By Jack Sinclair
I've never really thought about role models
before my dad asked me to talk at the youth centre. I mean,
what do I know about role models? I remember being a kid and
dancing powwow with my dad. I used to watch him and wish for
the day when I could dance like he could. I remember that
feeling and then one day it just faded away. Dad started drinking
more and more and wasn't really in my life all that much.
Then, when he cleaned up, he left home and I stayed behind.
I had to look to myself for answers to my problems. Then my
role models became fantasy figures like the X-Men, you know,
the underdogs, the mutants fighting for justice.
I'm lucky in a lot of ways, because as
much as I had to fend for myself growing up, at least I always
had the inner strength to stay away from negative role models.
Although tempted by the 'family' feeling that gangs offered,
I managed to avoid them and I got off the Rez in time to protect
When I was thinking about what I would
say at the youth centre, I tried to think of someone I looked
up to for inspiration. One name that came to me is Jordin
Tootoo, the hockey player from Rankin Inlet, Nunuvut. Jordin
was drafted into the NHL - for the Nashville Predators, and
he's the first Inuk EVER to make the NHL. Jordin has recognized
his position as a role model and stood up to the occasion,
understanding it isn't to be taken lightly.
Jordin has seen the pressures of being
a role model the hard way. His older brother Terrance was
another hockey great and is believed to be the first Inuk
to play professional hockey (he played for Roanoke Express,
a Virginia franchise in the East Coast Hockey League). He
was well on his way to making it to the NHL when he was charged
with impaired driving one night when leaving a party. Terrance
then took his life in the woods near the house he was staying
at in Brandon, Manitoba. He was only 16 years old.
No one can ever understand suicide, but
it's not too hard to imagine the pressures that Terrance faced.
The feeling of disappointment in letting down so many people
who looked up to him likely played heavily in his horrible
decision. He had an entire community and in some ways, the
better part of a country following his every move.
I guess that's all part of being a role
model. You can't be a leader without having people who are
looking to follow your example. Being a role model is serious
business and tragically Terrance Tootoo found that out. I
understand the risks, but I also think that I'm up for the
Now, if I could
just figure out what to say at the youth centre.
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