Some stories are theirs, and some are from other women, but all will leave a lasting impression on the audience as they see, feel, and understand the miscarriage of justice for indigenous women in the True North – strong, but not so free.
With spotless research, Sherri-Lee Pike and her talented crew of seven weave together stories of women that suffered abuse to bring a haunting and compelling production to The Guild’s stage in Charlottetown called ‘Strengthening our Resilience.’
“We are sharing a collection of true stories – many have been handed to us – without revealing the credible sources. Our main focus is on what you do after you’ve been in that situation, how you gain strength and the process of healing especially for indigenous women,” said Pike, the coordinator.
Collectively written by women, the play follows the character Raven down the “Red Road” to a destination of healing.
Primarily it’s a reminder that we are not alone and we can get through.” - Sherri-Lee Pike
“She comes to the world like everybody else – pure, lovely, and innocent,” explains Pike. “But as Raven grows she is portrayed as a catalyst for the actions of others, a casualty of cruelty. The story is based around this girl that matures into a woman and how she eventually finds her voice and strength.”
It is a telling reflection of the justice system, according to Starr Bennett, who plays adult Raven.
“People have brought this subject up in the Red Dress campaign to spread the message about the missing or murdered indigenous women across Canada. It is so often swept under the rug by the Government or police,” she said.
In one scene women will wear red dresses to evoke the country’s missing and murdered while signaling their support for indigenous women.
“I tell the story about how I need a man after my Auntie just passed away because I am lost and broken. At first, this relationship starts out really great and then gradually through the monologue you find out he’s very controlling and it feels like I’m locked in a jail cell,” Bennett described her character.
“After that, I’m looking for strength and what I do is start singing and drumming. At first, this journey is hard, but then a whole bunch of women backs me up and I begin to find my voice and healing.”
The story encompasses elements of singing, the powerful healing gift of the jingle dress dance (the dress has 364 jingles that represent each day of the year, done in prayer and offering), and drumming to signify their heartbeat, as well as mother earth.
Sarah Jackson, one of the two advisors from the P.E.I. Aboriginal Women’s Association, who also plays the character ‘Auntie’ read a raw excerpt from the collection of, braided monologues:
“I was angry because life was unfair and that’s what I had deserved for trying to fight back. He made sure I couldn’t hurt him. He could control my anger. He could break my fingernails off so that I couldn’t scratch his face in one of his fits. He had the right to do this because I was unstable, unloved, unworthy, and weak…”
But the story is, ultimately, one of healing.
“It takes a lot of guts to stand up there, but the women are representing all those that have been abused because this is their journey out of the fog and one of tremendous hope,” she said with warmth.
“It gives you a good perspective on the indigenous culture, as well as how women can really dig deep to find strength,” added Pike. “But primarily it’s a reminder that we are not alone and we can get through.”
The Native Council of P.E.I. is hosting the play, thanks to the Interministerial Women’s Secretariat grant from the province at the Guild in Charlottetown on Friday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. To book call the Guild at 902-620-3333 or contact the Native Council of P.E.I. at 902-892-5314.