Asked how he had been so successful when others had not, his friend Mr. Joseph, the hereditary chief, said, “The trauma that he experienced didn’t consume him.”
Mr. Dixon did regret his own behaviour at home as an adult, blaming his youthful experiences for causing him to be an “emotional terrorist” to his two wives and his children.
For all his achievements, he found that everyday instances of discrimination could sting.
He recounted being ignored by sales staff in stores and by waitresses in restaurants. He raised his family in White Rock, a comfortable suburb south of Vancouver, noting the tension that his children caused among his white neighbours when they began dating in high school.
Over the years, he insisted the dark story of the residential schools be taught in school to all Canadians, because no one could appreciate the circumstance of aboriginal people without understanding the ugliness inflicted on them.
The poverty and the dysfunction associated with First Nations people was a direct result of families such as his own torn apart by a misbegotten policy.
In the end, he felt too many ignored the story he was asked to tell again and again.
“The federal government and most Canadians don’t give a shit what happens with us First Nations people,” he told As It Happens. “They’re on our stolen lands, our holy lands and they’re not going to be happy until they have it all. They were trying to eliminate us.”
Mr. Dixon died of cancer on July 20 in Vancouver. He leaves two sons, two daughters, six grandchildren, two sisters and a brother.
One of his lifelong regrets was in losing his native language, which he wished to have taught to his children and grandchildren. As he once told the Vancouver Sun, “An apology doesn’t return that language to me.”
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