The brotherhood was founded in 2004 as a support network for young men with criminal pasts, fresh out of gangs or just getting into trouble.
“Everybody wakes up with a hungry stomach. Everybody goes to bed with a hungry stomach. We all know that, and we're all just trying to give that back,” said Justin Brown, 29, a member of the brotherhood, which brings together men across Canada to help their communities.
“I had a bad past with thievery and a bunch of other stuff,” said Tyler McKinney, 20. “I was looking for somewhere I belonged, and I could have ended up somewhere far worse — I could have ended up with these street gangs, but I saw the brotherhood … and heard so many good things.”
McKinney and Brown spent Tuesday handing out sandwiches and oranges to the city’s homeless with Keith Proulx, another member of the brotherhood.
Proulx, 29, had the idea Monday night, so he asked a few friends to chip in money, and they put together about 250 sandwiches along with 100 oranges.
“It doesn’t cost that much to do this kind of stuff,” said Proulx. “If everybody could chip just a little bit every once in a while it could give people hope.”
He said his brother in The Pas, Robert Nabess, helped the brotherhood hand out Christmas hampers to families who needed them, and Proulx wanted to do something in Winnipeg.
“You see people out here freezing because they’re wearing spring jackets,” said Proulx. “It’s hard to see that.… It just feels good to give back to the community and see people smile.”
Proulx and the Winnipeg chapter of the brotherhood are asking the community to donate blankets, mitts, jackets and boots to be brought to a number of homeless shelters in the city.
“We don't see ourselves as above anybody. We see ourselves as we struggle together,” said McKinney. “We struggle together with them. That's who we are — us Crazy Indians — that's how we do.”
What's in a name?
The group, which was founded in Winnipeg, chose the Crazy Indians Brotherhood moniker to reclaim a part of their identity, according to Brown.
“From the Europeans, when they came here, they would say, 'Oh look at that crazy Indian,' so basically, we're trying to show them how crazy good we could be,” said Brown.
The group isn’t just for aboriginal men — people from all backgrounds are welcomed.
Proulx said the group is trying to change perceptions.
“People look at us and say, ‘Oh. yeah, these guys are bad people,’ and there’s nothing bad about us at all,” said Proulx.