A chance meeting with a local talent agent in Vancouver in the early 1990s resulted in walk-on roles in the X-Files, Smallville and Supernatural, then to feature roles. Howard has also worked as a stuntman and performed his own Stunts for his role in The Revenant. In media interviews, Howard has said his own experience with loss and hardship informed his portrayal of Elk Dog, a father whose daughter is kidnapped by fur trappers. When Leonardo DiCaprio dedicated his Golden Globe Award for The Revenant to indigenous communities around the world, Howard said he was moved by the speech, and hopes to see more accurate portrayals of Indigenous culture come out of Hollywood.
Following his role as Elk Dog, Howard began traveling and speaking about his own experiences to raise awareness about substance abuse, suicide and other issues in indigenous communities. After a state of emergency was declared in Attawapiskat_First_Nation in April 2016 because of its high rate of suicide, Howard told an interviewer, "People are saying we've got to help our young people, but it takes a community to come together as one. And there's a saying: one heart, one mind, one prayer, we can all move forward."