Bell Tower Challenge 2016


Dear Winnipeg,

You are invited by meet me at the Bell Tower to build community in your neighborhood. We are seeking at least 13 different community group who come from 13 of the different neighborhoods in Winnipeg. These groups must be volunteers and you must be willing to undertake what we are calling the bell tower challenge:

1.) Work cooperatively with residents of your neighborhood to identify a shared challenge (AYO & North Enders identified violence as a challenge)

2.) Identify an outdoor and indoor space where small and large community Gatherings can happen on a weekly basis. (We meet at the Bell Tower on Selkirk & Powers and the Indigenous Family Centre shares their space with us at 470 Selkirk Ave)

3.) Commit to meeting every single week as a group to discuss the shared challenge and to identify shared Solutions (We first met Friday November 18, 2011 and have met every Friday since)

4.) Understand that over time your language and purpose for gathering may evolve, however you must never forget the main challenge that you all initially came together to address (We began as a rally, but continue as a community gathering with the support of Bear Clan Patrol, Food Not Bombs and many other groups in the city)

Bell Tower City

Bell Tower

This Friday July 29th 2016 at 6pm at the Bell Tower we will be announcing which groups and neighbourhoods have accepted the challenge to build community. We will also be releasing a simple document to assist volunteer organizers with their initiatives. You can RSVP on the FB Page and share your ideas with our hashtag #BellTowerFamily.

Fearless R2W Page Added to AYO Website

fearless collage

We have added a new page to the AYO website! We have been hard at work over the last few months trying to regroup the way we organize our website and are going to be sharing the updates with all of you.

Fearless R2W is the initiative that we are working on to empower parents and families in the North End of Winnipeg who are working with the child and family services system.

Click here to visit the site!

How To Participate in AYO!

Aboriginal Youth Opportunities is a volunteer youth movement, originating in Winnipeg’s North End that leads by example, sharing gifts with the community, breaking stereotypes and creating opportunities. Since spring of 2010 we have convened in different ways, building relationships and expanding our capacity to be helpers in the village.

TLDR: you can get involved, it’s free and all indigenous youth are invited to show up!

Fearless R2W: child welfare advoacy and parrent support
509 Selkirk Ave., Wednesdays at 6pm

Meet Me @ the Bell Tower: stop the violence and community building
470 Selkirk Ave.,  Fridays at 6pm

Politix Brain Storm: political literacy and system learning
865 Main St., Saturdays at 2pm


AYO Movement 2016

Today, our capacity has expanded to the point where we can offer every week opportunities for community members to come together in free events to focus on solutions, lead by example and occupy space where indigenous youth are respected and supported as leaders. We have developed relationships with organizations, elders, businesses and institutions who share knowledge and resources with us – allowing us to lead by example in various sectors. Many people wonder how to get involved, so find below summaries of our weekly AYO initiatives (does not include monthly, annual or special events):

Mondays: Inner City Voices

ICV is not actually an AYO! initiative, however it is hosted by founder/organizer Michael Redhead Champagne and features inner city news and events as well as guests from the AYO team and the village. Regular updates around inner city opportunities to get involved allow a platform for us to highlight great initiatives and often explore in depth perspectives on how and why this work happens and how inner city challenges can be addressed by residents.

inner city voices banner 3


Wednesdays: Fearless R2W

Since January of 2015 Fearless R2W has gathered to create circles of support for parents in the R2W who are engaging with the child welfare system. For the month of March, we are meeting very Wednesday at NECRC 509 Selkirk Ave at 6pm. We have learning circles where the intention is to learn about one of our focus areas including addiction support, housing, advocacy and traditional family parenting.

fearless collage

In the news:

Fridays: Meet Me at the Bell Tower

Our most well known gathering happens every Friday at 6pm and has been going on every week since November 2011 and is called Meet Me at the Bell Tower. It began to stop the violence, and continues because of the strength in our community allowing us to celebrate the gifts we share with one another as we work on solutions to our shared challenges.


The Bell Tower Family provides a living example of many communities coming together to explore peace and work towards reconciliation. These weekly events are open to all people and are free – though you are encouraged to bring a donation for the prize draw. We are glad to be supported by the Indigenous Family Centre, Food Not Bombs & the Bear Clan Patrol.


Saturdays: AYO Politix Brain Storms

Beginning with the civic election in 2010, AYO Politix has held Brain Storms and forums to encourage political literacy within urban indigenous young people and inner city communities. The brain storms provide a space where citizens can engage with elected officials and political experts to build jurisdictional and civic understanding.

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Downtown Winnipeg – In response to the regrettable removal of Joseph Meconse from Portage Place several weeks ago, the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ convened a meeting between Indigenous leaders Lisa Meeches (Manito Ahbee Festival), Joseph Meconse, and Damon Johnston (Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg) with David Stone of Portage Place to connect on a variety of goals to better cultivate an environment of inclusion, welcome, cultural sensitivity, and safety.

Media are invited to attend a press conference outlining these short-term and long-term goals, in addition to a pipe ceremony and round dance with members of the Indigenous and business communities – to begin the process of healing:

When: March 11, 2016 from 10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Where: Portage Place (Edmonton Court) 
10:00 – 11:00 AM Pipe Ceremony
11:00 – 11:30 AM Presentations

·         Representatives of the Aboriginal Community

·         David Stone, Portage Place Shopping Centre, General Manager

·         Ogichidaa Presentation to Joseph Meconse

11:30 – 12:00 PM Drumming and Round Dance Led by Ray Stevenson

 A series of initiatives will be announced by the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ and its partners, as part of their ongoing strategy to enhance cultural awareness and promote the culture and traditions of our Indigenous community, who are important to the socio-economic fabric of our City.

“This will be the standard of business moving forward at Portage Place,” says David Stone, General Manager of Portage Place. “We are committed to undertaking these goals and actions to ensure a welcoming environment for all.”

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Emily Ormonde, Marketing & Communications Coordinator

Phone: (204) 958-4626;

Closing the Gaps in Urban Indigenous Health (with WRHA)

Announcing a partnership between AYO & the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority Population & Public Health Branch to understand the challenges and identify ways forward to improve health for urban indigenous peoples, especially our youth.  Over the next several weeks, a variety of activities and initiatives will be undertaken to solicit feedback from urban indigenous community members as well as the creation of reports that focus on 3 areas:

  1. gaps in service
  2. recommended solutions &
  3. commercial tobacco reduction


Our first endeavour is to host 2 events to introduce the project and begin working with the community on documenting our feedback. The first set of consultations and report will focus on identifying the gaps in urban indigenous health from a youth and community perspective.


Friday January 29th 2016
Closing the Gaps Bell Tower – Community Event
6pm – 470 Selkirk Ave
Open to all community members


Saturday January 30th 2016
Closing the Gaps Brain Storm – Urban Indigenous Youth Event
12 noon –  865 Main St
Open to urban indigenous youth

Thank You from 13 Fires Organizers

We have so many thanks. If we could say our thanks in a non-hierarchical way, we would!


Thank you to Gramma Louise Mae for helping us to begin in a good way, and also for sharing her wisdom in her feedback.

Thank you to all the people who showed up, shared, and listened. Thank you also to those who stepped up as facilitators and note-takers. We need everyone in this fight for a better, more inclusive world. Many people visited Thunderbird House for the first time. Some people had only arrived in Canada one month ago! Others shared that they had “never been to something like this before.” We look forward to seeing you again.

Thank you to Manitoba Moon Voices for your guidance, helping connect us with Gramma Louise Mae and contributing to her honourarium, and bringing people to support the event.

Thank you to Circle of Life Thunderbird House for hosting us in your space, the staff and volunteers who helped with the event, and to all the community members who helped create this community space. If you are unaware, there is a fundraising campaign to repair the roof. If you are able, please consider contributing ( or volunteering your time (

Thank you to Quanhai Tonthat and Michael Kannon for being our official event photographers. It is so important to document what we do, and you do so beautifully. Thank you to everyone else who stepped up on their own to record the event. We can’t wait to see it through your eyes. ‪#‎13FiresWpg‬ is our hashtag if you’re sharing through social media. We are on Facebook and Twitter too.


Thank you to Food Not Bombs for preparing our meal. Food is so important to bringing people together, and you are creating peace by using earth’s resources more responsibly and making time for relationships to build. Please consider volunteering with Food Not Bombs as they support community events.

Thank you to the City of Winnipeg’s Citizen Equity Committee for sponsoring the event. We are glad that you share our vision for bringing Winnipeggers together to create a more racially inclusive city, and we appreciate the funding and support that we can then share with the community through venue fees, food purchases, and honouraria.

Thank you to the youth from Spence Neighbourhood Association for assisting in the kitchen and the child minding room. Again, when we run community events, it’s important to be aware of community needs, so programs like the ones SNA offers for youth employment are so great. Please consider supporting SNA through funding or volunteering.

Thank you to all of the organizers — many committed, caring community members who volunteered their time to make this event happen. Many people ask “Who are you?” and our response is always, “Literally, a group of concerned community members.” We look forward to more organizers coming on board to help with individual events, or even with the overall series.


Thank you to everyone for your patience and feedback — we are learning, we want to acknowledge our mistakes, and we expect to grow as we continue organizing these events. You can email us at or provide anonymous feedback once we send out a survey link.

Clan Teachings at Thunderbird House (December 21st)


On Monday* December 21st, from 6-9pm come and join us as we celebrate the Winter Solstice and learn some Clan Teachings at the Circle of Life Thunderbird House! The winter is the time when our people would tell stories and share knowledge. We will be joined by elders who will share some clan teachings. We will then have a feast and round dance. 

We believe that everybody in the community has gifts, roles and responsibilities that are connected to our clans. As a part of understanding our roles and responsibilities in the community we need to understand our clan system and our place in it. We will be having Clan Gatherings with feasts at the Thunderbird house during Winter/Summer Solstices and Spring/Fall Equinoxes to ask our elders and knowledge keepers to share their teachings with us. We also plan on organizing Clan Teachings and events for each clan in between the Clan Gatherings. 

Our teachers for the evening will be:
– Elder Myra Laramee – Bear Clan
– Elder Dan Thomas – Wolf Clan 
– Tasha Spillet – Wolf Clan

In the spirit of giving, we ask that people bring a gift, small or big, that we can give to each other at the round dance! Attendance is free and everyone is welcome to attend!


* an earlier version of this article incorrectly listed Dec 21st as Tuesday, we meant Monday