Justice Bruyere is a wrestler from Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation who will be competing at the upcoming North American Indigenous Games (NAIG). The event takes place in Toronto from July 16-23 and will feature 14 sport categories and host over 5000 participants.
Bruyere started wrestling in her first semester of grade 11 at Dryden High School, but didn’t originally think much of the sport.
“First of all, I was like that’s a weird sport [and] no one’s going to join it,” said Bruyere in a recent interview. But her friends convinced her when they said they would get into the sport as a group. “So I joined.”
Quickly, Justice became an accomplished high school wrestler and has competed at the provincial level. In grade 11, she won her second match 10 to nothing with a pin. That was, in her words, “pretty sweet.”
She wasn’t able to attend provincial competitions this year due to other commitments. Her upcoming appearance at NIAG will be her first appearance at a national level, and Bruyere has mixed feelings about that.
“It feels pretty good [but] it’s my first and last because next year I’ll be too old,” said Bruyere.
Justice is proud to be Ojibway, and says her culture follows her into the ring.
“It feels like a big reward to be able represent Treaty 3 and especially my reserve, Wabigoon Lake," Bruyere said, adding that she thinks of those who came before her. “It just gives me motivation to push for what you want,” said Bruyere.
Her father Tyson Gardner is happy with the growth his daughter has shown over the years.
“Justice has always been rough and tough growing up,” Gardner said, adding that one of his daughter’s strengths is her openness to change. “She’s never been one to be shy or not try anything out of her comfort zone, and her willingness to learn and try new things always amazed me.”
Gardner finds it impressive that his daughter can juggle several things, including preparing to leave home for several years.
“She’s focusing on [NAIG] while still working her summer job and preparing for Fanshawe College this fall,” Gardner told Wawatay News. "I’m super proud of all she’s accomplished so far in life, education and athletics. She has a bright future ahead of her.”
Though there is no wrestling program at Fanshawe College, Justice still seeks to compete and plans on joining the wrestling club in nearby London.