REGINA -- For the last three years, Devon Napope has used poetry as a tool for healing to help him express the troubles of his past life.

He spoke at a justice conference in Regina on Thursday, to share his story of healing from a former life of addictions and gangs.

“It’s a healing journey for me because when I do tell my story its like AA meeting or NA and I’m able to articulate my story, my family, my past and my life and it empowers me in a positive way,” said Napope.

Originally from One Arrow First Nation, the 32-year-old grew up in a loving home with his grandmother in Saskatoon, but they were surrounded by poverty, addictions and gangs, resulting in many hardships for his family.

“By the time I was already born my family was already experiencing addictions,” said Napope. “ My granny experienced residential school, I’m the impact of residential school in my life. This fractured family and kinship. That kinship was never there.”

After years being in the court system and spending time in prison, he decided to start he wanted to change things.

Napope began writing poetry in his youth, but picked it back up in 2017, using it as a tool to help him during addictions treatment.

“That’s how I opened up in treatment,” said Napope. “It’s that poetry that I started talking and thinking about my family. I started talking about my emotions and feelings.”

“Those programs I was doing everyday, the way they made me think and look within myself and the deep questions you’re asking.”

Now Napope is a second year student at the First Nations University in Indigenous Social Work. He is also in a practicum with FSIN and works for Straight Up, an outreach services program helping those living on the streets. He hopes his story can inspire others to make positive changes in their life.

“What I stand behind is my family, Indigenous people and I just want to do something right for us.”