Alvin Small Legs grew up on the Blood reserve. When he was 16 years old, he moved to Lethbridge where he said he experienced racism.
“Every time I go around, people would say, ‘Look, there’s an Indian. There is another drug addict,'” Small Legs explained.
Small Legs admits his 20s were a dark time in his life in which he struggled with drug addiction. A few years ago, however, he met his wife and started a family and is now sober.
“Ever since I started having a family, I changed my life around,” Small Legs said. “I looked at my life and I saw how my life was going and I said, ‘I cannot live like this.'”
Small Legs is now part of a provocative campaign called Perception: Lethbridge.
The campaign, conceived by Manitoba-based artist KC Adams, is a series of photographs portraying First Nations people from Lethbridge.
“I feel like a role model for the aboriginal people. Especially for the youth,” Small Legs said.
The campaign consists of 17 large photographs, displayed on commercial billboards and public transit buses.
Adams said she hopes to break some of the stereotypes that exist and show that you really can’t judge a book by its cover.
Small Legs’ wife said she is relieved Lethbridge is finally going to see how aboriginals are stereotyped.
“We grew up with it since we were little.,” Ashley Helen Cross Child said. “I don’t want my children to go through what we went through.”
Small Legs said he is sharing his story because he wants people to see them how he sees himself, a dedicated father who would do anything for his children.