Arnold W. Thomas, MSW, Chaplain, Motivational Speaker
I WANT TO LIVE - Biography
My name is ARNOLD WILLIAM THOMAS. I am a member of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation of Idaho and Nevada. Since 1991 I have been speaking to communities throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Topics discussed are important social issues that directly effect people on a daily basis. I combine both personal experience and research data to convey my message.
In High School, I was recognized as one of Nevada's elite football and basketball players. My goal was to play collegiate sports. As schools in the Western United States began recruiting me, I was well on my way to achieving that goal. I dreamed of becoming a professional athlete and that too seemed within reach. This would not come to be. In the spring of my sophmore year, my father committed suicide. His death had a great impact on myself and my family. I lost all harmony and balance. My life was thrown into a tail spin. I was out of control. I tried to drown my grief and sorrow in alcohol and drugs.
One warm summer night soon after I turned 18, I stuck a hunting rifle under my chin and pulled the trigger. The gun shot wound severely damaged my face and left me completely blind. I was unable to speak for several years. With the steadfast support of my hometown community, my family and my friends along with my own renewed will to live, I survived this challenging period of my life and slowly began to put the shattered pieces back together.
My life has been greatly effected by generational patterns of poverty, alcoholism, stereotypes, myths, and the passing of loved ones. The death of my father along with the consumption of mind altering drugs contributed to my suicide attempt. This path destroyed my original dreams and goals.
Since 1988, my journey has necessitated learning new life skills which have gone beyond the daily demands for living. On May 7, 1999 I graduated from the University of Utah with a Masters degree in Social Work and bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I have held various leadership roles such as: Native American Spiritual leader conducting healing ceremonies for The George E Whalen Department of Veterans Affairs and Utah State Prison System and president of the Intertribal Student Association at the University of Utah. Also, I have been a cultural consultant for various national, state and city programs, coached youth basketball and football teams and received a variety of national and state awards. For a good number of years I have been a Northern Traditional pow-wow dancer. Most importantly, I have relied on ancient ceremonies to help me maintain balance in my life. Tribal history, dances, songs and craft work have helped me gain new insight and strength to achieve new dreams and goals.