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Mama Bear Clan: A Finger on the Pulse of its Community

Since 2016, a women-led group has kept the North Point Douglas community safe through community service, activism, and engagement. Mama Bear Clan‘s women have done much to support their community, donating time and energy to make a difference. 

The group patrols three times a week, pulling wagons with about 100 meals to those who need it each time. Additionally, the group picks up sharps [any device or object used to puncture or lacerate the skin], walks people home, check-ins on homeless camps, provides wellness checks, and attends events and sigils. Mama Bear Clan recently supported the 5th annual Father’s Day walk for missing and murdered Indigenous men and boys. 

Mama Bear can thank its creation to the Women’s Warrior Circle (WWC), a drum group out of the North Point Douglas Women’s Centre. The empowerment group is dedicated to creating positive change and promoting healing in the community through matriarchal leadership and service. The group is rooted in reclaiming traditional Indigenous teachings and practices through drumming, a sharing circle, and local elders and knowledge keepers. WCC continues to support Mama Bear Clan through fundraising and offering support at local events.

“It’s important,” says Grace Akerstream Laing, Coordinator for the Mama Bear Clan, “Just being surrounded by such powerful women in itself makes Mama Bear Clan what it is today.”

A resident of Winnipeg’s North End community for over 20 years, Grace would watch these women patrol the neighbourhood, a true example of the love and dedication the North End has for its neighbours. Although only having been Coordinator for two years now, Grace says it has been a tremendous experience to be a strong support for their members, Patrol Captains, and community.

Through all this activity, the group has its finger on the pulse of its community. Mama Bear Clan sees the holes within our systems and does what it can to improve awareness and help wherever it can. The housing crisis is one of the most significant areas of need the group has noticed, says Grace. 

“We’ve seen it when it’s minus 40 outside through the pandemic, and with shelters closed at that time, people were struggling. A way to contribute is to not give in to the stigma that the homeless are bad people, criminals, or alcoholics. Opening your eyes that they are people, they’re good people. We have [Mama Bear Clan] with them, and I’ve grown to love some of them. Helping where you can, whether it’s having water bottles in your car, toilet paper, or even getting involved in Mama Bear Clan with groups going into camps and are helping.”

It’s all about serving and being a part of your neighbourhood; part of that is community engagement and a place of unity and connection, a group effort between all groups and the Women’s Centre. The centre has many programs and supports that speak to many people in various circumstances. 

“If you need support in any way. We offer free counselling, and we give away hampers and baby supplies. We also have different workshops throughout the year,” says Grace. 

Red Road to Healing is a 10-week program for women who have experienced violence and are ready to move forward in their healing journey. One of the many available services is a grief workshop focused on helping individuals through the grieving process. 

There’s always a lot going on, and Grace encourages anyone interested in getting to know your community and seeing what’s out there to reach out.

– Ryan Funk, U Multicultural

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of U Multicultural.

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