Learning to ‘work in good ways’ with Clayton Sandy

The road to change is a long one. There is no one action that can eliminate the inherited generational trauma and behaviours that have been experienced by Canada’s Indigenous people. Skate Canada has been proud to work hand in hand with Clayton Sandy this year as we look to ‘work in good ways’ with the Indigenous community.

Clayton Sandy is a survivor of the ‘Sixties Scoop’ a period where large numbers of Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in non-indigenous foster homes. Both of his parents went to residential schools, as well as six of his siblings. Growing up, Clayton shares a story of a home life marked by violence and alcohol. He shares with us interactions with police who beat him and urinated on him. Racism, violence, and alcohol were all regular occurrences but that would not be his path forward.

Today, Clayton is the opposite of the environment he was raised.

Never wanting his children to grow up surrounded by violence, Clayton began a healing journey and went to therapy.

“Therapy really helped me to let go of a lot of issues because I was carrying issues of being physically abused, sexually abused, and that was coming out every time that I drank and getting me in trouble all the time. That really helped me deal with a lot of my issues,” shared Clayton.

Then in 1982 when he became a father, he was determined to create a home where his children and eventually grandchildren would feel safe and secure. So, he quit drinking and never allowed alcohol into his home, breaking generational ties.

Fast forward to today and Clayton Sandy is focused on sharing the history of his people and his own story to ensure people are hearing about Indigenous experiences from an Indigenous person. He is retired after 39 years of work in government but for a retired person his work towards reconciliation keeps him very busy.

Here at Skate Canada, staff were privileged to participate in an in person sharing circle with Clayton in the Fall of 2022. It was an eye-opening experience to learn about the history and suffering that Indigenous people have endured. Employees learned of residential schools, the sixties scoop, and heard the firsthand retelling of Clayton’s story and history, one that is unfortunately not rare among Indigenous people.

Clayton also shared with us his love of sport and long-time engagement and love for hockey. Unfortunately, the racism he experienced led him to quit the game he loved. Today he is a ‘hockey granddad’ with three of his grandchildren participating in hockey. Clayton works with Skate Canada to help correct some of the racism in sport that he has witnessed throughout his life, so that other kids do not suffer the way he did.

Clayton’s efforts and engagement with Skate Canada continued in April 2023 when Skate Canada sections were privileged to engage in a virtual learning session with Clayton in April of 2023. Clayton led members in a conversation about dispelling the misconceptions about Indigenous people. This is all part of Skate Canada’s effort to continue to build lasting and meaningful relationships as we work towards reconciliation.

Apart from Skate Canada, Clayton is also highly involved in the Turtle Island Project (TIP). TIP is an action-oriented exercise designed to transform society’s negative perceptions of Indigenous people and engages people in reconciliatory action. Participants taking part in this project are asked to walk in the shoes of Indigenous people that began 150 years ago and share in celebrating the lives of Indigenous people today. This can include activities like sharing circles, true life stories from residential school survivors and participating in the setup of a full-size tipi.

Clayton participates in initiatives like this regularly to help move society forward in relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

While it might sound counter-intuitive based on his story, Clayton elaborates that throughout his journey he has been the recipient of kindness and that his efforts today as very simply about giving back for the kindness he is so grateful to have received.

“I have connected with non-native people that really helped me out at many times. I had a mentor in government for 38 years who taught me a lot about kindness and giving back. Learning to walk together in a really respectful way and learning to forgive when somebody says something because they do not realize, it is not deliberate, and some people just do not know any better.”

He explains that we need to recognize that thing are not always straight forward.

“It’s not a one-way street. So, it must be a two-way street between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. You have to be willing to accept mistakes sometimes and just keep on moving forward.”

It is almost unbelievable when you hear the details from Clayton of what he went through – consistent racism, abuse, assault, and family violence – to see where he is and the actions he is taking today. To supersede the adversity, he has experienced in his life and be able to give back is nothing short of determination and a true desire to be the best person possible.

He is a living, breathing example that change is possible and that there are always opportunities to learn and to engage in education and open conversations. Society and skating alike need to be open to listen and learn and the way forward can be a truly healing experience for all involved.


Clayton Sandy is a member of the Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation. He was recently awarded the 70th Queen’s Jubilee Platinum Aware for his community contributions. In June of 2023 he will also be awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Winnipeg.

This June as we celebrate National Indigenous History Month Skate Canada would like to thank individuals like Clayton Sandy for sharing their story with us and progressing our narrative and understanding of what has transpired so that we can move forward in a more positive and constructive manner with our Indigenous partners. Throughout the month, Skate Canada will host several initiatives dedicated to raising awareness and supporting the Indigenous Community.

For more information on upcoming events, click here.


  1. British Columbia, U. O. (n.d.). Sixties Scoop. Indigenous Foundations Arts UBC. https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/sixties_scoop/



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