The Story of Andy’s Cap

“When you believe in what you’re doing and use your imagination and initiative,
you can make a difference.”

— Samuel Dash

In my last written post, I wrote about how I left a job and leaped into the abyss of unemployment and how that led to the writing of a play.  Although it was the most formative experience for me over the past few years, it wasn’t the only one. I also had business “plans” galore including bringing to market a screw-topped bong accessory. It was intended to turn a standard mason jar into a bong. The idea was to create something that I could put alcohol into and keep in the freezer for a super chilled experience. Colder than ice! I called it the “Barn Bong”. I was a little gun-shy in investing too many resources into it as I was straight off of developing another cannabis-related product. A faux leather pouch called “StufFlap” … a flap for your stuff. It also included three metal tubes to keep your pre-rolls in. I went so far as to have products manufactured in China and imported. Apparently breaking into the cannabis accessory market is no easy task and things didn’t go anywhere near as well as expected. I also think that, at the core of my being, I was disappointed that my life had come to this … it was like I was some twenty-something-year-old in the seventies prepping to go to an obscure folk festival and set up a stall. 

Once I burned through pretty much most of my savings with these two learning experiences, as well as trademarking and patenting others, I turned to something more mainstream. I needed something I could truly connect to. So I started to look more closely at events in my life to find out what moved me, what affected me. Of course, there was the writing of the aforementioned play, but there was also my trip to Croatia in 2017. It took me a long time to process that trip. I went there for a “do-over”. You see, when I was seventeen I went there with my sister and father. At the time, I wasn’t in the headspace or company that I needed for an enjoyable European vacation. I think it compounded many issues I was dealing with at the time. In any event, the follow-up trip was more than I could ever have hoped for. I spent two weeks driving around exploring and experiencing the country. It was grounding in every sense of the word. For the second time in my life, I felt connected to the earth, like there was this phantom umbilical cord between me and Mother Earth. It felt like home. Not in the sense that I wanted to be there, but rather in the sense that I knew where I came from. 

In May of 2021, learning of the discovery of unmarked graves at the Indian Residential School in Kamloops was the most wounding thing I have ever experienced outside of an interpersonal relationship. I do not doubt that my second experience in Croatia fed into this. I’ve felt like a trespasser ever since then. 

The following month I attended, “Hear My Voice: Survivor Stories From Residential School & Canada’s Genocide” and although I could never, ever fully understand what these people went through, I felt connected to those who spoke and when Bob Baker (Kamloops Residential School Survivor, Squamish Nation) said to the audience “Now that you know, what will you do?” I nearly broke down in tears. The question just kept haunting me until I took action. 

I felt that there needed to be a symbol … a flag, a brand, a mark for colonialists and their offspring to use as a statement of allyship with those native to this land. I came up with, what I called at the time, “Inspired Canadian”. At the centre of the mark is a red maple leaf on a white background. This represents colonial interests in North America. Around it are orange, green, and blue circles. The green and blue on the outside represent the land and water and the orange between them and the maple leaf represents Indigenous People, protecting land and water from colonial interests. 

I explored setting it up as a commercial interest, starting small and building to a full range of branded products but for whatever reason, it never caught on. For me, it’s like wearing an orange shirt every day rather than just on September 30 and maybe that’s just too much for most people. However, I believe that there are more people like me and so I decided to put it back out in the world. Not to make money, but to make a difference. I am starting by giving away five hundred patches, stickers and postcards free of charge to like minded people. Hopefully that won’t be the end of it.

There is so much of my life in this mark. When I wear it I not only stand in allyship with Indigenous People but also with every marginalized group. Yes, every child matters, AND stop Asian hate, AND Black lives matter, AND protect transgender men and women, AND no to antisemitism, AND no to Islamophobia, AND LOVE IS LOVE IS LOVE. For me, it’s like the Canadian flag at a time that, when affixed to a knapsack, brought smiles throughout Europe, like the one I’ll have when I see someone displaying my patch.

For Canadians and allies who:

  1.  Support Indigenous Peoples as they protect their land from destructive, extractive practices.
  2.  Adhere to the principle that all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to regardless of:
  • race
  • national or ethnic origin
  • colour
  • religion
  • age
  • sex or sexual orientation
  • gender identity or expression
  • marital status, family status
  • genetic characteristics
  • disability
  • pardoned offence


Thanks for reading,
Andy Rukes


I post this in gratitude to the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh speaking peoples, the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations who have stewarded their unceded, ancestral territory since time immemorial.

An open conversation

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