Gather for HER - flames


During this global pandemic, the need for leaders who can operate within a different framework and capabilities is clear. Leading through global impact requires an up-level of perspective, a responsive set of skills and a clear process to make the best decisions possible.

Gather for Her - is a conversation series to highlight these skills as we wake-up to them, develop and implement them in this unprecedented time calling for our humanity in both stillness and action. How do we lead during an impact? 

Leaders face right-now situations, standing on yesterday’s foundation, to lead decisively and directly into the unknown of tomorrow. Collectively our choices carve a path forward, consciously or unconsciously for future generations of leaders. 

This series and the conversations found within our media platform, programs and gatherings is our offering to the collective wisdom gathered here as the Story of Us. 

Welcome to Gather for HER.


Reclaiming our Humanity #2 A Gather for HER Conversation with Elected Chief Jessica Hill Oneida Nation of the Thames


She Holds a Big Name

What does it mean to reclaim our human spirit? This is our theme for this month’s series of conversations as we prepare for our upcoming FireCircle 2020 Virtual Leadership Intensive happening April 29/May 1st.

Our second gathering welcomed Jessica Hill, elected Chief of the Oneida Nation of the Thames, home to 2,172 residents with a total membership of 6,270 and located in South Western Ontario along the eastern shore of the Thames River south of London, Ontario. The Oneida people are known within the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy as Onyota’a:ka, “People of the Standing Stone.” Like their ancestors, the Oneida peoples of today, maintain a deeply rooted connection to the land and to their Iroquois culture. 

Our moderator Christina Benty is a previous two term mayor of Golden, BC and her political background and current involvement in governance re: asset management, shifting systems and sustainability brought informed layers to this important conversation. 

CB: What is it like to lead through this challenging environment from your current, already turbulent situation? 

JH: I became the chief because women asked me to, and my biggest surprise was how all the things I wanted to do were impossible to achieve. My dreams of making a difference went down the drain because of the system we, as Indigenous people live in. I am an elected Chief in a system which came into play in the 1930’s and that system governs our lives now ninety years later. It’s a system that doesn’t work for us. It’s a system that serves itself. It’s a total disconnect from the way people should live. It’s a formula that is not needs-based. 

Serving the people and being able to fulfill that responsibility is hard to do unless you can build your own economy. To try to find a way for sustainability, to create a local economy for independence is what we need. We live in poverty, we have chronic disease, less than ¼ of our community is connected digitally. 

Covid 19 is teaching us we’re all in this together. It has really magnified all the things that are wrong, at least, I would say, in the society in which I live. 

And we are all experiencing that. We are not separate anymore. It has exposed our systems which have stopped serving us. It is shining a light on our lack of sustainability.

CB: How are you leading your community through this time? 

JH: 1) With practical common sense. We’ve closed our community to outsiders. We only let our residents in. We are instituting a curfew and we have closed our Administration to the public.  I am working of course, and we support our health system. Health is not just physical. It is mental, emotional and spiritual. We have looked at our health that way. Government doesn’t. It goes to a very narrow definition. You have to look at your total being in order to be safe.

2) We are looking at who we really are. The greatest supporters during this time is our traditional clan mothers. They are the ones who are really pushing. They are the ones saying: it is time to do this, we must do the right thing. But it is hard because we don’t have the capacity to service our community the way we want to. 

3) We have to love each other and care about one another. The system makes it almost impossible unless we break every rule there is, and that’s where things begin to happen you wouldn’t want. This is the time we’re leading in. It’s a time where we have to come together as a community and remember we should care for each other. That’s one of the things we continue to talk about during this Covid experience more than ever. 

CB: What does reclaiming our human spirit mean to you personally and as a Chief to your people?

Chief is really a colonial term. I am not a chief. I have that name, but I am not a chief and I never will be. I am a leader. The word in our language for this is a name for a female leader, Yehs^nowá:n^, and it means She is holding a big name. 

We are living in a colonial way. We need to break out of that. We have to live a different life, one we are in control of. That’s how we reclaim our human spirit.

  • It’s our families. And it’s our clan of families. And it’s difficult, after being in a colonial dependent world, to do that. Thankfully, our people are very strong. 
  • The strength of the women in our community is really awesome. There is a change happening here where the women are coming back to take their rightful place. We are saying let’s work together, let’s cooperate.
  • Serving people. Our goal, our vision as the Oneida Nation of the Thames, is to return to governance by the traditional governing system. Our Administration which provides the services can still exist but it should exist as what it is, as a service delivery. 
  • Taking care of our land and our people, and making sure that our members are taken care of. 
  • We take care of each other. Go back to compassion and thinking about each other.

That’s what I think is reclaiming our human spirit. It’s getting out of this system.

CB: You are speaking my language Jessica.

Gather For Her Graphic #2 - edit

Closing Circle Offerings

From Jessica Hill: Our Clanmothers have their own system, their own way of carrying out their duties. This is about responsibility. We all have a responsibility and we should be taking it. It’s just a part of who we are and should be part of who you are. I’m speaking as a person who is elected, and I try the best way I can, but these are the things that would be best spoken by our Clanmothers. Our responsibility is to make decisions following the Haudenosaunee Confederacy seven-generation concept. We can think about the three generations who came before us, our community now, and then three generations from now, or just look seven generations ahead, because those people we cannot even see yet. The decisions we make are not for us only, but for our future. What we do today will be viewed as our history. They will look at what we’ve done, how we handled things and how well we carried out our responsibilities.

From TinaO - Story Tracker: The question is: How might “She is holding a big name” guide us? And the heartbeat of sustainability. And the heartbeat of what healthy broken looks like. We are listening to our Clanmothers. I am holding a big name. 

From Christina Benty - Strategist and Moderator: Put future generations in the front row and make decisions on their behalf. Return to seven generational thinking. Indigenous people are the original system thinkers. 

From Sharon Marshall - Indigenous Leader and Facilitator: We agreed to live peacefully together. We can work together, but differently. There are three rays of the sun from this conversation: ecosystem and health, seven generations and looking backward and forward, and broken systems and broken dreams. We can understand our connection to each other and to the land. 

And from Charlene Sanjenko - CEO/Founder of PowHERhouse: Listen to our Clanmothers and traditional knowledge keepers in this time. 

Final words from Jessica Hill: I am thankful to have had the opportunity to speak to you, to see you again, and to support the work that is going on because we really need to, as women. We need to talk to one another, and to support each other, because we have a lot to do. We are the backbone of our society. We are holding it together. I’m not saying anything against the other part of our world. My Indigenous community is traditionally matrilineal however it takes two wings for a bird to fly. If one wing is broken, you can’t fly. We all have to be well and working together to fly and soar, and be the best we can be. That’s all we can really ask of our fellow humans. 


Yaw^ko (a big thank you in Onyota’a:ka)


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


Gather for HER is a series of conversations leading up to this month’s FireCircle 2020 Virtual Leadership Intensive happening April 29/May 1st. Friday night’s attendance is FREE and you can register here. To reserve one of 200 seats for the two-morning virtual conference which is collective in nature, collaborative in-process and consciously strategic for impact, find out more here

One of the things we could do better is track and gather the wisdom among us. We say it all the time in these small conversations, and in our groups, and with our very best girlfriends but are we saying it and sharing it with each other? That’s what these gatherings are about.   - Charlene Sanjenko, CEO and Founder of PowHERhouse, and FireCircle 2020

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.

1 Comment

  1. GATHER for HER 2021 Announcement ⋆ PowHERhouse on December 1, 2020 at 12:02 am

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