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Prairieaction Foundation Award

Prairieaction Certificate

Stardale Women's Group is honoured to receive for the second time the Prairieaction Foundation Youth Leadership Award for The Road: Sharing Stories of Missing and Murdered Women. Due to COVID-19, we were not able to come together formally but our hearts are connected as one.

The 25 girls of the Stardale program in Calgary with its team of female elders, facilitators and workers guided and supported the processes to heal and break the cycles of abuse and violence directed at them and within their community. These adults assisted the girls in being able to create a narrative that is both a cultural mirror and a "two-world view" for the non-Indigenous Calgary and area community.

Through the creation of The Road, a strategized project that relates to the many females who have gone missing on the Yellowhead Highway, or what is known as the "Trail of Tears," the girls were empowered to become leaders in their community and the larger Calgary and area community. Audiences will learn the impact the numerous murdered and missing women has had on the lives of these young Indigenous women through their storytelling. Storytelling is the traditional way of imparting knowledge and wisdom in our Indigenous community.

Ribbon Skirt Cultural Project

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts under the granting of "Creating, Knowing and Sharing for Indigenous Peoples" for supporting Stardale Women's Group Inc. in the Ribbon Skirt Cultural Project.

It was a mighty effort to complete this project while COVID-19 had limited our contact.

When we began this project with the Elders, the helpers and the young girls coming together, it was magnificent to be part of the synergy which was flowing. Listening to the stories and the guidance from our Elders was beneficial for all whom partook in the sewing circles.

The Ribbon Skirt Project was a component of the performance creation stage production of The Road, which was to launch at the Stardale Gala on May 14. The Gala was cancelled due to COVID-19. Alas, all is not lost, as we will be having all the girls together on the stage in the near future when it's safe to do so.

We humbly thank all the women who assisted in the teaching of the girls how to sew. Several girls made comments as to how relaxing sewing was. It was new beginnings as they learned more on their culture and women's roles in their community.

Ribbon Skirt Project

Talking Circles

Blog entry #24 in the development of the Road series for Stardale

Written by Eugene Stickland - November 1, 2020

As you know, the Stardale organization created a film this summer called The Road that was awarded "Best Short Documentary" at the Montreal Independent Film Festival. One thing that might be easily overlooked and that I am particularly proud of is the fact that we actually completed a project during a summer that was in so many ways challenging and difficult for all of us.

I suspect not a lot of projects have been completed this year due to the protocols in place and the distracting low-grade anxiety that most of us have been living with since February. Many artists of my acquaintance have complained that it is hard to focus in these pandemic times, given the fear that weighs on all of us, which gives rise to frustration and isolation, even loneliness, fatigue, and a sense of despair that it may never end. We are all dealing with these emotions every day, not just artists. And so we ask ourselves, how are we meant to cope? How do we rise above and keep moving forward?

Creating The Road in this difficult year was, for those of us who had the chance to work on it, a beautiful distraction from the day-to-day drudgery of the pandemic. Receiving an award like we did prolonged the experience. But now that distraction is over. We have patted ourselves on the back and given each other air high-fives. That can only go on so long. And now, it's back to reality.

A few weeks ago, Helen McPhaden took a look around and asked herself, 'How are our girls in the Stardale class coping with this reality, day in, day out? What is it like for them?' In order to find out first hand, Helen, along with our Elder, Wanda First Rider, arranged a talking circle as a way for the girls to talk openly about how life is for them right now.

A talking circle is a deceptively simple idea - at the heart of it, obviously, you sit in a circle and you talk. Chances are, many of our readers will have found themselves in a talking circle somewhere along the road for any of a variety of reasons. It is a very old and time-honoured tradition among Indigenous people, predicated on the energy that is derived from sitting in a circle and the respect given to the person who is speaking. In traditional speaking circles, a sacred object is passed around the circle and held by the person whose turn it is to speak. In our case, this was a beautiful eagle feather provided by Wanda. When the person holding the feather speaks, all the others provide support for the speaker by listening respectfully.

It's quite amazing how simple and effective this is - not to mention how emotional. All of us have a lot of pent-up emotions these days. When given the chance to flow, they really flow. You can only believe that it is a tremendously cathartic experience for all involved.

One of the tenets of the talking circle is that what is said in the circle, what is shared, goes no farther than the circle. It would not be cool at all for me to share anything I heard that night. But I would offer that the experience made me acutely aware of just how fragile and vulnerable these girls really are.

If you are tired of the pandemic, experiencing "pandemic fatigue" as it is known, living as you do in a stable home, with a bit of money in the bank, food in the fridge, bills all paid, well then, imagine how exhausting and depressing this time is for people, like a lot of our girls, who have none of that. Every day, they face the great uncertainty in an often hostile world. It was bad enough before. These days, it can be almost unbearable.

A talking circle won't change any of that. But by hearing and sharing stories that come from the heart, sharing tears even, maybe it will help provide the courage to carry on, knowing we are not alone, we are all in this together. It may even provide the one thing that world is so desperately short of these days: Hope.

Another talking circle is being planned for the near future.

Previous entries can be found in the Eugene's Blog section of the site.

photo of girl with mask on Our Videos

The Road

The Make Believer Project
The Make Believer Project

Pop Up Art
Stardale Pop Up Art in the Park Series for Canada 150

movie camera Life As You Don't Know It - a comic book by young Aboriginal girls.

Research report by Stardale

Alesha's Dream

Stardale is looking to recruit innovative women in Calgary who are ready to work within the framework of our after-school projects for young Aboriginal girls ages 10-17.

Last updated November 3, 2020

Life As You Don't Know It comic book
Designed by Copian in collaboration with Stardale Women's Group Inc. Foundation