December 6, 2023
Terry Felix broke boundaries on the soccer pitch. Now he’s making a distinction for Indigenous prisoners and elders.

Main League Soccer (MLS) returns for its twenty eighth season later this month. At this time, the league has robust connections to the Indigenous neighborhood, celebrating its historical past in Canada and the US and honoring the league’s all-time aim scorer Chris Wondolowski, a member of the Kiowa Tribe. 

All of those ties are due, partially, to the boundaries damaged down by Terry Felix (Sts’ailes First Nation).

Felix made historical past in 1983 as the primary Indigenous skilled soccer participant in North America and the primary to symbolize the Canadian nationwide soccer staff. He earned that title on July 10 of that yr when his staff, the Vancouver Whitecaps, confronted off towards the New York Cosmos in North American Soccer League (NASL). The NASL was the precursor to right now’s MLS. 

The day earlier than the primary sport, the pinnacle coach advised Felix to organize himself as a result of he may play the sport for a couple of minutes. 

“The following day, I went to the stadium – and it was packed,” Felix advised Native Information On-line. “And earlier than the sport, Coach Giles got here to me and stated, ‘You are beginning now.’ And I stated, ‘Oh God, I do not need to begin.’”

Vancouver’s British Columbia Place Stadium was at capability at 50,205 to see the highest two groups within the league. The second-placed New York Cosmos was a fan favourite and former membership of the soccer nice, Pelé. 

“Then I began getting nervous and shaking,” Felix expressed. “I didn’t need to play as I used to be simply actually nervous. However I needed to cool down and prepare for the sport. It was fairly neat.”

Felix went on to have an outstanding sport, helping on the aim and almost scoring within the second half. The Whitecaps went on to beat the Cosmos 2-0.

Felix’s rise was meteoric, however ended shortly. 

He began for the MLS Whitecaps, the Canadian Nationwide Staff, and the Canadian Olympic Staff. After the Whitecaps season resulted in 1983, he was with the Canadian Nationwide Staff in Victoria, coaching to play Mexico in an Olympic Qualifier.

The unthinkable occurred simply earlier than a routine coaching session, and his life’s trajectory twisted in a flash.

“I (was) operating down the sector and stepped right into a silver dollar-sized gap,” Felix stated. “And it tore a ligament in my knee. And the coach stated, ‘You tore a ligament, you must go house.’ So, I phoned my spouse. And I stated, ‘I received damage. I’m coming house.’” 

His spouse additionally had information. 

“She stated, ‘I’m pregnant.’ I received house, and we have been sitting across the condominium the following day, and Whitecaps referred to as me,” Felix recalled. “And I believed, ‘They’re going to resume my contract.’ I went in, they usually stated, ‘Properly, we came upon you bought damage, and we’re releasing you from the contract.’”

Inside near 36 hours, Felix went from taking part in with three of the highest groups in North America to being injured, having no membership and a brand new child on the best way.

His daughter was resulting from be born in the course of the 1984 Olympics. He needed to resolve whether or not to remain away for 2 months with the nationwide staff on the Olympics or keep house and assist take care of his daughter.

“I made a decision that soccer was over,” Felix stated. “I stayed behind and phoned the nationwide staff and stated I wouldn’t go.”

At 24, Felix was compelled to make a major dedication. 

“That was a hell of a call,” Felix stated. 

His judgment exemplified what was most vital to him: his household and neighborhood.

(Photo: Terry Felix) Terry and his granddaughter Scarlett in Vancouver in 2016. (Picture Credit score: Peter Mothe) (Picture: Terry Felix) These days, Felix’s bond along with his household and neighborhood is stronger than ever. He lives just a few hours east of Vancouver, on the Chehalis Indian Reserve the place he grew up, and works at a minimal safety jail in Agassiz. 

Felix helps reintroduce prisoners to society once more, a few of whom have been incarcerated for 4 many years or extra. 

“Three days every week, I take them out of jail,” Felix defined. “These guys are able to get again into the neighborhood, they usually’re eligible for parole. You begin enthusiastic about what life was like round 1978 in comparison with now. I reintroduce them to the know-how on the market that they see.”

Past technological advances, Felix helps them construct belief and private connections with good folks. 

“While you’re in most safety, all people is type of harmful in there,” Felix stated. “They’re not good to one another. Once they get out right here, they’re not used to folks being good to them and being variety to them.” 

A lot of Felix’s work is to counsel the inmates who’ve skilled trauma from the horrific residential college period in Canada. 

“Many of those guys (had) been taken away from their households and put into foster care,” Felix defined. “There’s plenty of abuse they endured. Once they go to jail, they solely do what they’ve discovered as a child. And in the event that they grew up round violence, they turn into violent, which will get them in bother. I do plenty of counseling and serving to them reintegrate.”

A part of this reintegration into society is supported by way of a piece program Felix developed through which inmates work for elders locally.

“We get them firewood, we do all their gardening, yard work, and cleansing gutters,” Felix stated. “It’s fairly neat as a result of plenty of these guys have by no means recognized their very own households.”

Working with the elders is the proper transition to creating relationships with people in society, he stated. 

“Elders are calm and, you recognize, they’re not excitable … they may pay attention and discuss to you,” Felix expressed. “It’s type of a relaxing affect.”

Felix additionally brings in elders to show the correctional workers. The elders educate cultural courses and workshops to develop dialog and understanding concerning the kinds of trauma they’ve gone by way of as a folks and why there’s a disproportionate variety of Natives in Canada’s corrections system. 

 (Photo Credit: Terry Felix) Terry Felix on the BC Corridor of Fame (Picture Credit score: Terry Felix)

In 2018, Felix was inducted into the British Columbia Corridor of Fame Indigenous Sports activities Gallery, and in 2020, he was inducted into the British Columbia Soccer Corridor of Fame. Final yr, Felix gained the Indspire Award, representing the best honor the Indigenous neighborhood offers its folks in Canada.

He stays an lively function mannequin, mentor, advisor and scout in First Nations Soccer. These are roles Felix cherishes. 

“They simply want somebody to information them and introduce them to the groups,” Felix stated. “They’re adequate to make it on their very own, however I believe they want that introduction and a bit little bit of expertise I’ve and discuss to them and that type of factor.” 

Ben Pryor (Choctaw) is a contributing author to Native Information On-line and freelance author for a number of different nationwide and regional publications. A graduate of Oklahoma State College, his writing pursuits embrace politics, the atmosphere and sports activities.

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