Bio – Dwight Powless
Dwight Powless is a Mohawk from Six Nations Reserve near Brantford Ontario. As a young child Dwight along with his siblings were sent to the Mohawk Institute residential school. Dwight’s mother, also a product of residential school, sent her children to the Mohawk Institute to escape extreme poverty. This experience proved to be more damaging than remaining home. Residential school put Dwight into a tumultuous environment of sexual , physical and mental abuse and neglect. The wounds of Residential school made Dwight susceptible to further abuse in his home community. Continued abuse led to addictions.
Dwight fled his community and joined the military in hopes to escape his anguish, in an effort to start a new life. The structure of the military echoed residential school. The culture of the military continued the pattern of racial intolerance and verbal abuse. He tried to use his work ethic and academic successes to prove he was a valuable individual. But, this approach to acceptance had little positive effect. It strengthened the harms done to him and they boiled to the surface. Lashing out physically became a pattern of behavior that sent him to confinement on a regular basis. Then alcohol became his self medication to suppress and smother the anger and pain. Constant failure drove Dwight to attempt suicide. The military’s solution was medical discharge after a short period of medical treatment. Alcohol continued to be Dwights medication.
Dwight’s life then assumed the pattern of wandering. Looking for a place to belong. Alcohol and a failed marriage were constant companions. Despite the trauma that haunted Dwight, it was the work ethic his mother had instilled in him when he was little that sustained his development and progress in his work career. Early in his career , Dwight immersed himself in cultural experience and knowledge to rebuild his core self. It is culture that gave him the tools to overcome his addiction. The culture gave him the strength to recognize that his marriage was over. Dwight began to take control of his own life. However long it would take, Dwight was preparing himself to face head on the pain of residential school.
He recognized that the residential school experience was the root of everything negative that had happened in his life and he was going to do something about it. Dwight hired a lawyer. The negativity that he had internalized for years did not belong to him. It belonged elsewhere. At this point Dwight began to speak aloud about his experiences. First to the lawyer, then to other survivors who were just beginning to face their experiences.
All the while that Dwight was going through his healing, his work ethic sustained his life physically and mentally while culture reeducated him emotionally, mentally and spiritually. As those parts merged and Dwight began to function as a single unit, his career improved simultaneously. During his 34 years with Canada Post, he went from a technician to Manager of Tech Services in 3 major plants in Canada. In 1994 he switched career direction into Retail of Northern Services, Prairie Region as Manager. During this time, Dwight’s work was recognized with awards and is one of very few who won all three Post Mark Awards: Team Award, Silver PostMark and Gold PostMark for exceptional service.
Canada Post created a new position at Head Office Ottawa in 1999 and asked Dwight to become the Aboriginal Relations Manager. During this period, Dwight was instrumental in helping CPC develop an Aboriginal strategy for increasing Aboriginal participation within the organization. As a result, CPC became recognized as the first Crown corporation to achieve the Bronze, Silver and Gold Hallmark Awards in Progressive Aboriginal Relations Program ( P.A.R.). Dwight continued in this job until his retirement in 2009.
Upon retirement, Dwight took on two new projects by request. The editor and owner of SAY ( Spirit of Aboriginal Youth) magazine asked Dwight to take on a role as Product Development Manager. Dwight initiated their best selling product: The Education Guide, a single source for the Aboriginal student wanting to pursue post secondary education. It continues to be an anticipated issue each year.
The second project was initiated in the Algonquin College Access Program as the Community Liaison Resource: A program to develop Aboriginal participation in the relationship among the college, the student and the Aboriginal community. In 2014, Algonquin College received international recognition for a program that Dwight created: The DevelopMentor Program, a youth employment and personal development program. Dwight continues in strategic development for the benefit of Aboriginal communities.
Dwight also is an Aboriginal consultant for Diversity at Work in London (ON), a privately owned business to encourage diversity in the workplace. He is a panel member for the IdeaConnector organization: a think tank that discusses the possible future roles of Aboriginal people in Canada’s future. It is culture that enabled him to be successful. It is culture that continues to inspire Dwight at this stage in his life.