Young Indigenous woman creates and leads her own sharing circles

A young First Nations woman is helping other Indigenous women find strength by creating an online sharing circle.

Online sharing circle aims to help women support each other in their day to day lives

Ocean Bruyere started A Woman's Voice last November. She is relaunching the online sharing circle for Indigenous women on Dec. 3. (Roxane Desrochers)

A young First Nations woman is helping other Indigenous women find strength by creating an online sharing circle.

"I started A Woman's Voice because I remember a time where I didn't feel like I had a voice," said facilitator Ocean Bruyere. 

The 24-year-old from Sagkeeng First Nation in Manitoba created the support group last November.

Bruyere said she grew up partly in foster care and often found herself going back and forth between Sagkeeng and Winnipeg. Today, she supports young people who are going through the child welfare system.

Bruyere describes A Woman's Voice as a space for Indigenous women, LGBTQ2S, or anyone who identifies as a woman to share what they are going through in their lives. Most discussions cover a wide range of topics.

"It could be from domestic violence, childhood trauma, or mental health issues, being a single parent or... sometimes just being a woman in general and having to be so strong for yourself and your family and your community," said Bruyere.

She gives credit to traditional ceremonies for teaching her about her own role as an Indigenous woman and "how our communities used to be."

"I come from a matriarchy system," said Bruyere.

"When I was a teenager and a young mom, I was very quiet about some of the experiences that I went through in my life and I always feel like I couldn't share those things."

'You're letting it out; you're letting it go'

Today Bruyere has surrounded herself with a support network of young Indigenous people who want to make an impact in their community and be able to share experiences. One of those people is Monique Desjarlais.

Desjarlais is from Kinosao Sipi, also called Norway House Cree Nation, and has two degrees from the University of Winnipeg.

In July, Desjarlais and Bruyere started volunteering as team leaders for a co-ed program run by Strength in the Circle, an Indigenous men's wellness group in Winnipeg. 

It's been so popular they've had people from outside of the province and as far as the United States join their calls.

It was decided the two women would re-launch A Woman's Voice with the support of Strength in the Circle's networks.

Ocean Bruyere and Monique Desjarlais have been leading a co-ed sharing circle since July. They will be running A Woman's Voice together through Strength in the Circle. (Ocean Bruyere)

"I think that that we just need each other right now with everything that's going on, the high numbers of missing and murdered indigenous women," said Desjarlais.

Strength in the Circle founder Jonny Meikle said the co-ed sharing circles have been able to help build relationships among Indigenous men, women and two-spirit people in Winnipeg. 

"As a man, I think it's important that we support our women in every way that we can so they can become the leaders they are," said Meikle.

Desjarlais said leading and participating in the women's group has provided her an opportunity to escape from the feelings of isolation during the pandemic.

Desjarlais and Bruyere hope the group grows.

"I feel like it's good for mental health because it doesn't leave you inside of your head all by yourself," said Bruyere. 

"You're able to process those thoughts and when you're speaking your truth, you're letting it out; you're letting it go. You might not be letting it go all at once, but you're letting it go a little bit at a time and having women together in that circle, we're able to lift you up at the same time." 

The first session of A Woman's Voice will take place Dec. 3 over Zoom. 

About the Author

Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He has been an associate producer with CBC Indigenous since 2016. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1