By ANDREW HANON
May 45, 2008
The brown house where Morningstar Mercredi spent
countless nights cowering in her secret hiding spot still stands near the corner
of 107 Avenue and 96 Street.
Last year, the 44-year-old
returned to the place where her now-deceased stepfather repeatedly terrorized
and abused her. She had heard the owner planned to tear it down and wanted to
make a special request before the machines moved in.
"I asked him if I could go in first with a
sledgehammer," Mercredi recalls, a smile spreading across her face. "He said
he'd do me one better. When the time comes, I get to ride on the machine when it
knocks the place over. 'Whatever it takes to deal with your demons,' he said.' "
A few weeks ago, Mercredi checked in with him to
make sure the offer still stands. She can hardly wait.
The story of the house and the hole in the wall
where she and her siblings would hide from their stepfather is in her memoir,
Morningstar: A Warrior's Tale, published by Coteau Books.
For anyone who grew up in a stable home, it's a
gut-wrenching glimpse into an entirely different world: A hellish parallel
universe where children can't even trust the people who are supposed to protect
and nurture them.
In a matter-of-fact tone, Mercredi tells of
growing up where abuse, neglect and addiction were the norms of behaviour, where
nearly all the kids she knew had to fend for themselves.
Her alcoholic mother was in no condition to care
for her children, her stepfather preyed on her and her transient father only
periodically appeared in her life. The only remotely stable adults in Mercredi's
life were her grandparents.
By the time she was in her mid-teens, Mercredi was
an alcoholic and drug addict who allowed herself to be passed around northern
work camps, exchanging sex and domestic labour for food and shelter.
When she finally encountered a normally
functioning family willing to accept her into the fold, kindness and trust had
become so alien to her that she didn't even know how to behave.
The tragic state of her existence was driven home
one night in a bar when an otherwise polite young man let slip that he fully
expected the evening to end in sex simply because she was a native woman.
"The impact on my spirit was profound," Mercredi
Now 22 years clean and sober, she's a published
author and playwright, an actress and social activist. She's setting up an
office in the AndNow Centre, a collection of spiritual healing and self-help
professionals on 107 Avenue, where she'll work on her first novel.
Mercredi wrote her memoir, in part, to show how
child abuse can have lifelong consequences and to help people understand the
psychological and emotional straitjacket abused children can be bound in.
"I wanted to show how someone can arrive on the
streets, or in addiction," she says.
But even more importantly, she says, she wanted to
give victims a message of hope, that they can overcome the rage and self-hatred
that keeps them mired in misery.
"The point of the book isn't about blaming," she
says. "It's not about being a victim. It's about overcoming trauma, honouring
the warrior within and learning to live a healthy lifestyle."
Mercredi fixes a steely gaze and adds, "Believe
me, I'm no f...ing victim."
Mercredi will deliver her message of triumph this
week at the National Indigenous Sexual Abuse conference at the Kingsway Ramada
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