Becoming Anishinaabe: How a spiritual adoption changed Troy Westwood's life
Former Winnipeg Blue Bomber talks about it for the first time publicly
In music circles he is known as Little Hawk but in sporting circles his name is Troy Westwood. He is a retired place kicker with the the Winnipeg Blue Bombers who now co-hosts a daily sports show on TSN Radio.
Westwood is non-Indigenous and was "traditionally" adopted into the Anishinaabe culture by Dave Courchene Jr., and his wife. His ceremony took place at the Turtle Lodge, a centre for education and wellness at Sagkeeng First Nations in Manitoba.
It is the same location where author Joseph Boyden's ceremony was held on Jan. 20, when Indigenous filmmaker Lisa Meeches adopted him as her brother.
Westwood's adoption took place over 20 years ago and he has never spoken publicly about it, until now.
The community Westwood is so connected to is Sagkeeng First Nation which is right next to Pine Falls. He had been friends with the Courchene family for a number of years and now refers to Courchene as his dad. Westwood has taken part in sweats, learned traditional teachings and even made the four-year commitment to the Sundance ceremony.
Since he was a child Westwood said he had a difficult time making sense of the Western world. He had a lot of Indigenous friends growing up and all through his college years. Learning more about the Anishinaabe ways was something that always appealed to him.
"My teachings are all First Nations or Anishinaabe-related as handed down to me through the Courchene family," he explained.
When Westwood has to introduce himself at events in Indigenous communities, he will always say he is the adopted son of Dave and Orianna Courchene of the Sagkeeng First Nation, and his traditional name is Little Hawk.
He said that although he is white, he really feels Anishinaabe, but added he would never tell anyone he was First Nations.
"But if someone had a gun to my head and was telling me to identify myself, I would say that I am Anishinaabe," he said. "And what's important for me, for some people who might take offense to that, is I'm guided by elders that I'm around and by my family."
His Courchene family has told him: "You're darn right, you tell people you are Anishinaabe."
Westwood is carrying on the traditional teachings he is guided by and is passing that along to his son.
"He comes to ceremony with me … I just hope that whatever and all the understandings I have, that he will have firmly entrenched in his heart, soul and spirit and that he carries that forward."