Dallas Yellowfly presented his dramatic story of Qwalena on Thursday at the ACT in Maple Ridge in the lead up to Orange Shirt Day, Sept. 30.
School staff in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are celebrating the event on Friday.
Yellowfly did his presentation of Qwalena for 15 classes of Grade 10, 11, and 12 students from throughout the local district.
Qwalena is “The Wild Woman Who Steals Children.”
In a dark theatre, to the steady beat of a drum, Yellowfly tells a startling and thought provoking, scary tale of a girl who is born disfigured, bullied and ostracized by kids in her own community. She runs away to the forest, where she stays hidden.
Over time, Qwalena becomes the wild woman who makes eerie whistling sounds like the wind and steals children who dare to chase her in the woods.
During the presentation, Yellowfly uses elements of video and sound that fill the theatre, creating a chilling atmosphere.
There is a surprise ending that shockingly brings the wild woman to life in the theatre.
The second half of the presentation is an interactive discussion, exploring how the story of the wild woman is allegorical to the Indian agents who stole Aboriginal children and took them to Indian residential schools.
Yellowfly shares the story of his own father, who was taken away from his family as a child by Indian agents and sent to a residential school in southern Alberta during the 1940s.
The forcible cultural assimilation and abuse his father endured is what later developed into anger and inner rage, which subsequently lead him to a life of crime and years of incarceration, then death.
Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission residential school commemoration event held in Williams Lake in 2013, to recognize the harm the residential school system did to children’s sense of self-esteem and well being, and as affirmation of the commitment to ensure that everyone matters.
It stems from the story of Phyllis Webstad, who went to St. Joseph Mission for one school year, 1973/1974. She had her new orange shirt taken away on her first day of school there.