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A gritty and inspiring memoir from renowned Cree environmental activist Clayton Thomas-Muller, who escaped the world of drugs and gang life to take up the warrior’s fight against the assault on Indigenous peoples’ lands—and eventually the warrior’s spirituality.

There have been many Clayton Thomas-Mullers: The child who played with toy planes as an escape from domestic and sexual abuse, enduring the intergenerational trauma of Canada's residential school system; the angry youngster who defended himself with fists and sharp wit against racism and violence, at school and on the streets of Winnipeg and small-town British Columbia; the tough teenager who, at 17, managed a drug house run by members of his family, and slipped in and out of juvie, operating in a world of violence and pain.

But behind them all, there was another Clayton: the one who remained immersed in Cree spirituality, and who embraced the rituals and ways of thinking vital to his heritage; the one who reconnected with the land during summer visits to his great-grandparents' trapline in his home territory of Pukatawagan in northern Manitoba.

And it's this version of Clayton that ultimately triumphed, finding healing by directly facing the trauma that he shares with Indigenous peoples around the world. Now a leading organizer and activist on the frontlines of environmental resistance, Clayton brings his warrior spirit to the fight against the ongoing assault on Indigenous peoples' lands by Big Oil.

Tying together personal stories of survival that bring the realities of the First Nations of this land into sharp focus, and lessons learned from a career as a frontline activist committed to addressing environmental injustice at a global scale, Thomas-Muller offers a narrative and vision of healing and responsibility.

©2021 Clayton Thomas-Muller (P)2021 Allen Lane

Critic reviews


One of CBC’s:
“Best Canadian Non-Fiction of 2021”
“12 books for the outdoor enthusiast on your holiday shopping list”
“18 Canadian books for the memoir lover on your holiday shopping list”

“[A] brave story. . . . Thomas-Muller not only writes about his upbringing in Winnipeg, which translated from Cree means ‘dirty water,’ he unravels how he began healing by using prayer and participating in his culture. . . . [Life in the City of Dirty Water] is a deep account of survivance against systems of oppression, intergenerational trauma and addiction, and about finding healing and highlighting his Cree experience.”The Tyee

“In [Thomas-Muller’s] latest memoir, Life in the City of Dirty Water, he painfully and bravely reveals his journey through catastrophic pain, unbelievable odds and a reconnection to land, language and culture through his work defending Mother Earth. . . . His memoir is an artefact of transformation—a transformation of a hardened youth who endured more tragedy and danger than most of us can imagine into a defender of people, land and the notion that all species and systems are connected.”Winnipeg Free Press

“From selling drugs in a gang to organizing environmental campaigns against oil and gas extraction, the stories of Thomas-Muller’s life defy any one category to paint a complex picture of what it is to be a Cree man in Canada.”The Globe and Mail 

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  • HighTechAztec
  • 22-09-21

There’s Power in Healing.

The environmental and climate justice movement did not not start in our lifetime but grew out of a long legacy of resistance, survival and faith. Clayton’s personal story reminds us that resilience does not come without loss, pain and suffering but through it all we can find comfort, purpose and a pathway towards healing that can take on the most powerful corporations and governments around. There’s genuine power in healing and Clayton’s story proves it.