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During this global transition, the need for leaders who can operate within a different framework and capabilities is clear. An up-level of perspective with a responsive skillset and a clear process to make decisions is required for this new terrain. These are our wisdom gathering conversations following our PowHERhouse FireCircle model of group listening for HER. 

Welcome to GATHER for HER.


MODELING IMPACT A GATHER for HER Conversation with Dianne Whelan

It’s Time to Write HER-story

GATHER for HER welcomed filmmaker, photographer, author and multi-media artist, Dianne Whelan who is currently in production of her documentary: 500 Days in the Wild, and joined us on the road after five years of walking, paddling and snowshoeing the Great Trail (Trans Canada Trail). Whelan is now in the final months of her ecological and reconciliation Pilgrimage.

Dianne Whelan is a Gemini nominated filmmaker for The Land, filmed on the most northern coastline of Canada, and 40 Days at Basecamp, filmed on Mt. Everest. She is no stranger to shooting indie films in extreme locations. 


Our moderator Christina Benty is a Systems Engineer and Strategist, retired politician, facilitator, governance coach, athlete and jazz singer. Christina’s focus is human systems within governance and organizational systems. 

Our host Charlene SanJenko is the founder of PowHERhouse. She is a mobilizer of brave, whole, healthy leaders who are ready to make a world-class Impact both Locally + Globally. 

Our story tracker is core-communication specialist Tina Overbury. Tina works in story, guiding individuals and organizations to bring their authentic narrative to the surface for human connection. 

Our graphic recorder is Sharon Marshall, an Indigenous entrepreneur of Cree and European ancestry, Skills Development Trainer and Facilitator, and the founder of DEVA Training & Staffing Solutions. 

Episode #15 - GFH Dianne

This is our Conversation:

Charlene Sanjenko - CSJ - Good morning and welcome together for her. I'm Charlene SanJenko, and I'm super excited to welcome you along with my co-hosts for today's conversation. These are pretty casual gatherings but we go deep together. It's kind of like we're coffee and talking about things that matter to us.

 I am the founder and Lead Impact Officer of PowHERhouse Media Group where we build strong women who lead and amplify their media story to forever change the narrative for HER and our collective potential.

I am grateful to be coming to you from the traditional ancestral and unceded territory of the Squamish First Nations on the beautiful Sunshine Coast. GATHER for HER is a weekly conversation where we come together to create a container for sharing and exploring collective wisdom. It's like connecting with all of my very best girlfriends to have really quality conversation and see what comes up. Good morning, Christina.

Christina Benty - CB - Good morning! I'm phoning in from Golden BC, and I welcome all of the new faces with us today. I work as a performance coach with elected officials, particularly local governments and my focus is: sustainability practices. I'm super excited about this conversation this morning because one of the things I heard Dianne say that has been really resonating with me is: We don't owe our children an economy, we owe them clean air, clean land, and clean water. That statement is sitting with me in terms of sustainability practices. I suspect I’ll be quoting you often in my work in  boardrooms and across screens this year. I get to learn from you this morning Dianne! Iron sharpens iron and together we will get braver, wiser, smarter and stronger. So thank you.


We don't owe our children an economy, we owe them clean air, clean land, and clean water.  – Dianne Whelan

When I was in Newfoundland I met the Mi'kmaq women as they were playing the big drum and I said to them I thought only men played the big drum and they said No, we are. It is the 21st century we're taking our power back.  We talk about big ideas that create an impact, and this is a perfect example of that. Here are these women playing these drums, and they're doing it to take back the power which had been stolen from them hundreds of years ago when colonialism began. As they were drumming and telling me these things, all I could think about was Jimmy Carter. What's the connection between Mi'kmaq women playing a drum and ex-president Jimmy Carter? I know right?  Jimmy Carter wrote an article ten years ago explaining why he was leaving his religion and it was all about the spiritual inequality for women within institutions and an absolute reluctance to change. I realized all these things I’ve been writing about and inquiring into comment on the same thing, which is this need for economic, political and spiritual equality.

I'm out here trying to heal my spirit, and nature is my church. This is an ecological pilgrimage. Sacred is what we need for life, and what we need for life is clean water, clean air and clean food. My sense of purpose is to protect this earth, our Mother, the womb that holds us all. For all of our differences, what connects is the land, the water, this planet. When you point a telescope into outer space, do you see any other planets you want to move to? There are no butterflies on Mars. There are no cedar trees growing out there. So this is  about protecting our home and finding what we share that binds us together, not what rips us apart. We share this land and this water. We are all tomorrow's ancestors and in that we share a common responsibility for economic, political and spiritual equality.

My purpose is to protect the Mother as she protects the earth which protects the womb that holds us all. - Dianne Whelan

CSJ - I love that spiritual element. I’m going to take a breath and check in with my co-hosts. I'm curious what has resonated with you so far Christina? Is there anything you want to explore further?

CB - I've actually been quite emotional as I’m listening. I'm having a wordless experience as I write down so many words. I relate what you’re saying back to my own work. I’m thinking about local politicians, sustainability and the fact that decisions are being made today that are going to have a far-reaching impact. How do we remember and remind ourselves of the sacredness from which we come, and where we are going? From the sound of your journey, so much of it has been about letting go of being in control and coming back to listening and learning. So much of the struggle in my work is about fostering this space within the institutions that were designed to serve people but no longer do. They are actually becoming the reverse and serving themselves and not the people at all. I’d love to hear your thoughts about that.

DW – More women in power. 

CB - I don't do not disagree with you. I think about this a lot. Women bring a very different quality to leadership. As I look back over my own experience as a politician and what it was like for me, I can’t help but notice how much it has changed over the last twenty years, and how much it still needs to change.

DW - Right? Yeah, absolutely. I think about myself growing up in the 1960s, and I start to think ‘Oh yeah, I’m a woman and everything’s fair, everything equal’ yet the role model I chose to emulate myself after was my father, because he had the great job and he traveled the world. My mom was washing kitchen floors and taking us to swimming lessons. It was a pretty unglamorous position. He had the life I wanted. Those days of feminism were about getting access to the male world and having access to the power they had. So we showed up at their tables and learned their systems, but we still haven’t brought what we bring to our table. We have a system based on white privilege and white male privilege. I'll tell you one thing, I know he has made a lot of mistakes, but Trudeau did more for me in the first 24 hours of power by making half of his cabinet women and then getting the inquiry for murdered and missing women started. No other political leader has done as much for me in power as he did in the first 24 hours of his first term.

We need to bring all that we are as women and mothers to our table. In some indigenous cultures it was the Grandmothers who always chose the leader, and they never gave it to the person who wanted it, they gave it to the person who didn't want it because that person didn't have an ulterior motive. I think, as women, we bring the understanding of being in a circle. We’ve been living in a system that is top down and that's why it's not inclusive. When we are in a circle, we are literally bringing the womb into our leadership. The economy we live with today is only a couple of centuries old. We started using dollar bills something like 400 years ago, so this money thing is just a construct, yet we've let it take over. I mean, I don't even know why we're having discussions about AI, artificial intelligence. We can't even manage money without letting it control us.

When we are in a circle, we are literally bringing the womb into our leadership. - Dianne Whelan

TO - I want to jump into the word sacred and how you said we've lost our way. I also want to come back to the word myth and the way you described your journey, and how it changed in the first ten days, and then your disclosure, and I say the word disclosure because I can feel how sacred that story was for you to share. You haven’t shared in the media yet about your personal connection to the murdered and missing Indigenous women. Then you took us to the world of the women with the drums and I know there’s a part of the narrative that we're missing. It's in us, but it's not here. We haven’t brought it out here, and I hear that in you. I hear it, and I want to connect to your idea of the womb and the circle, and to what is sacred. I'm wondering how all of this information you’ve offered to us connects to what it means to work in partnership or as a team? I’m not sure if those words are even what we should be using anymore.

DW -  You know, the economy of this film has been kindness. I left with no money to make this film and everyone was like, how are you going to do it? It's one day at a time, one step at a time, and it has happened through kindness. That is its currency. The opportunity coming in right now as we watch our infrastructures collapse including our economy, we can live in fear of that or we can see the incredible opportunity.

With this film, instead of going through the traditional means of financing which will have broadcasters look at it and go Indigenous? Nature? Women? Oh and she's 55? Nope, there’s no audience here. They run everything through an algorithm which will keep bringing them to a zero-audience. So for me, that’s like a river with an obstacle. I ask, how am I going to move? How does this water flow? How does this story continue and expand? Art and creativity is about how you deal with an obstacle. How do you move through it? And that is a perfect segue into why I'm working with PowHERhouse and with Canadian Parks and Wildlife. It was time to start looking at new ways of doing things, just as this journey has revealed, it's not just what we do, but how we do it. It's important, not just that the film gets made, but the journey of making this film.

After five years of being in nature I know for sure I am going to spend the rest of my life trying to protect this earth for future generations. Instead of commerce, it’s about purpose and looking at success differently. We don’t remember who was rich 1000 years ago, we remember who was kind. We remember who and what was calling us. This is all new territory, but rather than going after the money, I'm going after the relationships based on sincerity, shared goals and a shared sense of purpose. We all want an inclusive story, we all want to do this within the framework of reconciliation, and we all want to see a more inclusive story with more people at the table and that's why I've made the decision to collaborate with you and with Canadian Parks and Wildlife. In doing so, we help one another and create new alliances with new ways of doing things. I think we are thinking outside the box so we can get back to the circle by breaking those walls down.

CSJ - I'm going to circle us back to modeling impact as one of the things I am most proud of. There is definitely a new way leading us forward as we can't continue to do things the same way we have and think we'll get different results. This partnership between 500 Days in The Wild, yourself as the creator and Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society is how we are doing it differently. CPAWS has been around for more than 50 years and their whole mandate is to speak for our species and the land who can't speak for itself. It’s a perfect partnership. In terms of modeling impact, we are modeling this circle not only to be there with you cheering from the sidelines but to be changemakers for the film. CPAWS is part of the circle to provide a fundraising vehicle we are Impact Producers. Every contribution to the film comes with a tax receipt through CPAWS.

PowHERhouse will be rolling out a specific campaign over the next coming months inviting women who may be interested in walking beside this project and the development of other impact projects. Going forward we are connecting a nonprofit organization, an impact champion, mobilizer, and impact producer together to change the narrative for HER. I honestly believe we are modeling a way of being in partnership that can transform our future.

DW - You know Charlene, every single person who has come out on this journey with me, with the exception of one has been a woman. This film is being made by women. The idea that this film could possibly be made with 1000 women supporting it instead of a corporate entity really excites me. I think it's a way of bringing the circle instead of the hierarchy to HER table. I see all these spokes coming together without me having to convince somebody that this film is important. I know for me this is new territory, moving forward as a creative person and collaborating with other people. I've never done anything like this before in my life, but conceptually, I love it. And everybody who donates is going to get their name on this film, as someone who's helped to make this film possible. Yeah, I just think many hands carry lighter loads. All of this is about trying to find a new way. I don't know the path to reconciliation, but I am so willing to share my journey on that path. And as I learn, we can all learn. Sometimes you think you’ve got it all figured out, only to realize you don't and you have to go back to the beginning. But humility is a good thing.

I would like to also speak to the importance of hope which is so important to find. That's what prayer does, right? Prayer converts fear into hope and it doesn't matter what you believe in. I pray in nature. Some people pray in churches, some people pray when they meditate. Find your way, find your prayer, because when fear comes, self-doubt kicks in, and uncertainty is a large shadow. That's my trick out here. Every time I feel fear, and I feel fear every day. But instead of letting it take hold of me, I stop and I say my prayer, and I smudge. It’s a really important part of how we can move forward. There's a lot of places that we can go to heal our body but where do we go to heal our spirit? There's many ways of finding it, but we do need to find it.


I don't know the path to reconciliation, but I am so willing to share my journey on that path. – Dianne Whelan

CSJ - Thank you so much, Dee. I'm going to ask my co-hosts for some quick, final reflections. Christina, I was hoping to start with you.

Graphic recording - Dianne Whelan

Closing Circle Offerings

From Christina Benty - Co-Host:  Dee, I want to thank you for informing my work and for strengthening my resolve in the work I do. There's so many things moving through me right now that I'm going to continue to feel my way through this. One of the things I wanted to capture is speaking for a species and a land who cannot speak for itself. And you know what? The land and the species are speaking, and our job is to listen. That's the work I want to do in the world. By you bringing your work, you have informed mine and it has just deepened and enriched it. So, thank you, I'm humbled.

DW - Thank you Christina and thank you for doing the job you do and for being here today and partaking in this conversation. I find hope knowing that people like you are out there working with the politicians and bringing forth some of these ideas. So thank you very much for the work you're doing. That's very big impact, very big change is working with leadership. So thank you very much for the work you do.

From TinaO - Story Tracker: You know, normally my final words are usually connected to what we said in the first three minutes and maybe that's true today too, but I think there’s something else going on. If we start at the beginning of our conversation I’d say this is all about the sacred, but I feel pulled to talk about ‘the how’ of this film instead. I was actually quite hooked by my own question about partners, and I wonder if maybe that's not even the word we should be using from here on. This image flashed in my head around the circle, and the womb, and the way you described women in power and problems. I got this vision of a child lost in a supermarket. You know how we as women pick up on that lost child like we have some ‘child in distress’ sonar or something? It’s like the secret language of women, not that men don’t have it too, it’s just different. But we have a language between us and when I think about supporting your film I think about that secret language, or that secret call of women, and I wonder if that is the message of what partnership looks like from the womb.

From Dianne Whelan - Guest: I like it. I like the idea that we're all mothers of this film, or we're all giving birth. You know? It takes a community to raise a child it definitely takes a community to birth a film. I choose the people I work with carefully because it's important that we be good mothers to this film. And it’s important that we be mindful of our words. My friend Louisa catches me on it all the time because she works in the trades. She's extremely sensitive to pronouns because she was one of the first few women wrenching on 747 jets for Westjet. It's a two person tent, not a two man tent. It’s a two person job, not a two man job. This is how insidious it is. It's become part of our vocabulary and the same is true with racism, and misogyny. These words we unconsciously use can apply to so many things we say.  It's time to write HER-story and it has not been written yet. That is our job, my job, your job, all of our jobs. It's not that I don't respect his story, it's just that's all I've ever heard. I want to hear her too. We have been artists, we have been warriors, we have been so many things that I don't read about in books, you know? Yeah, it's time to change that and it is going to come from here.

Sharon Marshall SM -  It's definitely her time. I just want to say thank you, Dianne. This has been an incredible conversation and like Christina, I have been hit very emotionally over this hour. For those on this call who don't know me, I neglected to mention that I work with Indigenous women, and I help them find their voice. What you have done and are doing has resonated deeply for me. The picture you painted for me is the web of life. You mentioned we need a spiritual economy, and that's what we're talking about here. This collaboration, this web of life is held by a spiritual economy. The western woman is going to change the world, and it’s up to us now. 

DW - Beautiful, really beautiful, spiritual economy. That's beautiful. I love it.



Chi-Miigwech (Big Thank You)


To watch the forty-five minute interview in its entirety click here




Gather for Her is a series of wisdom gathering conversations with women who lead. Each recorded session follows PowHERhouse’s FireCircle model of group listening, witnessing and harvesting to support the leaders of today through the fire of our time. 

Today’s conversation was moderated by Christina Benty, Owner of Strategic Leadership Solutions, story tracked by Core Story Specialist Tina Overbury, graphic recorded and Indigenous informed by Sharon Marshall of DEVA, and hosted by PowHERhouse CEO and founder, Charlene SanJenko. 


PowHERhouse gratefully acknowledges the support of the Indigenous Screen Office to help bring GATHER for HER to a wider audience.

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  1. GATHER for HER 2021 Announcement ⋆ PowHERhouse on November 30, 2020 at 5:39 pm

    […] E15 | Dianne Whelan | IMPACT […]

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