling of survival-survive , when I was 17 I was on the road again, to Ottawa the Capital of Canada, if I can't make it there, I can't make it anywhere, and I should just head back to the reservation. \ that was my thinking back then. So anyway I always felt like I was fighting just to survive, and never really having any dreams, to who I wanted to be , \ My dreams were always in black and white, like watching an old black-and-white movie, this would explain a lot about my thoughts on how I look at things ,like it has to be one or the other ,pick one and move on. \ it was my art that brought color into my dreams, when I started painting in my late 20's , when I was painting my emotions on Canvas for the world to see, some time passed, before I noticed I was dreaming in Colour , it was like my soul Unfroze ,or was sleeping all those years and just woke up ? \ My thoughts and ideas started to grow, my imagination was endless and for once I had dreams of who, what and where , I wanted to be.\ I started challenging myself, putting my self out there ,when ever I had the opportunity to do so. \ I wanted my work of art to be seen by many and it has, I wanted to dance all over and I have , I wanted to be In movies and I have been in several, now I want to sing! And I am, and I'm so grateful for the opportunities that have come my way , and to be on stage at westfest as many great Canadian artist stood before me. What and Honor, totally the best time of my life. \ thank you with all my heart Elaina Martin for giving me the opportunity to perform on your stage , and for believing in me and I hope that I didn't let you down, \ And River City Junction Jason Fryer , Caroline Addison , Tommy Joanisse if not for you, I still would be beating my self up and asking if I was good enough, and Al Wood when I started with my music I always imagined harmonica player in it, and I couldn't of ask for any one better , thank you much Shelley Montreuil you're a mean woman on the sax, you gave that extra spice that it needed, thank you ! my daughter my firstborn Monica, I love you so much, it meant a world to me to have you on the same stage and dancing , thank you my girl , and Rhonda Doxtator you have been a good friend for many years , I consider you as family and I couldn't of asked for anything better than to have two family members by my side , thank you . and most of all my beautiful wife Caroline Gomersall that had to put up with it all , my what if's , and stress, and hearing my songs over and over for the past months , thank you , love you more then you'll ever know ,