Honouring the warrior within


Edmonton Sun

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 says quietly.

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 victim."

Mercredi will deliver her message of triumph this week at the National Indigenous Sexual Abuse conference at the Kingsway Ramada Inn.

Copyright  2008, Canoe Inc. All rights reserved


Morningstar Mercredi

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Updated: August 21, 2016