• Eugene Stickland

"In These Uncertain Times"

How many times have we heard that this month? "In these changing times." "In these difficult times." "In these unpredictable times."

We even have the guy from A&W looking sad and gloomy as he vows to keep the drive-thrus open so we can still get some onion rings and a root beer. In these uncertain times.

Times of change are certainly troubling times for some - in particular those who were doing spectacularly well the ways things were. They ought to be mightily concerned that they are about to have the rugs pulled out from under their feet.

The way things were. Some people were doing very well the way things were, but not everyone. Many people had historically done very poorly the way things were, kept from the circles of power and wealth and influence that many others take for granted.

Our First Nations people were systematically pushed to the fringes of our society by the very systems that should have helped them - the medical system, the legal system, the educational system, and even as we saw last winter with the arrest and handcuffing of a First Nations grandfather and granddaughter trying to open a bank account in Vancouver, the banking and other financial systems.

In these uncertain times, can social and systemic upheaval possibly leave First Nations people in a worse position than they were before? It's hard to imagine. Sometimes, change is inevitable and sometimes it can lead to positive outcomes.

After all, Nobel literature laureate Bob Dylan was only paraphrasing the Bible when he famously sang, "The times, they are a-changing."

As we speculate on these larger questions and issues, and as we try to imagine what kind of world we might find ourselves in a month from now or a year from now, for an organization like Stardale, the good work continues. At a time when our participants need the support that Stardale offers more than ever, the women I am lucky enough to work with look for and find creative solutions to help the girls in their time of self-isolation.

Face it - there are people living in mansions and penthouses complaining about self-isolating. The homes these girls live in are not quite so grand, and when you add poverty and addiction within the home, the situation becomes particularly dire.

So, this has led this week to the Stardale staff doing "drive-by" or "curb-side" visits to the girls. They drop off goodies to brighten their days. They take photos of the girls and the smiles on their faces would brighten up even the gloomiest day.

As you know, I have been working with the girls to create a piece titled The Road which is a dramatic and poetic response to the findings of the Commission on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. This piece was to have been performed live at a fundraiser for Stardale in early May.

Well, no fundraiser. No play. (No funds either, friends. Don't be afraid to help out. In these uncertain times.) We are now looking at the material the girls wrote over the winter with an eye on creating a short film instead of a live performance piece. What that should look like, exactly, I have to admit I'm struggling with. A prayer for these uncertain times, perhaps? That is my task these days and it is delicate work.

Meanwhile, though, during the time of isolation, one of my rock star writers Summer wrote down some of her thoughts, and we would like to share them with you here. And I promise that we will do what we can to ensure that her voice will be heard in whatever kind of presentation format we come up with.

Here is what Summer wrote:

Not attending Stardale has been a bit hard for me, because it's more than just a program. It's where I can be myself and express who I am without getting weird looks from people. It's helped me learn more about my culture, taught me how to be more open and less shy, and also helped me find my voice.
For example with The Road production we got to work with Eugene Stickland and he told us to write down about how we feel about either this topic or what have we experienced.
And the other girls and I put a lot of work and emotions into our words and we were hoping for other people to hear how we feel.
But since this pestilence, this pandemic, started it ruined everything from workers not having their jobs. To two of the major losses that I and everyone else will probably ever have: 1) The class of 2020 which is my year may have a chance of our graduation not happening; and 2) Our words, our stories, and our voices not being heard, it hurts so much because you put so much work, effort, and time into something that you created just to have it ripped out of your hands.
These are some things that I may never get back because this is my last year in school and Stardale. Plus for the other girls who might be leaving Stardale, them and I may never have our voices and stories heard the way we wanna tell them.

Stay safe friends and don't give up hope that we may come out of this in a better place than we were before!

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