Cree activist turned author tells story of healing in Winnipeg’s inner city

‘It’s a shared experience I think that many Native people you know have gone through,’ says Clayton Thomas-Muller of new book

In a new memoir, Winnipeg environmental activist Clayton Thomas-Muller details what life was like growing up as an Indigenous youth in Winnipeg’s inner city.

Life in the City of Dirty Water ties together his stories of survival with his stories of defending lands against various pipelines.

“There’s a lot there you know but it’s a story of my life. But you know it’s a shared experience I think that many Native people you know have gone through,” Thomas-Muller said.

He faced family violence, poverty, racism and eventually ended up in juvenile detention.

This memoir details how he escaped from those troubles once he embraced his culture’s rituals and reconnected with the land.

“It’s a collection of stories basically about what it means, what it feels like to grow up Indigenous in an inner city, you know some of the shared experiences I think that my generation and subsequent generations have had as a result of the legacy of Canada’s residential school policy of genocide. You know it’s also a story about healing.” he said.

He hopes the book can help non-Indigenous people understand the hardships some Indigenous people like him face.

“There’s a lot of things that people can do and I hope that Life in the City of Dirty Water inspires both Native and non-Native people you know to come together and understand each other, maybe a little bit more, have a little bit more empathy, little more kindness, and most importantly that it activates people and normalizes conversations about some pretty tough topics,” he said.

The book is being released in the thick of an election campaign, and he hopes it can put pressure on those in power to make changes.

“There’s a lot of contradictions that continue to exist that need to be undone and you know I hope that this memoir can help advance that discourse, you know put pressure on decision makers and power people,” he said.

“I think it’s perfect timing you know I mentioned the thousands of our children that are coming home right now, we haven’t heard a word or a peep on that from you know any of the political parties I think at the level that they should be discussing it during an election.”

Thomas-Muller also hopes the book can encourage men to be able to have tough conversations with others.

“More pointedly, Life in a City of Dirty Water is very much a conversation for men, Indigenous men and you know non-Indigenous men to take a good hard look at normalizing conversations about how do we proactively approach you know unpacking all the programming around toxic masculinity, and you know white patriarchy and you know all these things that cause us to stray from you know at least in my case, the matrilineal society that our Cree people come from.”

Life in the City of Dirty Water can be purchased wherever books are sold as well as online.

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