Jacek Piwowski was born on 23 November 1962 in St. Vincent de Paul Hospital in Gdynia’s Kaszubski Square. He grew up in Gdynia Witomino neighborhood, where he attended primary school No 35. He attended a technical vocational school and did his apprenticeship in the port of Gdynia. After dropping out of high school, Jacek worked at a greenhouse in Mały Kack, where he dealt in horticulture, in addition to being a shorthand typist – he was also a laureate of the Polish Typewriting Championship in Sopot. Since he was a child, Jacek has shown keen interest in the culture of Native Americans – he was member of the Indian Association of Poland, as well as being fascinated with nature and animals. In 1988, he quit his desk job and moved to Lubiatowo near Kopalino to take care of a wolf named Loco. He and the wolf moved into a house with a large pen in the middle of a forest, from which Loco would sometimes escape and hunt for hens.
It was during that time that Jacek learned of the “Sacred Run” – originating from Pre-Columbian Native American culture, where the only way to share information was to go on foot. It is a race with no winners and no prizes, a prayer for harmony and world peace. The route of the 1990 “Sacred Run” ran from London to Moscow. The organisers of the Polish section, the Polish American Indian Friends Movement, asked if Jacek would like to participate. Even though he had never run such long distances, Jacek took the risk and joined the race at the Belgian-German border. At the finish line, Dennis Banks, the organiser of the entire event, a Native American rights activists and the leader of the American Indian Movement, chose Jacek as the person whose participation would be sponsored in the next “Sacred Race” in 1991, in Canada.
Before the event, Jacek was invited by the organisers to the Sun Dance Camp in Seattle, where he took part in Indian ceremonies. After the Canadian race, Jacek moved to Dennis Banks’s house in Kentucky, the office of the “Sacred Race”. His Canadian visa was not extended, which forced him to wait at the border to participate in the 1992 edition of the race, the route of which ran partially through Canada. Afterwards, he moved to the Indian reservation in Browning, Montana, where he looked after Indian children.
When it turned out that Dennis Banks would no longer be able to sponsor Jacek’s stay in the United States or participation in the next “Sacred Run”, this time in Australia, Jacek decided to make the United States his permanent residence. He settled in the Browning preserve in the autumn of 1992. That is also where he married his first wife, Merle. He worked at a shop while attending college, where he studied the language of Blackfoot Tribe Indians. He was well on his way to becoming a teacher of the language, but the local community was opposed to the idea.
In 1995, Jacek Piwowski moved from Browning, Montana, to Fairbanks, Alaska. A year later, he became a U.S. citizen. In Alaska, he has worked as a cook. Fairbanks is also the place where he met his future wife, Anna. Jacek lives in Alaska to this day, and visits his family in Gdynia every few years.
Interview done by Barbara Majchrowicz on 28th September and 4th October 2016 in Gdynia.
Learning the Blackfoot language