Kamloops man says powwow dancing saved his life

Battling alcoholism and a traumatic past, Denny Thomas from Kamloops Indian Band says powwow dancing helped him turn his life around.

'You have so much self-worth as a dancer that you’re on cloud nine'

Battling alcoholism and a traumatic past, Denny Thomas from Kamloops Indian Band says powwow dancing helped him turn his life around. (Denny Thomas/Facebook)

When powwow dancer Denny Thomas takes the stage, he says all his problems simply vanish.

"When I'm out there dancing, there's absolutely nothing can touch me," Thomas says.

"There's nothing that can hurt me, there's nothing that can affect me. It's like the sun is shining. It's so self-empowering."

Thomas, 44, is from the Kamloops Indian Band. This year marks his third year of sobriety.

"I think I was about 16 when I first started really drinking," he recalls. "I started out drinking beer but I didn't like beer. And once I got into the hard stuff, tequila was my drink of choice."

It's about praying. It's about dealing with yourself in a healthy way.- Denny Thomas, pow wow dancer 

Thomas started using alcohol to escape and forget the trauma he experienced as a young boy. 

"I remember getting roughed up, but I don't remember it was to the point that my tailbone was broken at roughly five years old," he said. 

"[Alcohol] was just a way to deal with all the things that were going on."

Eventually, Thomas' drinking got so bad he said people stopped wanting to be around him. At the time of his sister's birthday three years ago, he decided enough was enough and took his last drink. 

Thomas credits powwow dancing with helping him reconnect with his community and his spirituality and slowly build up his resilience.

"It's about praying. It's about dealing with yourself in a healthy way," he said. "You have so much self-worth as a dancer that you're on cloud nine."

Thomas adopted the identity of "SuperNDN" or Super Indian as a homage to Superman. (Denny Thomas/Facebook)

Thomas adopted the identity of "SuperNDN" or Super Indian, a homage to Superman which is referenced through different aspects of his regalia including the red, white, and blue colour theme and his special cuffs. 

"It kind of resembles how I was before and where I came from and especially the people in my life that helped me get to where I am today," he said. "

"A lot of people looked after me, protected me, [and] helped raised me."

Thomas is now working toward his next performance at the Similkameen Powwow in Keremeos, B.C. on Labour Day weekend. 

Listen to the full interview with Denny Thomas here:

Battling alcoholism and a traumatic past, Denny Thomas from Kamloops Indian Band says powwow dancing helped him turn his life around. 9:35

With files from Daybreak Kamloops