Barbara Bruce1

This Michif-speaking Metis entrepreneur was born in St. Laurent, Manitoba. She is the daughter of Jeanne Perrault and Arthur Bruce, the middle child of eleven children. Her father provided for his family by trapping, fishing, and gathering medicine (Seneca root) and through work as a construction worker. Her mother Jeanne stayed home, raising the children until in her later years she became the Postmistress of the community, a position she held for several years. As a young girl, Barbara entered a Roman Catholic-run education system (a mission school) that did not support Metis culture or traditions. However, her Aboriginal ancestry was part of who she was and her pride continued to grow to make her who she is today. At age fifteen, Barbara contracted tuberculosis, a disease that has killed many Aboriginal people since its introduction to North America. Barbara had the disease in the bones and, following a one year stay in what was then the Rehabilitation Centre in Winnipeg, spent several years recuperating. As a young woman, she attended the University of Winnipeg and as well, Red River College. She worked for several years with the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF), where she held several positions, including Executive Director of the organization. With her work, she travelled to many Metis and other Aboriginal communities across Manitoba and Canada. While on her travels, she noticed that the artwork produced in these communities had no market. This realization led her to her next venture, when she cofounded a retail store known as Northern Traditions, and then Northwinds Art Wholesale Company, both of which specialized in selling Aboriginal art and handmade crafts. Her experience in art combined with her event planning skills led her in 1997-98, to be a member of a team of 8 to organize “Spirits in the Sun,” the first Canadian Aboriginal Arts Festival, to be held in the United States, in Scottsdale, Arizona. In attendance at this significant and outstanding event were 120 Aboriginal arts and crafts vendors, 40 Canadian/Aboriginal galleries and close to 90 performers. Barbara’s Metis identity and entrepreneurial spirit helped determine her career path. She is currently a founding and managing partner of AMR Planning & Consulting Inc., founder of All My Relations Inc. and part owner of Bruce Boivin Consulting Group Inc. She was formerly employed as Vice President of Operations & Marketing at Tribal Councils Investment Group of Manitoba Ltd. (TCIG) and was the President of the TCIG Charitable Foundation, from 2006 – 2008. Her previous professional positions include: Co-Owner and Director of Blue Sky Planners and Consultants, President of Winds of Change Consulting, and Co-owner of Northern Traditions and Northwinds Art Wholesale Company. In addition, her commitment to community has led her to participate on many Boards. In 2004, Barbara was appointed as a member of the National Aboriginal Economic Development
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This is an excerpt from L.J. Barkwell (Ed.) Women of the Metis Nation. Winnipeg: Louis Riel Institute, 2110.

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Board. In 2009, she was appointed to the board of the Manitoba Gaming Control Commission and in 2010 was appointed to as a jury member for the PAR program for the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. For several years, she was a board member of the Province of Manitoba's Communities Economic Development Fund and eventually was appointed Chair. She has also served on over two dozen other boards or committees including as a board of director for the prestigious Top 40 Under 40 National Awards and the National Board of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business and as a jury member of the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards.

Metis Elder Mae-Louise Campbell, centre, daughter Jaime left, and Barbara Bruce, far right.

Barbara has been given the name “Flies High Thunder Bird Woman.” She is unwavering in her commitment in walking in the traditional way of life and ‘walks the walk’, incorporating spirit and ceremony into her daily personal and professional life. In addition to guiding her personal path, this has also at times led her to her next project or undertaking. For example, one of her major accomplishments which resulted from her commitment to help women heal from residential school led her to work with the Metis Women of Manitoba by organizing several retreats, and developing a facilitation process which brought together close to one hundred Metis women for four sessions. The end result was a final report titled “Needs Assessment of Residential School Experiences of Metis Women in Manitoba”. In 1993, she received the Manitoba Human Rights Achievement Award for her work in employment and cross-cultural training. She was also recognized by Sagkeeng First Nation for her work in economic development for Aboriginal people and was presented with an eagle feather at that honoring ceremony. Her commitment to social justice was acknowledged internationally when in 1994, she was asked to be part of a team of peace monitors and election observers during the South Africa elections. Her work in the area of cultural capacity building brought her to work in such diverse locations as Fiji and Australia, speaking and providing workshops. In her leisure hours, she earned a second degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and was one of the first Aboriginal women to instruct that discipline.

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Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research Louis Riel Institute

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