• Eugene Stickland

Hey! Have We Reconciled Yet?

Those who have been following these blog posts this year will be aware that I am working with the girls of the Stardale Women's group creating a performance piece based on the "Highway of Tears," a response to the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, which is titled "Reclaiming Power and Place."

Like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that came a few years earlier, "Reclaiming Power and Place" surely demands a response from mainstream society. If there is no reaction, and therefore no action, then we will be right back where we started from. Which was not a good place, by anyone's estimation.

Helen McPhaden, through the Stardale program, has quietly been taking action and making a difference for a long time now. Stardale was founded in Saskatchewan in 1997, then in 2007 began to establish itself in Calgary. To date, 1011 girls have been involved and have benefited in innumerable ways from the program.

From what I've observed over the last six years that I've been involved, the raison d'être for the program has been to address in a holistic manner the well-being of the various and numerous participants. Everything from a warm meal to start the session, to discussion about various issues (drug use, sexuality, relations with the police, spirituality, racism to name a few), to working with experts from many different fields; from long distance running to finance and everything in between. That's how I first got involved, I taught a one-off poetry workshop.

For most of us, all of this just happens through our families and teachers and programs and classes outside of school that our parents can afford to pay for. It's not quite as simple as that for most of girls who find themselves at Stardale.

Far too often, where there should have been support, there was neglect. Many of their parents are survivors of the residential schools who simply don't have the skills or the means to support these girls properly. These 1011 girls may have fallen through the cracks, but Helen and her amazing staff were there to keep that from happening.

It's wonderful that this happens, and has happened for so long. But it doesn't just happen. Obviously, despite Helen's amazing ability to attract volunteers and gifts in kind, it costs money to run such a wonderful program.

This is where you come in, friends. You believe in reconciliation? You want to do something for our First Nations? You want to empower young women? Want to help create some change to alter the outcomes in this ongoing saga?

It's pretty simple, and probably enjoyable. Come to the 2nd annual Stardale Gala. It's Thursday, May 14, 2020 at the Polaris Centre. If you are with a company, you can sponsor a table. Or you can donate to the silent auction.

You can do a lot of things, beyond sitting at home and hoping against hope that things will change for the better. They won't, ultimately, without your involvement. Our involvement. All of us.

As the saying goes, we are all treaty people.

I'll see you in May.

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