Stephanie Harpe, singer, songwriter, actor and activist

Stephanie Harpe is a member of the Fort Mckay First Nation, a survivor of domestic abuse and a former addict who never gave up on her dreams of singing, even when times were difficult. 

She says she is seeing a lot of leadership recognizing the need for healing in their communities.

There is a lot of suffering and rooted pain that’s not being dealt with, she contends. There is high rates of suicide and addiction.

“We have a lot of leadership going into old banishment laws and making zero-tolerance trying to get their communities more healthy. I see more programs for mental health. And, I’m really happy to say, that they have been calling me from all over the country wanting me to come and speak to them about my own life experience and survival.”

She said people want to know how to keep themselves safe in such an over-populated world where mental health is an issue.

Harpe’s dreams are coming true, and she’s getting to help her people as much as she can, she said.

Leaders struggle with life balance, she said. “And sometimes you leave yourself behind.” She’s learning to strike a balance between her needs and the needs of the people.

“I’m strong enough, though. I’ve been doing very well being the oak in the room and not being triggered and traumatized as I was about five years ago when I started this. And I’m thankful for that.”

She said it can effect the whole body and soul to talk about heavy issues, like Indigenous people’s trauma.

She works to carve out time for family, and works to try not to hit a wall from getting too busy.

“I realize I can’t help everybody all the time. And I have to look out for myself.”

Balance is key to all of it, Harpe said. And sometimes, it takes a long time to get to that balance, because when out helping the people we are striving for strength.

Harpe said self-esteem is the main thing to help build in young women.

“Once they have self-love, self-realization, they start to value themselves more. Then they become more aware of what’s good for them and what’s not.”

She said some young people are getting out of their pain and trauma, “which is wonderful to see.” Yet others still struggle.

Trials and tribulations can make a very strong person.

“Some of the most amazing, talented artists in the world are tormented souls. And that’s why our people are so artistic, ‘cause that’s their spirit, that’s their soul that they are sharing and exposing.”

She said you have to catch kids early, with early interventions of loving themselves and valuing themselves so that they look towards the future and don’t take easy roads.

Indigenous role models in all walks of life—politics, law, leadership—“we are awakening. We are getting well. We are getting connected,” leaving behind the toxic, lateral violence in the communities.

Communities and women are “snapping out of it,” Harpe said. “We’re not fools.” The way the world is going, “we need each other more than ever.”