Finding strength in the circle
How a group of Indigenous men in Winnipeg are helping each other heal
Meet Strength in the Circle, a group of young Indigenous men in Winnipeg who are supporting each other as they heal from their pasts — and who are determined to build a better future.
The group was born after its founder, Jonny Meikle, was stabbed on a city bus. That incident sent him on an incredible journey of forgiveness.
Jonny Meikle, Oji-Cree
Two years ago, when riding a Winnipeg city bus, Jonny saw a fellow passenger about to be attacked. He stepped in and was stabbed in the process. Now, two years later, he is driving to a Manitoba prison with members of his circle to pick up Devon Henderson— the young man who stabbed him.
"I know there's a lot we're going against. There's a lot of people, institutions, ideas that don't believe in what we're doing. There's a lot of people out there that believe he should be back in jail. I just want to show him my support and just be there for him to show them otherwise."
Devon Henderson, Cree
At a sentencing circle for the charges in the bus incident, the presiding judge told Devon that the system had failed him. "You never had a chance, from when you were a baby," said Judge Heather Pullan.
After being placed in the child welfare system at three months old and living in over 100 foster homes throughout his life, he is no stranger to struggle. Devon has been in and out of prison in for the past 10 years, since he was just 15, but this is the first time he'll be greeted by an entire circle of support.
"I just feel lucky. The first time, when I first got out, I had no support. I got released with 50 bucks. I had no clothes. I had no one there to support me. I have some really good people in my life now. I told myself before I was getting out, I don't see myself coming back to jail. I've been told a lot of people say that but this is the first time I'm saying that."
Jamie Felix, Oji-Cree
After his twin brother was murdered, Jamie's world was shattered — and he searched everywhere for support. Still, he struggled to escape from a lifestyle of drinking and drugs. But everything changed when he met Jonny and was welcomed into the circle.
"We're going to make the followers that follow us — we're going to turn them into leaders. I'm going to keep working on myself. Maybe one day I'll become a motivational speaker. Put your mind to anything and you can do it."
Devon Genaille, Anishinaabe
After his experience in the criminal justice system, Devon knows first hand how hard it can be to leave that life. Now, after joining the circle, he can't wait to help other young men find healing and chart a new path.
"I'm excited to see how this all comes full circle. This guy needs someone. He was in a dark place and sometimes to get out of that dark place it takes a lot. I've been through the system and 95% of my friends went back. It's hard to break out of that life."
Dion Wood, Oji-Cree
When his stepdad started home dialysis for diabetes complications last year, Dion knew he had to do something to help. He couldn't keep losing people to preventable illnesses and suicide.
With the support of the circle, he's fighting for a healthier future for his father and himself.
"They've actually shown me how to love. How to self-love… how to take care of yourself, as a male, how to show love."
Originally aired in November, 2020