Chief WhiteCloud

Biography the late Patrick Hendrickson (WhiteCloud)

Pat - all my relations Whitecloud was a native from North America; and a member of the Anishnabe tribe. He lived much of his life on a reserve (White Earth Reserve) where he learned from a diverse perspective of a native growing up in a changing world for the native people. His guidance and experience in a ceremonial life, as well as a strong instruction of the native philosophy of land and life helped him stay within his culture and survive. This would be of great help to him in later years.
Whitecloud is a Sundancer and Pipe Carrier; he is a practitioner of many healing ceremonies taught to him by his elders and colleagues over a 50-year span. Whitecloud also facilitated Sundances in Canada and New Zealand (Aotearoa) along with all the related ceremonies, Purification Lodges, Vision Quest, and one to one sessions.

Whitecloud had for the last 35 years of his life travelled the world and offered his knowledge and experience to people. With a commitment to a healing process for land and life, he offers ceremony and ritual from a life that has experienced and balanced the many challenges of living in an ever-changing world.

Whitecloud’s message also carries the belief that the Native perspective is part of the pattern that mankind must find and develop for a true healing and a everlasting peace.

From A taped 3 hour interview

The stand-alone subject of this interview is an aboriginal Medicine Man in the truest sense. Chief Patrick “White Cloud” Hendrickson is an Anishinabe ( Ojibway) hereditary chief, respected Elder, and Sun dance intercessor. The following information was drawn from a taped, three hour discussion that was held on Sun. May 21st, 2000, at this writer’s home in Courtenay B.C.

Pat was born in 1942 on the Grand Portage Ojibway Indian reserve located at Thunder Bay, Ontario. He was the youngest sibling, with four brothers and three sisters. As a native child of that time, Pat was very fortunate to have been born into this particular family. His father held a very high ranking in the reserve hierarchy, and was fairly steadily employed in the lumber industry. His mother’s family, from across the line at the White Earth reserve, Minnesota, was equally ranked with many members active in reserve politics. For Pat, born a dual citizen, the international boundary did not exist, and for most of his childhood and adolescence, travel back and forth between the two reserves was the norm. To this day he recognizes no borders and this attitude is always a source of aggravation for customs agents when he travels.

Alcoholism and poverty reigned supreme on the Ontario reserve, and the Hendrickson family was not unaffected. Pat’s father was a severe alcoholic and eventually succumbed to the disease early on in the sixties. His mother passed away in 1991 of natural causes which Pat says were aggravated by a lifetime of drinking, poverty and hardship. Her final years were spent sober, but the damage to her health remained. Most of the siblings have settled in the Los Angeles area and two have since passed on. A brother was murdered in L.A. and a sister was killed in a car crash.

Due to his family status, Pat was accepted to receive his education from the Roman Catholic parochial schools near both reserves. Most of his primary schooling was done in Ontario and the secondary grades were completed at a similar school in Minnesota. Pat enjoyed school and did very well. He felt that if he could master Mathematics and English the rest would be a “snap” and this philosophy served him well. The Catholics were brutal disciplinarians and Pat’s comment on that was, ” The education was great, but man they were harsh!!!”. The good memories center around chapel, jelly sandwiches, and one particular weaving course where he wove “the rug of many colors”.

Already we see events which set this individual outside of the statistical norm. First his birth and early childhood took place during and shortly after World War II. Although he was culturally sheltered by reserve life, the tribal politics must have been somewhat affected by the national attitudes of the time. Second, the harshness of reserve life “hardened” him and brought off-time events such as the death of family members. Third, his dual citizenship offered him an international perspective that few share, and lastly his education by the Catholics was a truly exquisite experience, marked by severe discipline and topped off with a liberal helping of verbal, physical and sexual abuse.

Six months or so following his graduation from high school, Pat set out for university. He began this six year academic pursuit at University of California-Berkley with majors in Chemistry, Psychology and Abnormal Psychology. His interest in chemistry involved a desire to understand molecular structure and be able to relate a deeper understanding to the natural world. The Psychology major represented his fascination with the workings of the human mind, an interest that he follows to this day. After two and a half years at Berkeley he lost interest in chemistry and moved on to Uof C-Long Beach, then to UCLA, then back to U of C Berkley where he graduated.

During his adolescence and young adulthood, and between periods of schooling, Pat found ample time for adventure. At some point early on in this stage, it was determined that he could use some mentoring to balance a burgeoning rebellious streak. It was arranged that Pat would spend time with ” The Old Man” ( as he is referred to in the tapes). The Old Man was a Lakota Medicine Man from Pine Ridge in neighboring South Dakota. Pat became one of his regular helpers, and for seven years they traveled all over the states, bringing the old ceremonies, songs, and traditional healing to tribes and reservations that had all but lost their culture. Unknown to anyone at the time, the old man would later become recognized as one of the most powerful and respected of the modern native Medicine Men. His name was Frank Fools Crow, and he has been credited as single-handedly bringing back the sacred Sundance to the people. He was also respected by the federal government, and treated as spiritual grandfather by the membership of the American Indian Movement.

During his young adulthood, Pat spent some time in Minneapolis and events that began at that time were about to change the world, and him forever. Pat and his native friends in the area bore witness to many acts of severe racist abuse and violence by the local police. Fed up with oppression and fueled by the civil rights movement, they picked up a police scanner, and every time they heard that a native was being arrested they would show up on the scene and monitor (sometimes confrontationally) the situation. This was the birth of the American Indian Movement or A.I.M. as it became known. Under the leadership of people like Dennis Banks, Russell Means and Leonard Crow Dog (people met during travels with Fools Crow), A.I.M. became a powerful voice for the native people. The movement spread west to California, and in 1969 supported the Indian occupation of Alcatrez, and many other causes and protests across the country. The most visible protest of A.I.M. was the standoff at Wounded Knee in 1973. This was a volatile time for Pat as he was involved in all these things, plus trying to make a living and go to university. When he graduated Uof C Berkeley there was more than a cap and gown on his back- there was also a monkey.

In 1972 Pat entered a L.A. residential treatment program as a client, the following year he became the executive director. Laughing while relating this, Pat says, “Either I was very brilliant or they were very hard up, a bit of both I think.”. Working his way from Councilor 1 up to Councilor 3 in short order, he also wrote proposals and accepted outside contracts in other facilities. He stayed on managing the program for seven years. When asked about other jobs, his response was “You name it!”, and went on to describe cooking, roofing, laborer, auto mechanics etc.. when asked to narrow it down to those he felt were significant, he described ten years of involvement with Corrections, both in Canada and the U.S.. Stateside, Pat accepted contracts to various prisons, negotiating parole terms, facilitating ceremonies and acting as spiritual advisor on behalf of native inmates. In Canada, he served on full-time staff at Matsqui correctional facility for five years as spiritual elder to the disproportionately large native inmate population. At this time he says he is on an extended hiatus from that career.

During 1977 another event occurred that began an enormous change in Pat’s life. Throughout his life, to this point, Pat had been acutely aware of the atrocities brought upon the native people by the white man. He had been the victim of countless acts of racism, and always struggled against discriminatory policy. This viewpoint had left him with a bitter resentment – even hatred, toward white people. He would not go into a sweatlodge with whites nor would he pray with them in any ceremony. While living in L.A. Pat was invited to accompany a local elder to a symposium of aboriginal elders held near Vancouver at Simon Fraser University. While there, he had the opportunity to hear the words and wisdom of many different tribal elders from all parts of the world. It was determined as a consensus at the conference that indeed the whole planet was suffering, and it was incumbent on the native peoples, in their role as keepers of the land to do what they could to avert disaster and that the spiritual traditions and wisdom of the original people should be awakened and shared with all the peoples of the world. The speech of one particular Hopi Medicine Man moved something deep inside. Although the content of that was not revealed in the interview, the resulting change in Pat’s attitude is clearly visible today. Much of the Medicine work that he does in the community is with and for white people, that they might awaken their spirits and begin to live for the land and the life upon it.

At this point in his life, Pat is working as a full time Medicine man. He spends about half his time traveling back and forth to wherever people need him, during the last year he has facilitated ceremonies in Japan, Greece, California, Arizona, Oregon and all over B.C. as well as a lot of work right here in the Comox Valley. He councils people in need, performs marriages, runs Sweatlodges, Vision Quests and Yuipi healings. He sits at talking circles, runs pipe ceremonies and drum workshops, mediates disputes, does radio talk shows, officiates at pow wows, and sits as honored guest at Potlatches. Last, but most importantly, he intercesses the Vancouver Island Sundance – his most powerful vision. Beginning in 1999 as a small “family” dance with 10 dancers in the arbor, it has expanded this year to at least 25 dancers, some from Japan, Arizona and California. His vision supports hundreds of dancers eventually, representing all continents and skin colors.

When asked about marriage, Pat explained that he had been married three times, so perhaps he was not the one to give advise on that. He did talk a bit about his last marriage which lasted quite a while and produced two children that are a source of great love and attachment. Bobby, his son (20) and Christina his daughter (22) are young adults now in their own right, and live in Arizona near their mother. Christina has a son, now 2yrs old who Pat says is already a computer geek Pat is in continual contact with them and spends time with them while Stateside. Their mother, Suzy, and Pat got together when they lived in L.A.. She is a Hopi native from Flagstaff, Arizona. It is a Hopi tradition that when one marries a Hopi, they become Hopi and are adopted into the tribe. After they were married they made Flagstaff their home and Pat was made welcome by the tribal Elders, who shared their teachings, prophesies and ceremonies with him. Pat spent a lot of time on the road, what with his affairs in L.A. and continuing Medicine work, and this took its toll on the marriage, which eventually collapsed under the strain. Currently, when not traveling, Pat lives with Mary, his girlfriend of four years. Mary is of Cree descent, a Sundancer, and a single mother of one son, Chris. When speaking to the success of their relationship, Pat credits the fact that they both share the same spiritual path and beliefs.

When asked about his life and work today, and if there was anything that he would change, he responded that he was very satisfied with what he did, that he loved to watch the Medicine work in people, that it helped to satisfy his craving to learn. He loves the healing in whatever form it takes, and observing the interactional dynamics between people. He maintains a life of no judgment and no attachment, and comes as close to achieving that ideal as is possible in this society. If there was anything he could change it would be around the lack of payment for his work. It seems ironic to this writer that people will pay $100/hr to a psychologist for months of therapy that proves ineffective, yet when four days of native Medicine helps them, they cant seem to pay anything. A double irony is the fact that this particular Medicine Man has all the professional qualifications of most psychologists, works just as hard or harder, yet lives in abject poverty.

A great difficulty lies in trying to relate this unique individual’s life to the current stage theories or even non-stage theories described in Helen Bee’s text mentioned earlier. Against Erikson’s stage model Pat would seem to measure up to the highest stage of Ego integrity, yet the age stipulation does not match, and many of the preceding stages seem to have been skipped or missed altogether. In Loevinger’s Model we see a better match without the age barriers, but again we have the problem of previous stages. Pat has been granted Elder status by every tribal group he has worked with since he was in his mid thirties. With Levinson’s Seasons of Adulthood theory, we can see a rough correlation to the mentor relationship, but again off-time within a younger age category. Valliant’s Defense Mechanism theory would see Pat at the higher levels, having moved through the more immature responses much earlier in life. According to Perun and Bielby’s Timing Model every aspect of Pats life is asynchronous yet he has no experience of stress. Even the physical effects of aging seem to miss him. Pat enjoys excellent health, and most times he could be mistaken for a man in his late thirties or early forties. From a psychological perspective, this subject seems to pose as an enigma to be sure.

* Author’s Perspective *

Having known this man on a personal level for five years, I can say that this story represents only a very small part of the life experience of Chief White Cloud. He is an extremely intelligent, very observant man. He is a gifted orator with an expansive vocabulary. He possesses unbounded compassion, generosity, and altruism. In ceremony he is unmatched in ability. It is said that the great chief Fools Crow died without passing on his sacred knowledge or bundle,(Mails1991) but it is this writer’s belief that the Old Man’s spirit is still alive and well through the works of men like Patrick “White Cloud” Hendrickson.

Above all that has been said about this man it should be added here that he is very, very human and a man that I am proud to call: my friend.

* Reference Material *

* Bee, Helen L., (2000) The Journey of Adulthood Upper Saddle River, New Jersey

* Hendrickson, Patrick “White Cloud”(2000) Personal interview May 21st Courtenay BC

* Mails, Thomas E., (1979) Fools Crow University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NB

(1991) Fools Crow: Wisdom and Power Council Oak Books, Tulsa,OK


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