Stardale Women's Group Inc. Foundation
ImageWho Are We?ImageImage
ImageResearch & DevelopmentImage
ImageActivities & AccomplishmentsImage
ImageCycles & CirclesImage
ImagePhoto GalleryImage
ImagePress releasesImage
ImageContact UsImage

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

The Road Ahead

Blog entry #22 in the development of the Road series for Stardale

Written by Eugene Stickland - September 15, 2020

On September 24, 2020, we will present the world premiere of the short film The Road. This presentation will be the culmination of about fifteen months of work for Helen McPhaden and I, going back to an initial brainstorming session at Caffé Beano in June of 2019.

It was at that first meeting, listening to Helen talk about what she hoped to accomplish over the winter, that I had the moment that all artists dream of having but don't always get: the 'Aha!' moment. Helen said that the piece should be some kind of reaction to the findings of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Something clicked inside my mind.

I thought back to a play a friend wrote years ago that had as its subject the "Highway of Tears," that notorious stretch of the Yellowhead Highway between Prince George and Prince Rupert in British Columbia. So many Indigenous girls and women have gone missing or been found dead on that lonely stretch of highway it goes beyond reason.

But then I realized there is also a more symbolic Highway of Tears - it runs through Calgary on the various streets our Stardale girls walk each and every day. It runs through my old neighbourhood in Regina on streets that Maclean's magazine has called for almost twenty years the worst and most dangerous in Canada. It runs through every city and town throughout the country.

Most chilling of all for me, in the split-second of that 'Aha!' moment - the realization this has been going on for a long, long time, and the way things are going, it doesn't look like that situation will change any time soon.

My thinking was pretty clear: we would create a piece about this road, this place where Indigenous girls and women live their lives, and in some cases lose their lives, and we would tell it across time, going back pre-contact (with European culture) into the future. I calmly laid that vision out for Helen and she was right on board. We had an idea. We had a project. What could possibly go wrong?

How we went about creating this story, using the voices of the Stardale participants, was for me to come in for a number of writing sessions where I asked the girls to write down their thoughts on a number of topics. For example, I reminded them that according to recent archaeological discoveries, First Nations people arrived in North America over 14,000 years ago. (The pyramids of Egypt are only 5,000 years old, to put that number in context!)

That was a hard thing for them to get their heads around. Life before cell phones and tablets and TV and electricity and malls and all the rest of it was at some level unimaginable. But we still got some good writing that we were able to use for the piece. Present day problems, realities, bullying, prejudicial attitudes towards them, fears of being raped and/or abducted were sadly much easier for them to talk about, and I hope that process was cathartic for them. I never feel comfortable pushing them too hard for material to use. Many of them are still in junior high school.

What was originally meant to be a stage presentation had to be altered on account of you-know-what. We were determined to tell these stories; letting the girls down and not honouring their work throughout the winter was never an option. We turned to our talented videographer Vanessa Wenzel, recalibrated the writing from stage to screen, and along with girls from the program included appearances by our elder Wanda First Rider and singer Chantel Gagnon. With the help of Helen Young who was our acting coach and the locations and costumes/makeup people at Prairie Kitten Productions, Vanessa created the short film that we will present on September 24.

I saw a rough cut of the film last week. I don't know what I was expecting. I wasn't expecting to cry, but I did. Even though I knew what was coming, even though I had typed every word those girls say in the film, it hit me hard and I cried. I cried for the whole thing of it - this intolerable situation that has gone on far too long, for the spirit of our girls who, untrained as they are, do such a fantastic job on camera, for the determination of Helen and (little) Helen and Vanessa and all the Stardale staff and volunteers who worked so hard throughout the summer holding it all together, not allowing things to fall apart, and in the end having this little gem of a film to share with all of you.

It's quite overwhelming and emotional and very humbling. September 24 happens to be my birthday and sharing this film with the world is the best birthday present I can possibly think of.

The gala premiere of The Road will be presented virtually on Thursday, September 24, 2020 from 4:00PM - 5:30PM (MST). Click here to register.

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 October 10, 2020

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