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For Star Woman

I have been sorting through more "stuff" in the loft room this week.

I spent months marooned up there for long evenings last winter, tidying it up. How could there still be so much excess paper?  But there is.

So I am in Phase 2 of The Cull; I was too gentle the first time.

But amid the trash, I find treasure. I found a bulletin from the funeral of a work colleague who died in 1997. On the back was a little poem that I love, written by Stan H. Smith. Stan was the executive director of an agency called New Leaf--Living and Learning Together. He died a few years ago. I wanted to share the poem here, but I didn't know the context in which I would share it. Tonight as I was driving, listening to the radio, I got the answer.

The CBC radio program Revision Quest was playing. (You can listen to the show as a podcast by going to CBC Radio .) The show was about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its recent meeting in Winnipeg, Manitoba; where there is a platform for aboriginal survivors of the residential school system in Canada to tell their stories (telling The Truth,) and in doing so, take a step towards healing (Reconciliation.)

The host, Darrell Dennis, told of a man who as a child had run away from his school and walked 56 km back to his home. When he arrived there, the people in his community were shocked. They had not seen a child for a long time. But he was only there for a few days before he was forced to go back to the school by the authorities.

I listened to the voice of a woman who is a multi-generational survivor of the residential school system. She came from southern Alberta. She spoke her name in her First Nations language, and then her anglicized name. Her Indian name is Star Woman and her grandparents, parents, and she, had all endured separation from family and abuse within the system. It was hard to hear the devastation she described and the addictions, broken relationships and abuse she endured.

She had felt worthless and said that she was unable to forgive the people who perpetrated her abuse; until she met her Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ. Through her Roman Catholic faith she learned and accepted that she is loved unconditionally by God, and forgiven. Although it was difficult, she forgave her parents for the physical abuse they inflicted on her. She was able to acknowledge that they were broken human beings who made mistakes, as she had also made mistakes. She is working towards forgiving other perpetrators of abuse in her own community.

Star Woman brought a gift to the meeting in Winnipeg. She gave her moccasins. She said that she brought them on behalf of those who had traveled the path before her and made this day possible.

So here is Stan's poem, with which I honour Star Woman:

Consider, as you pass this way,

How smooth the road!

Remember, as you go, those who have gone before

And, as they passed, removed a pebble

from the path

To ease the way for those who followed.

Stan H. Smith


Marilyn Yocum said…
Wonderful poem. Thank you. I'm making a note of it.
I also continue to enjoy the reconciliation stories of the aboriginal people. Powerful. "....had not seen a child in a long time..." Rich, this. And heartbreaking for me. When I imagine being very old, I always feel I must have some opportunity to be around little children, so to think of a community's life without that is sad.
Theresa said…
What a wonderful poem. I just finished reading "one Dead Indian", a book about the Ipperwash crisis. Reading it made me realize that the government of Canada has only just scratched the surface of apologies they owe natives. I believe that one needs to take ownership for their actions in the now, but some individuals have so much more to have to work through. Glad to live in a country where, even if it is decades late, the government is taking responsibility for the actions of those who governed before them.
As I knew both Doug and Stan, this post meant a lot to me. Thank you so much for giving me to opportunity to remember them and to know that their lives, therefore their deaths, meant something.
Phil Smith said…
Thank you very much for posting this poem by my Uncle, Stan Smith. It brings back memories that of the man that in the end achieved much more for others through his social work as the founder of New Leaf than I believe he ever did for himself. I very much miss my talks with him and this poem does so much remind me of him. Again, thank you.
Belinda Burston said…
Dear Phil, how awesome that you found your uncle's poem here and were reminded of him. It was a lovely surprise to find your comment awaiting moderation, and thereby be prompted to read the post again.
Belinda Burston said…
Dear Phil, how awesome that you found your uncle's poem here and were reminded of him. It was a lovely surprise to find your comment awaiting moderation, and thereby be prompted to read the post again.

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