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Research & Development

Introduction | Sacred Weft Scenario | The Stardale Artistic Co-operative
Salish Weaving | Mentoring | Defining Our Future


Research

The primary objective of Stardale is to facilitate research on a range of policy-related issues that are of concern to Canada's Aboriginal peoples, including urban issues, economic development, the environment, education, research ethics, intellectual and cultural property, and languages and cultures.

From the policy established in RPP 2006-2007 by Indian and Northern Affairs, it clearly states the need for educational services to promote the empowerment of the individual, social services to ensure that individuals have the necessities of life and that healthy individuals contribute to safe, stable and healthy families and communities. By ensuring that the basic needs are met, and by focusing on education, this strategic outcome looks at key socio-economic indicators to effect real change for Aboriginal peoples.

The Stardale Women's Group Inc. has conducted and been instrumental in research regarding Aboriginal women and girls. The implications from the work have been for the greater population of Canada. It has been our understanding that the work we have been involved with has been ground - breaking especially around trauma, abuse, violence and gang mentally for the young girls.

Dissemination of the research:

  • To hold a discussion meeting with the project partners to discuss the developmental project and knowledge transfer,
  • To identify further research questions based on combining evidence gathered from the research Stardale performs and from the already documented research literature which addresses the education, health, social and criminal justice around Aboriginal girls,
  • To hold workshops and activities to promote the results of the Stardale research project,
  • To publish the research and to have it developed for web -based information,
  • To deliver the evidence - based practice to the public and private sector, thereby increasing the social, economic, and educational opportunities for the girls who live in poverty,
  • To promote the Stardale research project to other communities (charitable and government), so that they may benefit from the tool,
  • To have the Major stakeholders apply for funding of pilot projects with the research as back up to warrant the multidisciplinary concept of service delivery,

A pre-pilot study within the Aboriginal community of Kainai

This project started because the school principal at Kainai First Nation was looking for ways to do something about the recent escalation of violence involving girls in the community.  He approached Helen McPhaden, Executive Director of the Stardale Women's Group, an organization whose activities focus on filling the gaps in services to women living in poverty.  Helen had worked before with girls, women and others in Kainai and had also worked with a community in Saskatchewan to address concerns similar to the ones the principal described.

Within the mandate of the Stardale Women's Group Inc. there are two points that lead to the development of this project.

  • To focus on preventative measures of addressing abuse and violence issues in the family.
  • To develop research and learning schemes in order to have a better informed view of the needs in the Province.

The name of the project was changed to "Aboriginal Girls, who are exposed to violence and female gangs".

In the application for ethics approval:

It can be assumed that the girls who participate in this research project have been surrounded by trauma, violence and abuse in their lives. There is a chance that disclosures may take place in an environment of safety. There is a shift that allows the girl to frame the impacts of trauma, which was only to be addressed in isolation, between the girl and perhaps a friend, to now bring in forward in an accepting environment. The experience can be validating and allow her to return to "normal". Unsettling this frame is not only significant theoretically, but enables silences about violence and allows for new possibilities for growth to emerge.

Please read the full report at: Violence in the lives of girls of the Kainai First Nation.

Over the last decade or so, many other communities across Canada (including some First Nations) have had to deal with increased violence and gang activity.1 This includes violence, aggression and gang involvement by Aboriginal girls.2 There are many different ideas about why this is happening, but most people agree that, to some extent, violence in Aboriginal communities is linked to people's personal and collective experiences of racism and discrimination. ‘Historic' experiences like the residential school system and the Sixties scoop and government policies such as the Indian Act have left many Aboriginal people, families and communities struggling today with poverty, family and community breakdown, substance use problems and violence. Children and youth who are exposed to these kinds of things are more likely to become aggressive, violent or gang-involved. Stardale Women's Group Inc. - Sarson, Janet, McPhaden, Helen (2008) Violence in the Lives of Girls in the Kainai First Nation: 5

Follow up as it aligns with Aboriginal protocol and grass roots community development:

In conclusion, in November of 2009, in following with Aboriginal protocol Stardale returned to the Kainai reserve to meet with the group participants. This report Building on the Study ‘Violence in the Lives of Young Women in the Kainai First Nation': Opening a New Chapter is included with this document. It is not to be circulated due to the sensitive materials discussed and is to be used by Stardale organization only.

The research on the Kainai report and the comic book project were disseminated through numerous mediums of communication. Some were:

  • RESOLVE - Sask affiliate, whereby the RESOLVE organization has published the paper on their site and work in collaboration with Stardale to disseminate the research
  • September 2008 - Niagara Falls, Ont, International Special Needs Offenders Conference, Stardale distributed the research project in collaboration with the Aboriginal Healing Foundation who had an exhibition table.
  • November 2008 - Stardale Executive director - Helen McPhaden made a formal presentation at the Winnipeg National Aboriginal Gang Conference,
  • December 2008 - Stardale Executive director - Helen McPhaden made a formal presentation at the Prince Albert Grand Tribal Council National Justice Conference,
  • February 2009 - Stardale Executive director - Helen McPhaden made a formal presentation at the Vancouver National Female Justice Conference,
  • March 2009 - Stardale Executive director - Helen McPhaden made a formal presentation at the Beyond Gangs and Cliques Conference in Toronto,
  • March 2009 - Stardale Executive director - Helen McPhaden made a formal presentation at the Ottawa Aboriginal Research and Policy Conference.
  • March 2009 - Stardale Executive director - Helen McPhaden made a formal presentation on the comic book and the story behind it to the Committee Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth, a Parliamentary Committee in Ottawa chaired by Senator Romeo Dallaire.
  • April 2009- Glenbow Museum - Stardale Executive director - Helen McPhaden made a presentation in the ConocoPhillips theatre to a Calgary Audience
  • November 2009 - RESOLVE - Sask research conference- Stardale Executive director - Helen McPhaden made a formal presentation to an audience comprised of community based, policy and research individuals

Thank you to our funding supports for their contributions to our research projects:

Prairie action Foundation KAIROS Anti-Poverty Fund Status of Women Canada

Government of Canada

Canadian Heritage
     

ACADRE Alberta Network Environments for Aboriginal Health Research

Canadian Institutes of Health Research

RESOLVE SASKATCHEWAN
Research and Education for Solutions
to Violence and Abuse
c/o Luther College, LC 210
University of Regina
Regina, SK, S4S 0A2
Tel: 306-337-2511  Fax: 306-585-5267
Email: resolve@uregina.ca

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photo image of weaving

Visual literacy is important to oral cultures (Aboriginal), as they can explore and understand their own background. It is through visual literacy that we hope to cleanse the woundedness and create an odyssey unleashing past cell memory into powerful reaffirming connectedness to the Mother Earth that she alone provides - henceforth tangible measurable weavings containing the energies of the women who design them. Our project is about "experiential learning", and about reconstructing history that has been lost, but dormant in the cell memory. Thus the awakening of the past of what was lost culturally. Women who have experienced sexual and physical abuse, along with other traumatic situations, stop feeling because it's too painful in life's journey. We take a communal approach that was valued and lost by working from a group context. Each woman within our group plays a key role and is respected for this. Women, who have been cut off from their feelings (themselves), find language problematic. By being in nature the sensual input of sight, smell, sound, colors, and rhythms enliven the women. All that is in nature, particularly in our woodlands, marshlands, and fields of our north east region contain healing elements. The physical energy (mineral, vegetable, and animal), or non-physical (emotional, mental, or spiritual) is present in our natural setting. The flora and fauna provides the inspiration allowing the women as they learn how to "gather", an opportunity to reconnect through communication with Mother Earth and to begin the journey of rediscovery. Upon collecting the bark, berries, cattails, fruit stalks, mosses, mushrooms, roots, willows, etc., the women will take the next step, which is beginning to produce natural dyes. Once an array of dyes are produced and stored, the women begin to transfer their imagery into stencil. The stencils are made of cured mulberry paper and held together by silk gauze.

photo image of weaving

The fourth step of our project includes the actual weaving itself. The fabric of life is slowly, gently constructed with the very fragile elements and made into something strong. This is a metaphor in comparing the women's fragmented self becoming renewed and strengthened. The weaving suspends time. It is meditative and repetitive. It is therapeutic and diverse. Once the weaving is complete, stencils and dyes are applied. Layers of interlinked information, patterns with non-determinant predictions of beauty, dazzling carpets of wildflowers, myriads of blossoming plants are expressed in each design. Illusion, iridescent hues, sheen, and light waves are captured producing spectacular results. A regaining of culture by doing is constructed as a passage of time.

Since the completion of the Sacred Weft Collection, it has been exhibited at the Regina Legislature - Cumberland Gallery - Regina Saskatchewan; Wanuskewin Heritage Park Great Hall and Small Gallery - north of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; the Third World Congress for Rural Women Madrid Spain - October 2002; and the Western Art Gallery, the Calgary Stampede, and the Glenbow Gallery - Calgary, Alberta.

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Sacred Weft Scenario is an example of the concept, research, methodology and is the results of the work in progress.

The origin of traditions demonstrates the indelible marks on history. They redefine culture and who we are. At Stardale we embrace the opportunity to transcend the cultural difference and to bridge the similarities of womankind. The mystery of humankind is contained in our art. To empower through artistic flare and to heal the abused poor women to become the leaders and role models is one of the many goals we hope to achieve. There is illuminating evidence concerning the women of various periods of history.

A woman with a sample of her work

In healing women different approaches are necessary depending on the target group, demographics, socio-economic factors, etc. On this premise, Helen McPhaden researcher from the Stardale Centre, focused her research on the Navaho Nation of Arizona and New Mexico to study and gather information on their weavings/culture. These findings were similar to her observations that she had recorded in examining and viewing the Oaxaca Indians of Mexico. The beautiful weavings were a sense of pride and tradition with the different groups. Since the Cree Natives that live in the North Eastern region of Saskatchewan express how they have lost their culture, it was a natural progression to develop a project on weaving.


Helen McPhaden - Executive Director of Stardale Women's Group with Katharine Dickerson
Helen McPhaden - Executive Director
of Stardale Women's Group with
Katharine Dickerson
Director of Fiber Arts Department from Calgary
Katharine Dickerson - Director of Fiber Arts
Department from Calgary
Alberta College of Art and Design
Women at work within the weaving room at the Stardale Centre.    Women at work within the weaving room at the Stardale Centre.    Women at work within the weaving room at the Stardale Centre.
Women at work within the weaving room at the Stardale Centre

The dying process for the linen fibers with natural berry dye bath   The dying process for the linen fibers with natural berry dye bath   The dying process for the linen fibers with natural berry dye bath

The dying process for the linen fibers with natural berry dye bath
Helen McPhaden – Executive Director of Stardale Women’s Group with Katharine Dickerson
Director of Fiber Arts Department from Calgary
The women are learning how to warp the weft of the portable looms

Here you see rows of completed fibers hanging to dry.  All of the dye baths were made from natural ingredients and mordants.

Here you see rows of completed fibers hanging to dry. All of the dye baths were made from natural ingredients and mordants

Here you see rows of completed fibers hanging to dry.  All of the dye baths were made from natural ingredients and mordants.

The late MLA for Carrot River Valley - Carl Kwiatkowski who helped establish Stardale in 1997 sharing a few moments with some of the Stardale weaving designers.

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The Sacred Weft Collection opening reception at the Glenbow Museum Calgary Alberta - June 25, 2011 and in celebration of National Aboriginal Awareness Week.

Click here to view YouTube video.

Helen McPhaden (Executive Director of Stardale) - pre reception in the gallery with the Sacred Weft Collection
Helen McPhaden ( Executive Director of Stardale) - pre reception in the gallery with the Sacred Weft Collection.
  Helen McPhaden (Executive Director of Stardale) - presenting on the history of the Sacred Weft Collection
Helen McPhaden ( Executive Director of Stardale) - presenting on the history of the Sacred Weft Collection
photo of the Honorable Len Webber at podium and Helen McPhaden in background
Honorable Len Webber - Minister of Aboriginal Relations for the province of Alberta bringing greetings from the province of Alberta at this celebration.
Helen McPhaden (Executive Director of Stardale Women's Group is in the background)

Helen McPhaden (Executive Director) Speakers notes:

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the Glenbow Museum and the Sacred Weft Exhibit by the Stardale Women's Group Charity. As Gerry Said, I am Helen McPhaden - the Executive Director of Stardale Charity.

Firstly, I would like to thank Gerry Conaty and Joanne Schmidt from the Glenbow. It was a year ago April, that the 3 of us began the dialogue that led to the collaboration and why we are all gathered here today. Thank you Gerry and Joanne for all your efforts!!

Also, I would like to thank the Harry and Martha Cohen Foundation for their support towards this reception. - With a special thanks to Cheryl Cohen who is most gracious and a gem to work with.

The history behind the Sacred Weft Collection is as follows. Stardale realized through our programming initiatives that we had to address the needs of Aboriginal women who had experienced physical, emotional, mental and sexual abuse in their lives. We needed to come up with a unique program that could heal the women and help them to gain strength to move forward with their lives.

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I had the idea that the women could create beautiful weavings not unlike the ones I had seen in Oaxaca Mexico or in New Mexico. In 1998, I travelled to the Navaho reservation in the United States. The Navaho make the most beautiful weavings and rugs. I wanted to study and learn the possibility of designing a program which would benefit the women who Stardale worked with. After collecting the research, I approached Calgary's ACAD -( Alberta College of Art and Design), whereby, I met Katharine Dickerson, who was the head of their Fiber Arts department. Since that time, Katharine and I have grown to become lifelong friends.  She had the knowledge of the west coast Salish First Nations peoples and thought their methodology would be appropriate for what I was attempting to initiate.

So the journey began. We secured funding from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, the Anglican Healing Fund and later Canada Council of the Arts.  It was our intent to use the processes of making the weaving as a healing tool for the women.

There were many processes to be learned as the weavings were all natural. This meant learning how to work with the elements of Nature.

  1. Firstly, all the looms were small, easily assembled and hand carved from wood from the interior of B.C.

  2. Secondly, the fibers that the women worked with were linen or hemp. The women learned how to do retting, scutching, breaking and hackling of flax or hemp to produce fiber.

  3. Thirdly, the water for the dye baths was not from the tap, but rather it was captured from rain or snow.

  4. Next, the women gathered various berries, mosses, tree barks, etc. to make and store dye lots. Examples were: Cat Tails, Rose roots, Rhubarb stalks and leaves, Marigolds, Geranium petals, Blueberries, Mushrooms, Saskatoon Berries, Willow bark and more.

  5. And then, the women made mordants to assist in changing the original colour they came up with in making the dye baths. They used: Alum, Copper, Tin, and Brass. The technique was called " Mordanting"

  6. Finally, the women learned twining techniques, how to graph designs, computer graphics, and how to stretch and clean the weaving.

All the beautiful weavings that you see in the gallery today are unique and went through a labour intensive process. Each of the weavings that hang in the gallery is framed. But if you were to take them from the frame you would note that both sides of the weaving are identical. There are no knots or loops.

This is called the "V" stitch. The V stitch originated with the West Coast Salish.

In the past, the Salish women who were the weavers were considered the jewels of the community. They were honored and revered by all. With colonization, women weavers were forced to work as domestic helpers and in the canneries. The concept of weaving in harmony with nature began to fade. Then the residential schools were established and the cultural values were destroyed into complete non -existence.

From the perspective of Stardale, storytelling is necessary when accomplishing projects. The story holds merit and is a learning tool. Often, this is at a subconscious level. It connects to each person participating in the group experience, as well as a cellular healing level. The story helps preserve the Aboriginal culture. Hence, in designing the weaving tapestries, the story is translated into the art form.  The story reflects the realities such a child rearing, death, respect, greed and so on. Through listening and observing nature, the woman gains more clarity of perception in her live through a cultural connection.

This leads me into the next generation of storytelling through the experiences of the girls who attend the Stardale after school program, called" Honouring the Girls Stories". This program addresses a " GAP" in services for young Aboriginal girls.  The young girls attend the program and are enlivened with such skills as dance modalities, acting, modeling, hoola hooping, running, cooking, and lessons such as boundaries, self-esteem, healthy living, literacy and much more. All of these skills give the girls experience when they interact with others. An example is that 4 times now the girls have been invited to and attended the Famous 5 Foundation Luncheons at the Palliser hotel.

We have many objectives within the program, but our primary focus is to keep the girls in school and to help build future female Aboriginal leaders.

As part of our celebration today, you will have an opportunity to see some of the girls perform a piece that they worked on in their acting classes. On behalf of the Stardale Women's Group Charity, thank you for your attention. If you have any questions on the exhibit or the girls program, I would be happy to answer them for you.  Enjoy your experience at the Glenbow. Thank you.

 
Telling the story that the wrote in front of an audience at the Glenbow Museum in celebration of the Sacred Weft collection, as well as for National Aboriginal Awareness Day.
One young girl sang a beautiful song of a young maiden. Her voice was soft and carried the tune so well.
One young girl sang a beautiful song of a young maiden. Her voice was soft and carried the tune so well.
  Preparing to cut the celebration cake
Preparing to cut the celebration cake
Lake View Bakery made this beautiful cake with the Stardale logo
Lake View Bakery made this beautiful cake with the Stardale logo
  The cutting of the cake with: Kirsten Evenden (President of the Glenbow Museum),  Honourable Len Webber( Minister International & Intergovernmental Relations),Helen McPhaden (Executive Director of the Stardale Women’s Group)
The cutting of the cake with: Kirsten Evenden (President of the Glenbow Museum),  Honourable Len Webber( Minister International & Intergovernmental Relations), Helen McPhaden (Executive Director of the Stardale Women's Group)
Candid conversation at the reception with Helen McPhaden and 2 of the young Aboriginal girl performers
Candid conversation at the reception with Helen McPhaden and 2 of the young Aboriginal girl performers
  Stardale staff with one of the young girl performers
Stardale staff with one of the young girl performers
The Sacred Weft Collection by the Stardale Women’s Group show here at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta Canada   The Sacred Weft Collection by the Stardale Women’s Group show here at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta Canada
The Sacred Weft Collection by the Stardale Women’s Group show here at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta Canada   The Sacred Weft Collection by the Stardale Women’s Group show here at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta Canada

The Sacred Weft Collection by the Stardale Women's Group show here at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta Canada.


The Sacred Weft Collection remained at the Calgary Glenbow Museum for a five year period (April 2011 until April 2016).

Sacred Weft Collection is on display at the Native North America Collection on the third floor of the Glenbow Museum. Learn about how Cree women from Saskatchewan have revived a lost art form from the Salish tribes. Behold the beauty of what they have created!

Click here to see the full-size PDF

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The Stardale Artistic Co-operative

The Stardale Artistic Co-operative Ltd. was formed from a direct need to assist the rural women in establishing their own business. The women design the Coast Salish weavings. The designs are totally natural with no protein substance. They have gone into agri -valued industry; that is working with local farmers who produce flax linen plants. In turn, the women are learning how to make the flax linen into linen fiber. The process is arduous, however, extremely gratifying. The process includes the retting, hackling, combing, moistening, spinning, leg spinning, bleaching, then tannins, dying and the mordanting to make the fibers. As well as, completing the tasks for the making of colored linen fiber, the women learn the many steps in operating a business, in order to market their products. The women are true Artisans. They combine the old with the new! Hopefully, their work will be a catalyst for change in their rural community and bring about a prosperous community based business.

Click here to check out our gallery of pictures!

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The Revival of Salish weaving in British Columbia

Salish weaving is an ancient art. Mr. Oliver N. Wells, a non-native white, has been instrumental in the revival of the Salish weaving methods during the early 1960's. The research literature states:

"Salish weaving is today, as it was in the past, something unique among the crafts of the Indian tribes of the North America."

Other tribes of the North West Coast were also well known for their weaving of textiles. Woven objects from 3,000 years ago have been excavated by archeologists at Musqueam. The Musqueam is used to define both a place and the group of people, or band, who life there. The place is the Musqueam Reserve, an area set aside before 1871 for the exclusive use of the Musqueam Indians. It lies on the north shore of the Fraser River.

The Coast Salish are a Northwest Coast group, occupying the areas adjacent to the lower Fraser River, the Southwestern end of Vancouver Island and Northwestern Washington State. There is archaeological evidence for human occupation of these areas nearly 10,000 years ago.

The creation of woven objects was an important part of women's daily work. The research materials state that both baskets and burden straps, although primarily utilitarian in function were decorated with striking patterns. Fine baskets were prized possessions and gifts. Baskets were used to carry and store foods, such as berries, fish, and shellfish, and those made to be watertight could be used to transport water or as cooking vessels. Clothing was stored in baskets, and hats woven of basketry protected their weavers from rain. Burden straps were attached to baskets and, positioned across forehead or shoulders, helped in carrying loads. Mats of cat-tails or tule reeds, sewn with twine, made form the same materials, were used for sleeping on, as room dividers, wall insulators, and temporary shelters, they also served as cushions in homes, canoes, and in the ceremonial areas now knows as smokehouses.

The research literature indicated that, by the late 19th century, the traditional economic and social organization of the Coast Salish had been disrupted by European settlement. Many of the Coast Salish village sites are located in areas that became population centers, including the cities of Vancouver, Victoria, and Seattle. Much of the traditional knowledge gradually got lost, and the local languages were greatly weakened.

Once the trading posts and bartering of trading blankets were established weaving was cast aside, the traditional art from was forgotten, and the craft was almost completely abandoned.

Interestingly enough, during the early 1960's, the first revival of Salish weaving occurred at Sardis, 90km up the Fraser River from Vancouver. Oliver Wells, a non-Indian deeply interested in native culture, worked with Mrs. Adeline Lorenzetto in reconstructing Salish weaving techniques. Mary Peters, another Salish women, as working at the same time to recreate the ancient Salish weaving techniques.

Mrs. Albert Cooper, of the Soowahile Reserve at Chiliwack River, also assisted and helped to make possible "The return of the Salish Loom." Born at O'hamil Reserve, near Hope in the Fraser River, Mrs. Cooper was instrumental in connecting a ling between the natives of the Fraser River Canyon, who were the weavers of the Salish "Nobility Blanket" and the Chiliwack River tribe, into which she was married, as did many of the Canyon people of the Thompson tribe.

Mrs. Cooper was educated at Coqualeetza Residential School at Sardis, B.C., and became proficient in the use of the English language. According to the research material, she retained a good command of the Halkomelem (hal-koh-MAY-lem) tongue as spoken by the Stlo (STAW-loh) tribes along the lower Fraser River, and devoted her lifetime to the preservation of the native language and crafts.

According to the research literature, their eventual cooperation resulted in the formation of the Salish Weavers Guild, which at its peak times employed more than forty women. They prepared the dyed sheep's wool, starting from the raw fleece, spun it, and wove blankets and hangings for sale.

The U.B.C. Museum of anthropology held an exhibition in 1980 presenting the work of the Salish Weavers Guild. Apparently the women of the Salish Weavers Guild are presently working on an individual basis. However, Salish weaving is not firmly re-established in the Sardis area.

The research literature impressively states that, Musqueam people move between two worlds. One is Vancouver, with its supermarkets, schools and entertainments. The other is that of a Coast Salish community, with its own distinctive culture. Many Musqueam people are dedicated to the practice of their way of life, with its language, ceremonies, arts and crafts, including carving and weaving.

Aboriginal Healing Foundation
Aboriginal Healing Foundation

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Mentoring --- WHAT IS IT?

Mentoring--from the Greek word meaning enduring--is defined as a sustained relationship between a youth and an adult. Mentoring programs generally serve through educational or personal development or career mentoring, as in the case of the Stardale mentoring of Ms. Marion for the weaving initiative, Sacred Weft. It has been realized and talked about that to foster growth and learning in Aboriginal communities that there is a tremendous need for healthy role models. These people are unavailable! The alternative to this problem is to establish adults who may offer support, guidance and assistance as the woman goes through a difficult period, faces new challenges, or works to correct earlier problems. In providing responsible guidance to the woman, we play a critical role in family healing. Ms. Marion studied under the tutelage of Katharine Dickerson, Executive Director of Alberta College of Art in Calgary Alberta for a period of one month. Katharine taught Linda the skills of weaving, dying and understanding the healing that takes place for the women who weave. In July of 2000, Katharine traveled to Saskatchewan and taught for a three week period further technique in dying fiber that is indigenous to the North east region of the province. She also assisted Linda in teaching students who had joined the program. The experience has been carefully documented in the reports for the funders of the Sacred Weft project; that is the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

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“Defining Our Future: Embracing Our Girls” - View the report

photo of girls from Melfort, SK, who sewed and made their own clothes photo of girls from Melfort, SK, who sewed and made their own clothes photo of girls from Melfort, SK, who sewed and made their own clothes

“Defining Our Future: Embracing Our Girls” was a collaborative research project conducted in Melfort, Saskatchewan. The first goal was to explore the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of a small group of girls in Melfort, Saskatchewan, considered to be ‘at-risk’ of self- and other-harming behaviour such as substance use, interpersonal violence, and sexual activity. The second goal of the project was to explore existing youth services, and options for additional service provision.

To achieve the project’s first goal, a focus group was conducted. Seven female participants between 14 and 17 years of age, the majority of whom identified as Aboriginal, completed a self-report questionnaire and participated in a focus group. An interview with a key informant who works closely with ‘at-risk’ youth in Melfort was also conducted. A number of individual and environmental factors were identified as contributing to the youths’ unhealthy lifestyles. Some of these factors included self-esteem, family constellation and resources, substance abuse, truancy and perceptions of inadequate community resources and strained relationships with ‘authority’ figures.

Individuals from a number of service providing organizations were contacted and invited to participate in two meetings that were held to explore existing community resources. These meetings focused on delivering services to youths in the areas of prevention, intervention, and postvention. These meetings were designed to establish the strengths of the community, as well as identify how community members can collaborate to further address youth issues.

Recommendations included the possibility of a non-denominational youth centre, a youth mentorship program, community/youth education, recreation programs. Additional research is also recommended to explore the thoughts and feelings of different groups of individuals within Melfort.

The final report documents information collected, recommendations, and the limitations associated with the study.

You can view the report in its entirety here in PDF format. (162k)

Follow-up Report here


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