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Friends mourn death of 18-year-old Calgary woman who starred in film about Indigenous women

Friends and family gathered in downtown Calgary on Saturday at a vigil to honour the life of an 18-year-old Calgary woman who passed away this week.

Aalyiah Melting Tallow made a big impression on those around in her during her short life.

“She had such depth. She was an old soul. There was so much incredible knowledge in her around social justice issues,” said Helen McPhaden the executive director and founder of Stardale who described Melting Tallow as a leader and a mentor and self-taught musician.

“She contributed so much.  I loved how she would always help the other girls. She was so talented. She would share that with everyone. Aaliyah Melting Tallow was a beautiful, sweet, gentle young lady,” McPhaden said.

Melting Tallow was just 11 years old when she joined Stardale, a Calgary youth group that provides life skills and literacy training, as well as advocacy to Indigenous females living in poverty and abusive situations.

Stardale works to empower them, their families and their communities to overcome systemic barriers.

Melting Tallow co-wrote and appeared in an award-winning film The Road that honours Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The writing was done by several young women in Stardale under the mentorship of playwright Eugene Stickland.

Melting Tallow was missing for four days before her body was found in downtown Calgary this week. Her mother said she died from accidental drug poisoning.

“‘She was such a beautiful person inside and out. She was so strong,” said Brooke Strongeagle, who has been friends with Melting Tallow since they met when they were 11 years old through Stardale.  Strongeagle was also part of the film.

“She was so friendly and kind and she got along with everyone. It’s so sad to see such a beautiful soul now taken. It wasn’t her that took her life away. I want to know the full story of what happened. She was the foundation –  she was the star of Stardale Women’s Group. She brought everyone together. She made such a strong impact in my life because she was always there,” Strongeagle said.

McPhaden said Melting Tallow had been getting treatment for depression.

“We need to look at mental illness because it is an illness. Whatever is going on in a young woman’s life –  we need to be there to support her. We don’t want more statistics on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.  There wasn’t violence in her life. She was loved.  It was the mental illness.” McPhaden said.

“At Stardell, we are all devastated. We are all in shock.”

McPhaden said the next project at Stardale will be in Melting Tallow’s memory

Royalties from The Road goes towards social and wellness programming for Indigenous young women and girls, their families and their communities through Stardale.

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