Known to many throughout the Spokane region for his work helping at various sacred ceremonies and veterans’ events, Army veteran Glen Douglas will be missed. Douglas, 84, died recently after battling a long illness.
He was born on the Okanogan Reserve in Canada, a Lakes-Okanogan Indian and part of the Colville Tribe. An article in the Spokesman Review newspaper relates how he was taken from his home at age 12 and sent to a boarding school in Cranbrook, British Columbia. “We were beaten for speaking our language. They were beating the devil out of me,” Douglas was reported saying during an interview in 2004. He was later to receive monetary reimbursement from the Canadian government for that period of his life.
Eric Loer, Colville/Spokane, referred to Douglas as, “My best friend. He was my uncle.” He also was aware of Douglas’ experience at the boarding school. He said simply, “It was very bad!”
Douglas moved to the U.S. when he was 14 where he worked on his uncle’s ranch near Oroville, Washington and joined the U.S. Army when he was just 17, the start of a long and distinguished career that saw him take part in three wars: World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam.
“He was in the Army with the 101st Airborne most of the time,” Loer said. He reported to Fort Lewis, Washington in May of 1944 and joined the 101st in Belgium in 1945. During the 2004 interview Douglas said he was injured by a grenade in 1953 during the Korean War. During his first tour in Vietnam he was an intelligence analyst with a Special Forces team.
John Davis is the homeless coordinator for the Spokane Veteran Affairs and knew Douglas very well. “He adopted me into his family and I called him ‘uncle’ too. I’d do anything for him.”
“Glen was a mentor and a role model. He was well versed. He could speak very eloquently. He was a leader, not only from the military but from his own people,” Davis commented. “He flew all over Canada and the U.S. talking about Native American culture. He would dress in full regalia and was a very impressive figure, a man who had many military honors and a highly decorated veteran.”
“I’ve been in sweat ceremony with him; I can’t tell you how many times,” said Davis, who’s not Native. “I’d listen to his songs and listen to his teachings. He’d use it as a teaching experience and it got quiet when Glen came around.” Davis also spoke about Douglas’ ability to “speak across the line” saying he could be speaking with a senator, head of a government facility, or five-year-old. “He had the ability to communicate.”
Douglas was chairman of the Native American Indian Advisory Council at the Spokane VA. He was also an alcohol and drug counselor and worked with the recovery community.
Davis works with a program for homeless people. “Glen was always instrumental in helping me work with Native American homeless veterans.” Davis also had Douglas mentor students working on master’s degrees in social work and counseling. “I think that really helped them a lot.”
Loer also mentioned that much of his work was with veterans, but in addition, “At powwows we’ve done a lot of things together because he was an elder and they’d ask him to talk.” He added, “When someone needed someone to be praying with them he’d do that. We’ve done that together too.”
Loer also recalls a trip they made together a few years ago to help run a seminar at Haida Qwaii in Canada as a result of the abuse Douglas had received as a youngster at the boarding school.
Davis has had many phone calls from all over the country asking where the services would be held. “That’s how well known he was and in Indian country word travels fast.”
“When I think about him my heart kind of aches because I miss him already,” Davis added.