The Line in The Sand
By Charlene SanJenko
As an Indigenous person living in Canada throughout a global pandemic, shaken to the core with the stark realization we’ve been raised on a graveyard of residential school fatalities; married to a Black man with dual citizenship across Turtle Island during the rise of Black Lives Matter, I have never experienced a more obvious time for healing in my life.
It’s palpable. Now what?
“The virus is here to wake up the world. Too many people are not connected to the land and water. It’s time for people to pay attention, to be still, and to re-evaluate our lives. It’s time for us to be connected to our own way of being in the world and to get in touch with our own self in spirit.” – Teaching by Elder Liz Akiwenzie, May 12, 2020.
Life as we know it is forever changed. For this generation, there is only our pre-May 27, 2021 experience of who we are as human beings, Canadians, and caretakers of this land, and our experience post-May 27, 2021. As I write this, many of us are still reeling in the aftershocks.
The line in the sand is the moment we learned about the remains of 215 Indigenous children found at a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. Two hundred fifteen children were taken from their home and their communities and never returned to their families.
According to reports, this is merely the beginning, and as a country, we are bracing ourselves for what’s next. Our identity has been shaken. Who we believe we are as ‘nice, polite, and caring Canadians’ makes it impossible to fathom how this could ever happen, but it did happen - so where does that leave us now?
It leaves us right here at the line in the sand. Our first reaction is, “How could this atrocity have happened? How could they possibly do something this inhumane?” But honestly, let’s bring it to today. Let’s bring it to the here and now. Now that we KNOW, what will we DO? If we choose nothing, complacency, or optics, we are no better than them.
My recent tweet: Dear Leader, your only job if you are awake and alive in this decade is reconciliation —time to reprioritize.
The healing that needs to happen now for this country and across Turtle Island is our number one priority. Many people are searching for what they can ‘do’. This is not the time for a one-time donation, yet another course, or more volunteer hours —no more band-aids. Our wound has surfaced. Our cancer has been detected. Now we must heal.
I have walked the path of a social impact entrepreneur since 2000. Many years ago, I learned to run everything through a ‘profitability’ lens; a few years later, a ‘sustainability’ lens. In recent years, my priority has been to run every action, interaction, and decision through an ‘impact’ lens. My lens is shifting, and while I have not forgotten about the others, my primary focus is a ‘healing’ lens.
With each action, interaction, and decision, we choose to move closer to restoring greatness through healing (my personal definition of reconciliation) or to move further away from it. There is no try. There is no in-between or other option.
On a recent GATHER for HER, episodic web series conversation and podcast, a conscious Canadian politician said, “We keep trying to build a thriving country on a broken nation.”*
Until healing holds the same value and receives the same priority from every single leader of every single organization across every single province, industry, and sector, we will continue to breathe more deeply into our blind spots, picking at a wound that now needs consistent time, care, and attention to heal.
Charlene SanJenko is Founder of PowHERhouse, Lead Impact Officer, Indigenous Impact Producer, and Caretaker of the House.
A 20-year commitment to the expansion of human potential, the purpose of Charlene’s life's work can be summarized as:
To use the amplification of impact media to mirror human potential and activate greatness in others with a clear path to realize all that is possible, holding space with hope for healing to happen for all our relations.
As an Indigenous Founder, Charlene is a bridge between two cultures in our country. She is from the Splatsin tribe, the most southern tribe of the Shuswap Nation in British Columbia and now resides on the beautiful Sunshine Coast since 2004, the traditional territory of the Squamish (skwxwú7mesh) First Nations.