From Shy Girl to Storyteller: Kendra Weenie Raises Her Voice for Prevention and Education
“One day, I just decided that I was going to share my story,” remembers Kendra Weenie. She is from Sweetgrass First Nation in Saskatchewan where she grew up until she was 18. Now she lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, a couple hours away, working as a speaker, author and workshop facilitator. It’s a line of work she never foresaw, after growing up a very shy kid who had a very low self esteem and a big heart for giving back and helping her people.
In her early twenties, Weenie ended up in an abusive relationship and had a child. Leaving the relationship at 25, her healing journey began. She first shared her story to a group of 500 working professionals at a conference in Saskatoon. When asked what challenges she had faced that brought her to where she was today, she made the brave choice to share her truth.
The night before she was to speak, she was nervous and worried about crying in front of everyone so she had a talk with her older brother. He told her, “Don't focus on your anxiety. Think about all the people that you're going to be helping.” The perspective shift was exactly what she needed and she remembered his words as she shared her experiences.
After that experience, communities in Saskatchewan and Ontario asked her to come and share what she had been through virtually. “I never really considered myself a speaker, but I was always really good at talking about my truth and just being really open and honest and vulnerable. Mostly, because that's what I needed growing up,” she recounts.
Without a lot of positive Indigenous women as role models willing to talk about the hard truths, she now delivers workshops to share about the healing and self care people can be doing for themselves. It’s information she finds many are not taught growing up and it’s what inspired her to create a workshop series called A Path to Healing, which talk about sexual abuse, domestic violence, frequently asked questions about tough topics and signs to watch for. Believing prevention is key, she hopes to empower parents to share with the children in their families, creating awareness and reducing the prevalence of violence in their communities. She’s also written a book and she’s starting on her next one.
“In my own opinion, the best prevention is education.”
Her first book is called Surviving Domestic Violence and the process of writing it was healing. She explores what she remembers from her childhood, her experiences growing up and dating and how it all led to her last relationship. From there, she shares about her healing journey, the resources, tips and tricks that helped her along the way.
“We're not taught how to date as Indigenous folks, unfortunately.”
In her next book, she’s going to be sharing more about her encounters with men and what it was like to realize in her thirties that she had experienced childhood sexual abuse. As memories of traumatic experiences surfaced, she’s begun more healing and gained insights into herself and what happened to her.
“No wonder I didn't know what healthy looks like. No wonder I attracted all these toxic relationships.”
When she first started sharing her experiences with sexual abuse, she had a lot of shame and didn’t talk about it with many people. What she found was the other Indigenous women she shared with had similar stories. She hopes in sharing her story, others will feel emboldened to do the same.
“There's so much power in sharing your own stories. You don't realize the impact that you have on other people.”
As part of her healing journey, Weenie took part in counselling, started exercising and got involved with her culture. Building her self esteem, she worked on positive self-talk and started to explore Tension and Trauma Release Exercises at the urging of her former volleyball coaches. Reiki, a form of energy healing, also helped and she even started painting again. As she created art, her worries seemed to melt away. She now attends something called somatic experiencing, a practice that helps the body to release past trauma.
When she’s feeling lost, she connects with elders or her mom. She’s noticed in her healing journey that her sharing has had a ripple effect on the people around her and their own healing journeys. Her relationship with her mom has improved and she’s found emotional, financial and childcare support.
Thinking about the message she would tell her younger self, she remembers how she didn’t listen and always had to learn things the hard way. Now, she trusts her intuition more and she wishes she could tell herself, “Listen to your body if you're unsure. You always know the answer deep down. If something doesn't feel right, stop and listen to your body. Listen to your gut instinct because it'll lead you on the right path.”
When she reflects on her hopes for the future, she can already see them coming true in the Indigenous youth who are achieving more than they did decades ago. “Our youth are slowly becoming more confident… I hope there are a lot more resources and opportunities that are created for them and…that they're able to start breaking those cycles and using their voices,” she shares.
As far as her own future, she hopes her next book is successful and reaches a bigger audience. Her first book was self-published and she struggled with marketing. She would like to reach more people and continue to have a positive impact on Indigenous women and youth. What she wants people to know is the message she shares in her workshops, “You are worthy of a good life. You're worthy of being loved. But you need to start by loving yourself first.”
One day, she just decided she was going to share her story. In doing so, Kendra Weenie started a wave of healing for herself and others, creating lasting ripples reaching more hearts every day. Stepping out of shyness and shame, she’s shining a light for prevention, education and a brighter future for her people, free from abuse and nourished with selfcare.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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