Actress urges students to respect elders

Black Diamond: Blackstone star performs one-woman show at Oilfields

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Mar 19, 2014 06:00 am

Actress Michelle Thrush belts out Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T during a performance of her one-woman show Find Your Inner Elder.
Actress Michelle Thrush belts out Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T during a performance of her one-woman show Find Your Inner Elder.
Bruce Campbell/OWW

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An award-winning actress let Oilfields High School students know it pays to respect their elders.

Michelle Thrush, a First Nations actress who won a Gemini Award in 2011 for best performance leading actress in her role in Blackstone, performed her one-woman show Find Your Own Inner-Elder at Oilfields on March 14.

The performance dealt with a First Nations girl growing up and getting through rough times with the help of her “kokum” — her grandmother. Later that young girl would become a kokum and would travel to offer Oilfields High School students some advice.

“It’s the story of my life and growing up in Calgary as young native girl and the story of my connection with my grandmother,” Thrush said.

“The story comes from a place of honesty and it comes from compassion. Compassion is the ability to look at the world through someone else’s eyes. To really look at each other and understand that all of us have a story.”

Thrush told the students she grew up in a dysfunctional home, and she knew from a young age she wanted to help people.

“If you are not a part of the solution, then you must be part of the problem,” she told the students. “If I am not doing something to contribute to the good of the world, I am wasting my time. I knew I wanted to help children.”

She urged the children to learn about Canada’s history — the nation was built on colonization and hurting aboriginal people.

“When you see an aboriginal person that is suffering, you need to know they have been through a lot of their lives,” Thrush said. “People are not born that way, they use (alcohol or other substances) to numb the pain.”

She urged the students to “look at each as human beings… get to know each other… walk in other people’s moccasins.”

Oilfields Grade 12 student Kaylee Rider, who is half First Nation, said she could identify with Thrush’s story, adding she was teased once or twice while an elementary student in the Diamond Valley area.

“I knew what it was like being the only native person in a classroom and it was easy to bug me about it,” said Rider. “That died down when I got older, because people are more educated.”

She added there is a healthy atmosphere at Oilfields school, which has a First Nations population of approximately 20 per cent. Thrush’s acting credits include Blackstone, Arctic Air and Dead Man, a film starring Johnny Depp, which definitely caught the students’ attention.”

“Oh, it was awful just looking at him every day,” Thrush said with a laugh.


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