Q: Hey Robert, thanks for taking the time to talk. Can you give our readers a little intro of yourself?
A: Hi, I'm Robert Nabess and I was born here in The Pas and raised in Cormorant / The Pas until I was 8, then moved to Churchill. My parents ran two restaurants, one beside an art gallery where I spent a lot of time looking at art . A local artist Allan Chapman gave me his old paints and brushes and I used to copy the paintings in the gallery. Inuit artists sat in back and carved pieces for the gallery from soapstone. I would watch for hours upon hours.
We moved around for the next few years finally ending up in Winkler, which for a Northerner, was quite a culture shock. I soon ended up in Agassiz youth center and the Manitoba Youth Centre on charges. That's when I joined a gang at the age of 14, and spent time in facilities in and out for the next 10-12 years.
Q: You and your family are pretty highly involved in the whatever communities you end up in. Can you talk a bit about that?
A: My mother ran a shop for years in Winkler - a Native art store in the middle of the Bible Belt Mennonite country. It sure was a challenge on top of raising us 5 kids on her own making moccasins, mukluks etc., the way her mother taught her. She currently runs a shop in Winnipeg along with my brother who is lead singer in two recorded metal bands.
Q: You're a part of the Crazy Indian Brotherhood. While many people see the great work you do, others aren't as trusting. Can you tell us what CIB is about?
A: I became president of the Crazy Indians Brotherhood in Nov. 2014. We help other brothers leave gangs and offer help and guidance for those wanting to change their lives. We wear cuts to identify our brotherhood and to show unity. It's also to fight the same stereotypes that the homeless and ex-cons have to face daily on top of trying to survive. We try to protect women, elders and children and help in any way needed by lifting others. We organize and help feed those on the streets, or elderly that are unable to get out and hunt and fish on their own.
Q: You operate Whitefeather Creeations here in The Pas. Can you tell us a little bit about how that started?
A: Back when I was getting into trouble, I was sentenced to 2 years house arrest in Nelson House. Chief and Council spoke on my behalf and took responsibility for me, for 2 years I looked after every aspect of the community sweat lodge and learned from the medicine man I resided with. Also, I started to pursue my gift of art that I was neglecting all those years. As I came to the end of my sentence, I stayed in Nelson house and worked security at a treatment center I attended there. I fasted for four days and received my Indian name "Whitefeather" a week before my contract was up. I prayed for guidance on what to do next in life. I called my mother the next day to tell her of my experience and she cut me off in excitement to tell me of a dream she had the night before that her and I opened a store. It was called Whitefeather Creeations. There was my calling.
You can read more about their artwork on fb and wfp.