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The mask maker

Eric Schweig almost drank himself to death.
Eric Schweig almost drank himself to death.

But the Native Canadian actor, writer mask artist, writer and actor—his film credits include The Missing, Skins, Last of the Mohicans, and Tom and Huck—has survived alcoholism, he says, after turning his life around.

Schweig, who was at Nipissing University today to speak about his art and career, has been sober for six years now, and plays guitar, drums, bass, acts, and makes mask art to stay that way.

“My drinking almost killed me, the only way to honor my mother for putting me here is to stop,” Schweig said.

Schweig was born in the Northwest Territories in June 1967, of Inuit and German heritage.

His problems began early in life, after he was adopted at six months of age.

Schweig endured years and years of abuse from his adoptive parents.

He was left an alcoholic and homeless after finally escaping the abuse.

“You have no idea how good a bowl of soup can taste,” Schweig said.

“It’s like talking to God.”

After four years on the streets Schweig knew he needed a change, and moved from Northern Ontario to Toronto, where he got a job at Canada Packers.

But art soon became a priority.

“I do this art work,” Schweig said, “because it is non traditional. Normal Indian art didn’t make any sense to me. It needed more community involvement. It needed a voice.”

The masks that Schweig makes are based on real emotion. One he made, of a woman who had lost her child, depicts the emotions before and after the tragedy.

Most people who buy his masks, Schweig adds, have been victims of abuse.

He gives advice to younger generations.

“Find what you love and keep doing it until you are dead. If you are not doing something from the bottom of your heart, then don’t do it.”

Schweig has also tried to avoid negativity in order to remain sober.
He stays away from prejudiced behaviors and attitudes.

“It’s so simple… be nice and help people out,” Schweig said.

“We all come from the same family… the human family.”

Schweig is now also writing a script. Though he dropped out of college, he says he’s “lucky” where he is, and doesn’t recommend dropping out.

“There are things that happen to you in your childhood and it paralyzes you. You need to start from scratch.”

For a man who went through abuse, alcoholism and homelessness, Schweig is truly an inspiration to everyone who feels they’re on or close to the road to nowhere.