2016 Indigenous Role Models – Speaker Circle

Thanks to the Aboriginal Peer Mentorship Program for hosting this speaker session.

We would like to thank the Coast Salish people for allowing us to study on their traditional territory and share our stories.

Mentorship, Life Path & Journey to The Revenant


Duane Howard in The Revenant


Aboriginal Peer Mentor host:
Simone Manegre
Electrical Level 3
Clearwater River Dene Nation

March 09, 2016

Duane Howard, Nuu-Chah-Nulth

Duane Howard is a First Nation born in the Nuu-chah-nulth (meaning "along the mountains and sea") territory located on the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.

Duane lived on the streets from the age of 14 to 18 years old and had many close calls. Many times during this unimaginable period Duane considered not going on.

After 13 years at the age of 23, Duane realized that he did not want his son to follow in his footsteps and so he simply got up and walked away from his dark life. Duane not only accomplished the enormous feat of becoming clean and sober, he went on to get his grade twelve education and in 1988 he received his diploma in Substance Abuse Counseling. Duane used his experience and his new education to work the rougher parts of Vancouver and towns across Canada making a difference in the lives of troubled youth and their families.

In the early 1990s Duane realized that he wanted to make another change in his life when he discovered a passion for acting. Duane began as a background performer and then worked his way up to acquiring a stunt credit on the feature film The Scarlett Letter. Duane's credits grew from stunts to stunt acting to acting roles on shows such as the TV movies Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and Goodnight for Justice: Queen of Hearts along with the popular TV series Arctic Air and more. Duane recently completed a starring role in a film titled The Sun at Midnight wherein, ironically, he fights to survive a bear attack.

That Duane ended up with the lead native role on The Revenant is nearly as miraculous as his survival on the streets. The actor had decided to take a break from the business a year before the audition call for the part of 'Elk Dog' came out, and it was upon hearing of the role from his former agent, that Duane returned to acting after initially accepting a stunt position on the film. Upon hearing of the film's frustration over finding the right actor for the integral role, the stunt coordinator who had hired Duane suggested that they take a look at him, as he knew what a strong actor Duane was. Unbeknownst to him, Duane's agent was working with Canadian casting director Michelle Allen to get him seen. Duane received a call the next day which was a Sunday, went in to read on the Monday and on Wednesday flew to Calgary and auditioned in private for the three time Oscar winner, Alejandro González Iñárritu. The director immediately took Duane down to the production facility and had him repeat his audition in front of the entire crew. After months of searching all of North America they'd found their Elk Dog and Duane had landed the biggest role of his life in the span of 4 days.

Duane is very matter-of-fact that it took all of this, the childhood addictions, his near deaths on the street, his recovery, education and training, all of it to perform the role of 'Elk Dog' in The Revenant .

Aboriginal Services is happy to sit down with Duane and talk about his journey to The Revenant.

Watch Duane Howard's presentation [65 minutes]