For a Better Tomorrow
Elder Clarence Wolfleg
Miiksika’am, is a Canadian Indigenous elder born in the Siksika Nation in Alberta. He was given the name Clarence Wolfleg at Old Sun Indian Residential School, where he lived from the age of seven to 12.
“I remember standing at the window of the residential school, barely tall enough to look out. I whispered to my friends (we had to whisper because we weren’t allowed to speak our language), ‘You know what? When I grow up I'm going to be a soldier like my father. And then when I come back, I'm going to be a leader.’”
That’s exactly what happened, though the journey was neither direct nor easy.
“Residential school prepared me for the army, it’s kind of like a militarized institution. It was not a school, not a place of learning, but a place where you go to study the three Rs. They put you to work and are always punishing you for something. I wasn't used to that.”
Elder Wolfleg went on to attend Crescent Heights High School in Calgary. Later, with the permission of his father, and initially without the knowledge of his mother, he enlisted in the Canadian Army at the age of 17. Four days later, he was shipped out to Manitoba artillery school. After completing basic training, he flew out one morning at 2:45 on one of three military planes heading across the Atlantic.
He served with the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, including with the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus and the NATO Forces Continental Europe.
When asked about the impacts of serving, Elder Wolfleg explained: “Well, you know, one of the things in the military was there was nothing to go to when you're feeling the effects of where you were. The trauma of your comrades that never come back. And those that had to be shipped back because of what happened to them. The positive things I learned was how to work as a team, and how to ask for help. Also how to be independent and always find a way to make ends meet.”
There was no recognition of PTSD at the time. “I understood then what my father went through after coming back from the war. He was a happy person before he left. When he came back, he struggled with alcohol and anger.”
When Elder Wolfleg finished his military service, he joined the Blackfoot Tribal Police, initially as a police Special Constable and later as Chief of Police. He served ten terms on the Siksika Nation Council, along with directing outpatient services at Siksika Alcohol Services. He also worked on behalf of Indigenous veterans to improve their benefits.
Today, Elder Wolfleg is spiritual advisor for a number of groups and organizations, including Mount Royal University, Bow Valley College, Health Canada, Veterans Affairs Canada, and the Treaty 7 Tribal Council.Despite the injustices inflicted upon him in his early years, and the aftereffects of serving in the military, Elder Wolfleg chose to channel his pain into service. Before his life partner of 53 years, Fran, passed away in March of this year, she asked that whatever happened, he should continue his work. “Now I’m the mom and dad, and grandma and grandpa to 15 grandchildren. You take the good things from yesterday. You put them with the good things of today. For a better tomorrow.”
- Date modified: