My name is Aaliyah and I am 14 years old. I've been a part of Stardale Women's Group for four years now.
It's a welcoming place where I can feel like I belong, surrounded by other Indigenous girls my age. I would definitely describe it as a character-building type of program for young girls.
My past has always been complicated. I lived with my Mom for most of my childhood. I saw my Dad, but they were short visits. I love my Mom and she's always done her best to take care of me. She works a lot and I eventually went to live with my Grandmother.
Living with my Grandmother was so nice because at the time, my Great Grandmother lived there too and I was able to build a close relationship with them. I love my relationship with my Grandparents because they know a lot. They would take me on walks down the river and tell me stories of their childhood.
It eventually became just me and my Dad, just the two of us. We lived in a shelter for about a few months. Living with my Dad was a big change for me because I lived with my Mom for so long. But I've gotten to really know him these past four years. Living in a shelter was also a big change for me. My Dad and I eventually got our own place and our lives started changing from there and I also joined Stardale.
When I was younger, I was more closed off, introverted and very shy. I wasn't really expressing myself. I came to Stardale, started making more friends, and started becoming more open. I think I'm more of a socialite now. I started doing more of things that I like. I love music and like to play the piano. And art. I'm a serious fan girl for different bands. I've taken piano lessons with one of the volunteers here at Stardale.
I've gotten a lot of different reactions towards me being Indigenous such as racial slurs, as well as positive feedback from other people. They empowered me and supported me. They say things like, "I'd love to see an Indigenous girl play piano."
Hopefully, I'll get more positive feedback. It's nice to know that most of the time, people will think it's cool when they strive for better education because that seems new to "our" world. For a while we've been so oppressed. I know that we still are, but I feel it changing.
But other terrible things happen to Indigenous girls. Sometimes, they end up dead, like the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, or they end up on the streets and use drugs. It's heartbreaking to hear. I find it heartbreaking that's where girls like me have ended up... feeling as though they lost all hope.
If more Indigenous girls knew about this program, Stardale Women's Group, they would be more into school, being more in touch with themselves, getting to know themselves and others better. Overall, having a more positive lifestyle. Nicole is one of my best friends and I would have never met her if it wasn't for Stardale. Stardale has helped me grow. I really express myself more in art and in my interests. I'm more social. I have more friends. Stardale helps me know myself better, helps me grow each day and be better. The people here offer so much support. They spend so much time each week, setting it up, and all the girls are being supported with their growing process.
Class is very loud, very fun, and very social. You'll make so many friends. Each Wednesday, we'll start in circle, we'll sit there and Helen will say a few words on her mind and share our thoughts.
We get a sense of relatedness. I feel better when it comes to dealing with my problems. The girls and women here understand.
We do a fun activities and learn more about our culture. I think that everyone should be in touch with their culture. I now know some Indigenous language. I love beading. It represents a sense of creativeness, not many girls know how to do that.
I like that we smudge at Stardale. My Dad taught me that it is a cleansing, letting go of your problems that the smoke carries away and it answers those problems for you.
I am closer to my Dad now than ever before. When I was younger, we were just visiting. But now, it's an actual relationship and bond and I think every father and daughter should have that. It's helped me open up to him about different problems, like my days and what's happening at school and he'll share with me about his days at work.
I got lucky with my parents, some Indigenous children don't have that kind support from their parents. But when it comes to family, we can choose our families and family can support us and bring out the best in us.
Indigenous culture is very big on family. It is open and very welcoming, especially with our Elders. It's a beautiful culture. They're so focused on being in touch with Mother Earth. I find it so right. I'm Christian but I also practice ways of my Indigenous culture.
Today, I would not be as creative, I wouldn't be so extroverted. I would be so shy and afraid to show my real self without Stardale.
When I met Helen, she had a very bubbly personality and I was intrigued. She seemed like the motherly type. She came and gave me a hug, and I felt very welcomed.
I've learned that it's okay to be emotional, and that it's good because you don't want it to build up and consume you. If I have a hard day at school, Stardale reminds me that tomorrow is a new day. If I hadn't found out about Stardale, my mental health wouldn't be so good.
My challenges are mostly in school. It's challenging when teachers think low of me, and their low-minded and they grew up in environments that condone racism. When you have a teacher that says that you're not good enough, it's very disheartening. I love my parents and they actually had to go to my school to discuss these concerns.
This is experiences by a lot of coloured people and gay people. They get terrible feedback from their teachers and sometimes it can be a toxic environment for us. But I do my best to make the best of it because I'm only in school for so long, and my education is important.
I feel myself improving. I'm proud of math tests. Last time, I got a 75% and I'm not very good at math. I closed my eyes, and the teacher said, "Open your eyes!" I cried!
Other personally accomplishments would be finishing my assignment on time and feeling good about being in the moment. I want to finish high school. I haven't figured out what I want to do fully yet, but I'm into forensic science and at the school I'm going to, they offer that course.
I also want to take more math classes because I'm terrible at math.
I think my aspirations right now is just to surround myself with the right people. Those who support me with whatever I do. There are some people who were in my life that aren't anymore because they didn't support me through my difficult times and they were fake.
Another aspiration would be focusing on my creative side a little more, such as poetry, writing, and music. I love great and empowering songs and artists who are not afraid to me themselves. I love music that speak to mental health because everyone should be their best selves.
Now, whenever there's a new girl at Stardale, I introduce myself and I tell them the things I like about this group ad why they should keep coming back.
For those reading this, I would ask that they donate because Indigenous girls feel scared to express themselves fully, and projects like The Road touches on that. Stardale helps us figure out what we want to do with our lives now, what our past was like and what we want for our future.
The best way to support people is to empower them and tell them that what they're doing is great. Encourage them. Give them hope, because most of those who are struggling don't have that.