The Archie house in approximately 1973. Trudy Archie photo.

The Archie house in approximately 1973. Trudy Archie photo.

Dealing with addiction; Finding the root cause

B.C. First Nations man hosts conference to help himself, other heal

John Archie started his 26th year sober as of this week. He has been sober since 1992, he says.

“As an alcoholic, I know I can never go back drinking because it’s a progressive disease.”

Archie says he’s been doing a lot of research why he became who he became.

The Indian Act prohibited sale of alcohol to First Nations starting in 1884. In 1951, amendments to the act meant provincial governments had to petition the general-in-council to fully implement the amendment within their jurisdictions. In B.C., that prohibition ended in 1962.

“They opened up the liquor stores and the bars to Indians and that’s when alcoholism exploded on our reserves and probably every rez in Canada,” he says. “I call it the alcoholics sixties, there was, I would say, a 100 per cent of our rez was alcoholics. I grew up in it, the poverty and the alcoholism.”

While there might have been some who weren’t, Archie says his parents were.

“Most of the time they bought groceries but not all the time. But I know other people were worse off than I was. So growing up with alcoholic parents in an alcoholic community. That’s your role models. It seems like a normal life.”

Some of the children on the reserve were into alcohol at 12 years old and earlier, he says.

“When they got drunk [inaudible] it was really bad. It was like an explosion between them. Every time they drank violent explosions started. Not only in my family but other families that, between other families, tribal fights and stuff like that. That’s the kind of environment I grew up in.”

He wasn’t a victim of the violence, but he was sexually abused, he says.

“When I was a child, I was sexually abused, I would say anywhere from four to eight years old and then I went to the residential school and I was sexually abused when I was up there. All those things impacted me. I was quite young.”

The abuse impacted Archie quite severely, he says.

“I guess through being sexually abused I lost my ability to walk and I lost my ability to talk.”

His auntie used to help him with moving his feet, he mimics.

She used to tell him, “come on, lift up yourself. Come on, lift up yourself,” he says, adding that he used to be too scared to talk.

“My auntie and my mother and my grandfather spent a lot of time with me and they got me better.”


John Archie (front, second from the left) at the St. Joseph Mission Residential school in 1966. Fred Waterhouse picture.

In addition to himself, his grandparents went to the Mission residential school and his mother was up there and all the generations in between and after, he says, adding that he was there from 1965 to 1967. The majority of the nuns, supervisors, workers were sexually abusing the students there, he says.

“When [the students] become sexually active, they do the same things to the younger kids. So, that’s how I became a victim as young as I was. That’s how I understood it when I thought about things logically. My mind is trying to figure the whole picture out and what’s happened.

“I’m able to figure out why my community became like this and why my parents became alcoholic. Why my community became alcoholics and why not too many people can have a beer. Not too many Indians can have a beer and put it down.”

He thinks he was sexually abused when he used to pass out drunk too because there were lots of abusers around, he says.

According to Archie, he drank in teens but not excessively so. He started drinking more heavily when he was 21, he says. His wife left him and his children were taken away. Archie says, he was never physically violent with his children but that the verbal anger was just as bad. His children would tense up when he came by, he says.

He tried to go to a treatment centre four times but wasn’t ready to quit drinking when he did. Eventually, his sister, Charlotte (who was also the band’s first female chief), came to talk to him who had managed to go sober and they talked for several hours, he says. He adds that she helped him start his journey to quitting right there.

“I had some beer in the fridge. I opened my beer. I spilled it in the sink. I opened a beer. I spilled it in the sink. I opened up my mickey and spilled it in the sink. I was crying because I didn’t want to quit drinking.

“I went through withdrawals the next day it was so brutal. I went to go to get two cans of beer. I tried to drink it and I got more sick so I decided that’s it.”

After two weeks he went to a treatment centre, where he stayed for 28 days. He got his children back after he sobered up, he says.

A lot of the abuse he experienced, he says, he didn’t remember until after he sobered up.


John Archie (back row, third from the right) and his teammates as soccer champions in his second year at St. Joseph’s Mission. Submitted photo.

“I had flashbacks that scared the heck out of me and I was shrieking for days.”

He tried not to watch it but it was like having your back against a wall and you couldn’t go past it, he says.

His entire head, neck and jaw was always very tense with high blood pressure and doctors would give him pills but they weren’t able to deal with the root causes, he says.

He organized this past week’s Feel to Heal conference because he wants to try and heal himself and to try and help others heal. The conference featured keynote speakers such as himself, yoga, a sweat lodge, a walk and other activities. Talking about what happened is difficult for many people, says Archie.


John Archie drumming at the Feal to Heal Conference. Martina Dopf photo.

“They’re scared to hurt their family,” he says. “Until you become aware of the cycle, you can’t stop that cycle.”

Archie says he felt like a robot and couldn’t understand love or joy but that he can read people now and enjoys being around happy people. However, he still gets tense a lot, he says.

“When somebody comes through the door or rings a bell,” he tenses up. “aahhh, [when a] person comes in, aaahh.”

Now, however, he recognizes them as triggers.

“I don’t need to be scared anymore. I’m in a safe environment… It’s a past life. I’m safe now. I’m starting to understand now.”

Out of his children, there’s only one who’s drinking now, he says. He also has a few grandchildren now and says he sees an improvement.

“I heard my daughter say ‘at least we’re not like our parents where they couldn’t look after their kids,’” he says. “The lifestyle on our rez now is that the majority of our people are sober now. They’re still affected… Our children are affected lots but the grandchildren are growing up in a different environment. They have a good school to go to and a really nice daycare.”


max.winkelman@100milefreepress.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

First Journey Trails CEO Thomas Schoen (from left), Jimco Services’ James Doerfling, Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars and Sugar Cane Archaeology’s Marvin Bob break ground on a new mountain biking trail network project at WLFN. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
WATCH: Williams Lake First Nation breaks ground on multi-use bike trail project

Phase one of the project will see the construction of a 1,750-metre hiking and biking trail

Kimberley case counts not at the point for 18 years and older community vaccination, says Interior Health. (File photo)
Many factors considered for smaller community-wide vaccination: Interior Health

East Kootenay resort town’s COVID-19 situation not at the point of community-wide vaccination, say officials

Kira Stowell rode her way to first place in the senior pole bending event at the combined High School Rodeo in Quesnel in the only event of 2020. All regional high school events have been cancelled, although there are still hopes for provincials. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
High school rodeo events cancelled

Rodeos were planned for Williams Lake and Quesnel in early May

The COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake campus is closed April 22, 23, Interior Health confirmed. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake COVID-19 vaccine community clinic closed April 22, 23

Interior Health said closure comes as all appointments caught up, or rescheduled earlier

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Nanaimo RCMP say a man was injured while pouring gunpowder on a backyard fire in Harewood on Wednesday, April 21. (File photo)
Nanaimo man hospitalized after pouring gunpowder onto backyard fire

RCMP investigating explosion in Harewood also came across a still for making alcohol on property

Most Read