Graphic novel illustrates Indigenous man overcoming gang life, historical trauma

Tamara Pimentel
APTN National News
Pictures from the graphic novel The Outside Circle tell a powerful story of how an Indigenous man, surrounded by poverty, drug abuse and gang violence overcame centuries of historical trauma.

The story is being featured in the Power in Pictures exhibition in Calgary’s Glenbow Museum.

“These are issues we don’t like to talk about but we have to talk about them to solve them,” said Michelle Robinson from the Communities Safety Initiative program. “This book is a great tool to teach people across Canada why Indigenous people are in the situation they’re in right now.”

The novel’s main character, Pete, doesn’t know much about his Indigenous background. He deals with the addictions of his mother, losing his younger brother to the foster care system while in jail while struggling to leave the gang life.

Young people from the Urban Society of Aboriginal Youth were encouraged to draw their own comics to tell their own stories, creating a collaborative space where local youth’s stories hang alongside artwork from the novel.

“What’s been really important especially in the light of the TRC is to make sure (Indigenous people) have access to their own culture and are able to teach their own culture to each other,” said Power in Pictures curator, Joanne Schmidt.

A center theme in the exhibit are masks, a theme from the novel symbolizing the cover up of true emotion.

“Masks are that emotional façade we always put on so to have that throughout here was a really great segway to show people, just because you see a happy person doesn’t mean they’re happy,” said Robinson.

Adrian Wolfleg, an Indigenous educator at the museum, said Indigenous and non-Indigenous leave the exhibit inspired and educated.

“Some of the people that come in I stop and talk with them and they’re blown away,” he said. “This isn’t my life, but I know someone who went through this. I wish they can see this, they can see the hope.”

A young girl from Siksika First Nation near Calgary, Daralee Many Guns, shared her thoughts on the project, “People don’t always pull through from these situations, they usually give up and continue what they’re doing. But in this novel, it’s a happy ending.”

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