William Hare

The Road Back Home to A New Future: Bill Hare’s Journey to Social Work in the North

All his life he’s done things his way and right now his way is leading to a new career after illness forced a different path. Bill Hare was born in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and is a member of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people based in Dawson City. His family moved away to BC when he was quite young and they struggled with alcohol. Far from cousins and extended family, Hare felt isolated and had a hard time surviving on his own. He was in and out of foster care and only stayed in school until tenth grade, as much school as he needed to enter the trades. 

At 16, he left school and started his life and his own challenges with drinking. With all that Hare witnessed, he had a healthy fear of drugs, something that kept him safe. He stopped drinking at the age of 23. Holding his son in his arms, he swore he would never see him drink, a promise he kept to break the cycle once and for all.

When it came to work, Hare became a truck driver and a heavy-duty mechanic. He moved to Terrace in 2008 and worked until he fell ill in 2019. What started as a bad cold progressed to bronchial pneumonia and then the loss of a lung. He ended up on a disability pension and had a hard time adjusting to that given how active he had always been. Depression set in and living with his older son during the pandemic, he started to feel like a burden. 

In the middle of a snowstorm, Hare set off with the intention of heading off to his home community and getting back to drinking in the wilderness. He was experiencing a mental breakdown. Some family members intervened and moved him into a travel trailer. He went back to school, attending Yukon University as a full-time student. 

His area of study is social work. Hare remembers being a five-year-old boy, running around Whitehorse while his family drank and not having anyone he could trust. “I want to be the person that that little boy could have reached out to back in that day,” he reflects.

At first, going back to school was intimidating but his lifelong love of reading helped a lot. Reading was his childhood sanctuary, a way to escape reality and it’s also a big part of university. His first year was in the applied arts program and he made the Dean’s list. They’ve since put him in the social work program full-time and while it’s been a challenge, he’s doing well.

Illustration by Shaikara David

Growing up, he was called a runaway because he kept running from foster homes but an elder offered him a helpful reframe of the situation. “He said not to pay any attention to them. He said ‘You're not running away from anything. You're running towards something. Nobody knows what your destination is, including you. But you will know when you get there.’ I think when I arrived at Yukon University, I got there,” Hare explains. Now in his home community, it’s like he never left even fifty years later. He’s been welcomed with open arms and given resources to go back to school.

Before university, Hare found education too constricting and the adults who intervened in his life rarely improved his situation. He distrusted people in suits and uniforms. In grade six, he failed after skipping three months of school but when he returned the next year he worked his way back to grade seven by Christmas. 

In high school, he refused to do homework but worked through lunch and breaks to maintain his grades. He did things his way. While people sometimes told him he was stupid, he worked hard and excelled. When he realized he could pass grade ten without final exams, he left with an extra set of clothes. 

"That's the way my life has been. I have to decide for myself and live under my own choices."

As a parent, Hare coached minor hockey and BMX and loved working with kids. Their authenticity touches his heart as someone who has always gone against the grain. Instead of working year-round and taking two weeks’ holidays, he worked hard during the winter in logging or oil and gas and took the summers off. While he’s made sacrifices for living that way, he hasn’t minded the trade-off. 

His advice for students leaving their community to learn abroad is to maintain their connection with home and to educate themselves. He coped by losing himself in books and without elders to teach him, he read as much as he could about Indigenous cultures all over the world, finding many commonalities between them. “Sometimes I wonder if that wasn't my purpose..to follow the path I did, that I needed to learn these things. One of my primary goals is to become a storyteller and to write,” he shares. He’s planning to write more poetry and short stories when he gets his new laptop. 

Thinking about his hopes for the future, Hare finds hope in the renaissance of traditions and says, “If we can look at the philosophical ways of our ancestors, in the way First Nations people lived in this country, we can do that. We can live on this land without destroying it and ourselves at the same time, but we need to have open minds enough to realize that true strength will come from our Indigenous ancestors. Their system worked. Let's look at it, and adapt what we can from this modern world.” 

“I think people are realizing that we have an incredible strength and we're not going away. We are strong, strong, strong people and that strength is led by our women. They're the sacred givers of life. It's going to take some time, but we will get there. We just have to believe and keep moving one step at a time,” he continues. 

"The explosion in Indigenous narratives is just incredible. Our people are finally standing up and saying ‘Here we are, here I am.’ I think the sun is rising again."

All his life Bill Hare has done things his way and right now his way is leading to a new career after illness forced a different path. Losing a lung knocked the wind out of his sails but his new life as a social worker has been a breath of fresh air. Coming home after fifty years he’s found his people and found his future. 

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
  • Province/Territory
    Yukon Territory
  • Date
    June 26, 2024
  • Post Secondary Institutions
    No PSI found.
  • Discussion Guide
    create to learn discuss

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