Indian Posse founder's life marked by tragedy, journalist says

​Richard Daniel Wolfe was sentenced in a Regina court to five years in prison last week. The sentencing revealed a bleak background to Wolfe's family, journalist Joe Friesen says.

Sentencing revealed bleak background to Richard Wolfe's family, Joe Friesen says

Richard Daniel Wolfe was sentenced to five years in prison last week for sexual assault and assault with a weapon. (CBC/RCMP)

Richard Daniel Wolfe was sentenced in a Regina court to five years in prison last week.

It's the latest chapter in a crime-ridden life, but one also marked by tragedy, says Joe Friesen, a Globe and Mail reporter and the author of an upcoming book about the Wolfe family.

On Friday, Friesen was there as Wolfe received his latest prison sentence for sexual assault and assault with a weapon in connection with offences in Fort Qu'Appelle, Sask. in 2014.

Founders of notorious street gang

Wolfe and his brother Daniel Wolfe, both from Winnipeg, gained notoriety as founders of the street gang Indian Posse.

Friesen said during the sentencing he heard about crimes, but also about negative experiences in Wolfe's background that he had little or no control over.

Amid a series of personal setbacks, Wolfe turned to drugs and alcohol, sending him back on the road to violent crimes.

"He suffered a number of tragedies in his family. Things sort of went off the rails for him and he found himself back behind bars," Friesen said.

'Living a good life'

Wolfe got out of prison in 2010 after serving a lengthy sentence for the attempted murder of a pizza delivery person in Winnipeg. 

"Richard was living a good life after getting out of prison," Friesen said. "He had found work in the Fort Qu'Appelle area. He was trying his best to get in touch with his indigenous heritage, with elders to learn more about his culture. He was trying to further his education."

However, not long after being released, his brother Daniel was stabbed to death in prison in Prince Albert, Sask. His father died a year later, followed by the death of his stepson near Fort Qu'Appelle.

From there, Wolfe began his downward spiral, Friesen said.

Multigenerational experience in residential schools

From an early age, there were a number of factors working against a successful outcome for Richard and Daniel Wolfe, Friesen said.

Multiple generations of the Wolfe family attended residential school and suffered abuse. 

"You see the impact of Canada's policies toward First Nation people and the difficult position —almost the impossible position — from which Danny and Richard started in life," Friesen said. 

That background included "parents who were alcoholics, who had violence in the home and who struggled in school to the point that they were basically out of organized education and into a criminal justice system full time from about the age of 12 years old," he said.

Cultural programs recommended

Under the sentence rendered on Friday, the judge recommended that Wolfe, 40, be encouraged to seek the guidance of an elder upon his arrival at the federal penitentiary.

If the circumstances warrant a transfer, it's recommended that Wolfe be transferred to the Willow Cree Healing Lodge at Duck Lake to assist in his healing. 

It's also recommended that Wolfe be allowed to participate in cultural programs offered at the institution, including smudging, talking in healing circles and sweat lodge ceremonies.