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Indian Posse (IP)



Insurgency Overview

The Indian Posse (IP) is a Canadian street gang formed by brothers Danny and Richard Wolfe in 1988 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Membership is exclusive to Indigenous people. The gang makes a majority of its profits from drug and sex trafficking, but they also partake in a number of other criminal enterprises including robbery, illegal gambling, car theft, and arms trafficking. The gang is known to frequently use violence to further their interests and its members have been responsible for arson and murder (1). The gang is also active throughout the Canadian prison system, where they aggressively pursue other inmates to recruit them (2).


History and Foundations

The founders of the Indian Posse, Richard Wolfe and his brother Danny were born in 1975 and 1976 to Richard Wolfe Senior and Susan Creely in Saskatchewan. The family belongs to the Cree First Nation. Both of the Wolfe parents were alcoholics and drug addicts during their children’s upbringing. Danny had fetal alcohol syndrome and was born prematurely. Creely was in a residential school as a child where she was raped by a teacher, leading to her addiction issues. Richard Jr. himself was raped three times at the age of seven (3). The Wolfe family moved to the North End of Winnipeg in 1979. Richard Senior then abandoned his family, leaving the Wolfe brothers to effectively raise themselves while their mother neglected them and spent all of her welfare checks on drugs and alcohol. They stole to provide for themselves, beginning with food but eventually escalating to cars by the age of 10. They were placed in foster care several times but repeatedly escaped (1).


The IP was formed by the then-12-year-old Wolfe brothers in 1988, the last year they saw their father. By that time, he was homeless and barely acknowledged his children. The IP split off from another small gang that the Wolfe brothers were a part of, Scammers Inc. Shortly after starting the gang, the brothers started partaking in armed robberies and carrying firearms, which led to Richard’s first conviction in 1989 after a teacher found him with a handgun at school. By the early 90s, they took up prostituting women and dealing drugs. They established territory in predominantly Indigenous areas of Winnipeg’s North End where they built a profitable drug operation. Other local youths, faced with poverty and a lack of opportunities, began to join the Wolfe Brothers. In 1989, there were already hundreds of members (1).


Despite the Wolfe brothers’ frequent prison stints throughout the 1990s, the IP continued to expand. In 1994, the IP made connections with other criminals in British Columbia and the United States to further its operations. By then, the gang had cemented itself as the dominant organized crime group in Winnipeg’s North End through intimidation and violence. This led to a crackdown by Winnipeg Police to try and shut down the gang (1).


Richard Wolfe shot a pizza delivery man, Maciej Slawik, in 1995 with a shotgun. The owner of the pizza chain Slawik worked for owed the IP a $60,000 drug debt and Wolfe thought that the pizza boxes Slawik carried had his money in them. However, Slawik was not involved in crime and the boxes in fact contained pizza. Wolfe was arrested and convicted of attempted murder for the incident. He was sentenced to 19 years in prison (4). He then chose to leave the gang due to what he saw as unnecessary violence. The incident that brought him to this decision was when one of the IP’s rivals, the Nine Deuces, shot and killed a 13-year-old boy who was not a gang member and simply hung around the IP (1). The gang ostracized Richard, as the shooting of Slawik damaged their reputation. He was beaten by the IP in prison for his actions. Meanwhile, Danny was arrested and convicted for threatening to kill a couple who were testifying against his brother. He was incarcerated for three years due to this incident (4).


With Richard’s departure from the gang, Danny supplanted him as its leader and the gang kept on growing. The IP soon controlled the crime in many predominantly Indigenous areas and reserves throughout Manitoba and neighboring Saskatchewan. Drugs were particularly profitable in reserves, as their remote locations allowed dealers to charge up to ten times as much as the usual price. The police in these reserves were ill-equipped to deal with organized crime and were easily bought off to look the other way from the gang’s activities (1).


With the gang’s rapid expansion, it made some enemies including the Manitoba Warriors, another Indigenous gang. This feud culminated in a 1996 prison riot at the Headingley Correctional Institution in Manitoba, a prison where both of the Wolfe brothers had been incarcerated. The IP dominated Headingley, where it had free reign with drugs, sex, and violence. It would intimidate new inmates into joining the gang, even forcefully branding them with the IP initials. On April 25th, 1996, members of the Warriors attacked the IP (5). The prison’s guards were overwhelmed and the violence escalated into a full-scale riot that lasted for 24 hours and caused $8 million in damage to the prison. Eight guards were injured during the riot and four had their fingers cut off (1).


Various Indigenous leaders attempted to mediate a truce between the two gangs to alleviate the violence their rivalry caused in the years after the Headingley riot but were ultimately unsuccessful. In the early 2000s, the Hells Angels approached Danny about becoming the IP’s drug suppliers, to which he declined (1). This led to a number of confrontations between the IP and the Angels and their puppet gangs. IP members fired a bazooka at the prison cell of Maurice Boucher, a Quebecoise high-ranking member of the Angels, in 2002 but failed to kill him (6). At this time, the gang’s profile was rising. Media coverage made them infamous and there was even a movie, Stryker, released in 2004 that centers around a young IP prospect (7).


On September 20th, 2007, Danny Wolfe was confronted by a member of one of the IP’s rivals, the Native Syndicate, while at a Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan bar. After noticing Wolfe’s IP tattoo, Native Syndicate member Bernard Percy Pascal told him he was in Native Syndicate territory and that he had to leave. After Wolfe threatened him with a pool ball in his sock, Pascal left the bar. However, Wolfe could not tolerate the fact that he was disrespected. Later that night, Wolfe, along with two others, tracked him down to the house of an elderly Indigenous couple who took in youth to keep them out of trouble. He broke into the house and began shooting those inside. He killed two people, one of which being Marvin Arnault, one of the owners of the house who was shot while jumping in front of his wife as she was shot at by Wolfe for calling the police. Wolfe injured three others during his rampage including Pascal, shooting him nine times (8).


Danny was arrested and charged eight days later for the Fort Qu'Appelle incident while driving to Regina with his mother. The getaway driver, Gerrard Granbois, agreed to testify against Wolfe, guaranteeing his conviction. While awaiting trial, Wolfe escaped the Regina Correctional Centre on August 24th, 2008. After his escape, he went to Winnipeg where he robbed a bank. He spent his time free on parties, drugs, and sex. The cocky Wolfe even posted on Facebook “What’s up? I’m out!”. Canadian police took part in a manhunt across the prairies to look for Wolfe and was arrested after three weeks of freedom when his whereabouts were reported to the police by an anonymous source in exchange for a reward (1). On November 18th, 2009, Wolfe was convicted of two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder. He received a sentence of life imprisonment with eligibility for a parole application after 25 years. He was stabbed to death in prison on January 4th, 2010 by a Native Syndicate Killers (a separate gang from the Native Syndicate) member (8).


Soon after Danny’s death, Richard was released from prison on parole and claimed that he would change his ways. However in 2013, he broke up with his girlfriend and relapsed on drugs and alcohol in reaction to the death of his stepson. Wolfe was staying with a couple who wanted to help him get his life on track when on April 6th, 2014, he raped the woman and beat the man with a baseball bat, for which he was yet again imprisoned. He was held in solitary confinement, which caused him to fall into depression and led to his death from a heart attack at age 40 on May 27th, 2016 (9). Despite the Wolfe brothers’ demise, the gang is still active and continues to feud with its rivals, including the Terror Squad (10).


Objectives and Ideology

The Indian Posse is primarily concerned with providing its members, but primarily its leaders, with money and power. Sometimes this has come at the expense of its members further down the hierarchy. As the gang is mostly composed of young people, the IP claims to be a family that fulfills the role of an actual one for youths who lack supportive guardians, such as the Wolfe brothers. Many members see themselves as soldiers and their immoral acts as a means of survival. However, it is clear that the gang’s leaders are mostly only concerned with themselves, hence the constant infighting within the IP. That being said, the Wolfe brothers had strong ideological leanings. They saw their conditions as a product of colonialism and Canada as an illegitimate settler state whose land belongs to its First Nations. Richard displayed an upside-down Canadian flag in his cell. “Indian” is considered a derogatory term to Indigenous people, however, the gang’s use of the word is in an effort to reclaim it. The brothers harbored a deep resentment towards whites, for instance, Danny wrote a poem mocking the death of a white man who was killed during an IP robbery. Although they did not actively practice these traditions, the brothers believed in traditional Cree spirituality (1). However, their Red Power politics contradict the fact that the IP preyed on and damaged Indigenous communities. 


Military and Political Capabilities

The Indian Posse is only open to Indigenous people, including various First Nations as well as Métis (descendants of French settlers and First Nations people). It is active throughout Canada but is dominant in areas of Western Canada (the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan) with a large Indigenous population, including on reserves where economic conditions are particularly bad. In the late 1990s, the gang was estimated to have 500 members. The gang’s structure was inspired by biker and African-American gangs. It is governed by a ruling circle of ten who are supposed to make decisions as a collective, however in reality the Wolfe brothers were in control during their lives. Before he left the gang, Richard led the gang with Danny as his second-in-command. Richard was seen by his comrades as intelligent and level-headed, whereas Danny was emotional and extremely violent. This made him an effective enforcer and he was known to take on the gang’s enemies without fear. Although the gang has an organized structure, there is much dysfunction and infighting within the gang that has led to violence. In 2003, a faction known as the Cash Money Brothers split from the IP after Danny Wolfe had ordered an IP member to be shot over drug profits. A number of IP members went to Winnipeg intending to kill the leaders of the faction, but their plan was foiled when they were caught with their guns by local police (1).


Approach to Resistance

The Wolfe brothers took inspiration from West Coast African-American gangs in their structure and activities, the common use of drive-by shootings by the Indian Posse being an example of this. Los Angeles Crips member Sanyika Shakur’s autobiography Monster has been found by police many times while raiding IP members’ residences. Sanyika Shakur was an American gangster turned Black nationalist and author whose work gave readers a raw look into the violence of LA gang life. He was also friends with rapper Tupac Shakur, an idol of Danny’s. The Wolfe brothers were also hip-hop fans and that culture is emulated in the IP’s dress. The gang’s bread and butter are drugs and prostitution. Cocaine, marijuana, and heroin are trafficked by the IP and the girls the gang prostitutes are typically teenagers, but it has been known to traffic girls as young as 10. Its members have frequently engaged in theft as well, particularly in the gang’s early days, but it now typically serves as a source of supplementary income or a way for young members to prove themselves. The gang is very violent and besides guns, members will also use their hands and melee weapons as beatings are an essential tool for the gang to intimidate rivals and punish its members. Arson is another common practice in the IP, for instance, Danny Wolfe ordered a Royal Canadian Mounted Police station on Opaskwayak Cree Reserve Manitoba to be burnt down in 2007 (1).


Prospective members are jumped in during a practice known as the “minutes of pain”, where the prospect is beaten on for five minutes. As new members gain the gang’s trust by completing orders, their rank in the gang is raised, as identified by their tattoos. A “full patch” member had to have served a prison sentence and was rewarded with full-body tattoos. Members have been known to have tattoos of traditional Indigenous imagery, cash signs, and shields. The gang’s color is red and members wear red bandannas, a practice started by the Wolfe brothers. Despite his own departure, Richard Wolfe implemented a rule in the gang’s early days that membership was for life and anyone who tried to leave would be killed. The IP also prohibits its members from taking hard drugs and speaking about the gang’s activities with outsiders (1). Although initially allowed in, women are prohibited from joining the gang. However, the Indian Posse Girls, an IP puppet gang, runs prostitution rings in Alberta (11).


Alike to the Wolfe brothers, the IP’s recruits typically come from disenfranchised backgrounds and unstable upbringings. These conditions stem from the socioeconomic issues that surround Canada’s Indigenous communities, including poverty, addiction and mental health issues, and a lack of opportunity. These issues are a product of colonial practices, such as residential schools like the one the Creely was taken to. As is typical with street gangs, such factors create breeding grounds for criminal activity as economic opportunities and positive influences are few and far between. However, experts (such as the judge who tried Danny in his final convictions) have also commented that although the Wolfe brothers and other IP members have suffered the consequences of various social factors, they are nonetheless violent criminals who particularly victimize their own people, regardless of their claims to defend Indigenous people. The fact is that despite the poor conditions of Indigenous people in Canada and the many social problems that come with them, a majority of Indigenous people do not engage in criminal behavior and the Wolfe brothers and their comrades took advantage of those conditions to gain money and power and are responsible for the harm and destruction they have caused (1).


International Relations and Potential Alliances

The Indian Posse’s most violent conflicts have been with other Indigenous gangs, such as the Manitoba Warriors and the Native Syndicate. The rivalry between the IP and the Warriors stems from their difference of opinion on the Hells Angels. Whereas the Warriors were allied to and bought drugs from the Hells Angels to distribute, Danny Wolfe believed that the Angels were racist and refused to do their bidding despite the fact that the IP had been approached by the bikers to distribute their drugs. The Wolfe brothers were adamant that the IP remained independent and that they would never have to be beholden to anyone (6). Another Indigenous gang, Redd Alert, was formed to protect inmates from the aggressive and violent recruiting practices of the IP and the Warriors (2).


The gang had connections with several other groups. In the early 2000s, Danny Wolfe became friends with Gerry Matticks, the boss of the Irish West End Gang based in Montreal, after helping the illiterate Matticks read and write letters. This connection proved useful as the West End Gang controlled the port of Montreal, a hub for drug smuggling. Danny also met with the American Indian Movement (AIM), a non-criminal organization that seeks to uphold the civil rights of Indigenous people in the United States. After this meeting, he claimed that he wanted the IP to become more like AIM. While in prison, Richard came under the protection of the Mafia, who ensured his survival after his departure from the IP (1).


The IP has a hostile relationship with the police due to Canadian police’s history of anti-Indigenous racism and the cynicism and a lack of trust in the attitudes of many Indigenous people towards police (2) (12). Richard Wolfe claimed that he was taken by police on two “starlight tours”, a practice that has led to a number of deaths in Western Canada where an Indigenous person is taken to the outskirts of a city in the middle of the night during winter and abandoned there (1).



Works Cited

1. Friesen, Joe. The Ballad of Danny Wolfe: Life of a Modern Outlaw. McClelland & Stewart, 2017.


2. Grekul, Jana PhD, and Patti LaBoucane-Benson MSc. An investigation into the formation and recruitment processes of Aboriginal gangs in Western Canada. Public Safety Canada, 2006. https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/brgnl-gngs-nvstgtn-2006/index-en.aspx#fn5-rf

 

3. The Canadian Press. “Richard Daniel Wolfe, Indian Posse founder, dies a prisoner.” CBC, 29 May 2016. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/indian-posse-richard-wolfe-death-prison-1.3606065 


4. Friesen, Joe. “The ballad of Daniel Wolfe.” The Globe and Mail, 18 June 2011.  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/the-ballad-of-daniel-wolfe/article1357474/ 


5. Langton, Jerry. Cold War: How Organized Crime Works in Canada and Why It's About to Get More Violent. Harper Collins, 2015.


6. Edwards, Peter, and Michel Auger. The Encyclopedia of Canadian Organized Crime: From Captain Kidd to Mom Boucher. McClelland & Stewart, 2004.


7. Stryker. Directed by Noam Gonick, Wild Boars of Manitoba, 2004. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYmFPfCFVLg 


8. McIntyre, Mike. “Indian Posse founder killed.” The Winnipeg Free Press, 6 Jan. 2010. https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/2010/01/06/indian-posse-founder-killed 


9. Friesen, Joe. “Dispatches from an indefinite period in isolation.” The Globe and Mail, 3 June 2016.  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/richard-wolfe-dispatches-solitary/article30271455/ 


10. Biber, Francois. “Saskatoon Indian Posse gang member sentenced for killing Terror Squad rival.” CTV News, 3 Nov. 2020. https://saskatoon.ctvnews.ca/saskatoon-indian-posse-gang-member-sentenced-for-killing-terror-squad-rival-1.5173330 


11. Totten, Mark D. Nasty, Brutish, and Short: The Lives of Gang Members in Canada. Lorimer, 2012.


12. Palmater, Pamela. "Shining Light on the Dark Places: Addressing Police Racism and Sexualized Violence against Indigenous Women and Girls in the National Inquiry." Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, vol. 28 no. 2, 2016, p. 253-284. Project MUSE.


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