Jenny Sawanohk, Psychotherapist, Indigenous healer & Truth and Reconciliation Specialist
When design matches your determination
Words of wisdom: Elder's words of wisdom: "I give you permission to disappoint others."
Industry: Healing services
Organization size: 13
Interview with Jenny Sawanohk, Founder, Red Stone Snake Woman, Canada
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- Why are half the youth in care Indigenous
- Learn about the Remember Me Ceremony – June 30th.
- Where can you go if you want to help with truth and reconciliation?
- How to engage indigenous healers and elders
- How connecting to your calling can transform your life.
- Gain insight into an Indigenous worldview and how we all can heal if we adopt it.
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Interview with Jenny Sawanohk, Founder, Red Stone Snake Woman; CanadaJenny Sawanohk, Mihko-Asiniy-Kinepik-Iswew, is a proud member of Moose Cree First Nation, the Mosoniy-Illilew. She is honoured to reside on the unceded and ancestral territory of our Algonquin kin, the traditional land and water stewards of the Ottawa area, where she owns and operates the Misiwe Ni Relations Healing Lodge. This is where she also operates her private practice, Red Stone Snake Woman, as a psychotherapist/Indigenous healer. Jenny has an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and is a Master of Social Work graduate. She has extensive work experience in Child Welfare and Children’s Mental Health and is very passionate about Indigenous Social Work. She developed and coordinates the first of its kind programming for Indigenous youth-in-care to ensure they receive culturally sensitive and culturally competent identity-based healing opportunities. Jenny believes it is paramount that youth have access to the land, culture, elders, and traditional healers. Birthed from this Calling, Jenny developed workshops that educate the professionals servicing Indigenous youth and their families. She provides this training on many different platforms throughout the province. Through this work, Jenny became a Truth and Reconciliation Specialist, educator, advocate, and motivational speaker. She is passionate about reconnecting to Ancestral Wisdom and Indigenous Ways of Knowing, the Medicine and Teachings from the Land, our beautiful Mother Earth, and bringing back the Original Instructions to all Humanity. Jenny is also a HeArtist. She loves creating Spiritual Tools that help people step into their own Calling. While manifesting these tools, Jenny believes it fuels her Soul Purpose to honour the bridge needed to unite Rainbow Warriors and space for All Our Relations to come together to heal and do the necessary work for the betterment of the Whole.
United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal(s) addressed:
#3. Good Health and Well-being, #5. Gender Equality, #8. Decent Work and Economic Growth, #13. Climate Action, #15. Life on Land, #16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions, #17. Partnerships for the Goals
Jenny provides sacred spaces for healing because she cares about our collective wellbeing and wants to bring harmony back to Turtle Island. She wants her fellow brothers and sisters to understand the Sacredness of Life. Jenny owns a Healing Lodge which opens its door to everyone so that they can find their way Home to themselves. It encourages healers and artists to provide the medicine they are here to give, which is much needed. This includes helping my people make an income for themselves while embracing our traditional ways. It has a Healing Forest for Residential School Survivors and their families, and we are so honoured to share a Sacred Fire space for so many. It is important to Jenny to share who we are as Indigenous people and offer opportunities to connect to our Culture and Ceremonies. She created programming for youth-in-care so that they can reconnect to Elders and Traditions. She also provides healing services to the greater community through truth and reconciliation workshops, motivational speaking and consultation, to inspire and assist this Nation in stepping up to the Calls to Action needed from each of us. It is important to help people understand their sacred connection to the Land and develop a loving and respectful relationship with her again. This profoundly impacts the way we treat her and makes us more environment-conscious.
Interview with Jenny Sawanohk, Founder, Red Stone Snake Woman; Canada
Note: This interview is transcribed using AI software, which means, the transcription is not perfect. Watch the video or listen to the podcast to hear our guest’s wisdom in her own words. If you want to see more interviews like this, please comment below!
[00:00:00] Suzanne F. Stevens: Welcome to wisdom exchange, TV and podcast, where we interview women leaders internationally. We have a social impact in their communities and beyond hello. I’m Suzanne Stevens, conscious leadership, cultivator, and social contribution amplifier, founder of YouMeWe social impact group. Your host and each episode we’ll provide actionable conscious contribution insights to create a social impact to empower you, your organization, and most importantly, community, lots of learning and inspiration to all, to make your contribution. We are live today on Facebook at YouMeWemovement and LinkedIn my personal page.
So welcome to those who are able to join us live. But if you’re not able to join us live, you’ll be able to watch the recording and future engagements. Post questions on our guest’s exclusive wisdom exchange, tv.com page. You’ll also be able to find over a hundred interviews in over 25 countries with women internationally leading a social impact.
I am so excited to have our guests today and I want to welcome Jenny Sawanahk.
Jenny has worked in experience. In child welfare and children, mental health, and is very passionate about indigenous social work. She developed and coordinated the first of its kind programming for indigenous youth in care to ensure they receive culturally sensitive and culturally appropriate identity based healing opportunities.
Jenny believes it is paramount that youth have access to the land culture, elders and traditional healers. Birth from this calling Jenny developed workshops that educate the professional services, indigenous youth and their families. She provides us training on many different platforms throughout the province of Ontario.
Through this work, Jenny became a truth and reconciliation specialist, educator advocate, and motivational speaker, and operates her private practice, Redstone snake woman, as a psychotherapist and indigenous healer. Coming to you from close to Ottawa, Ontario.
Welcome, Jenny. It’s great to have you here. We must start with your last name, which I’ve always known as Sutherland I’m so happy you’re using your indigenous name.
Can you tell us what that means?
[00:02:39] Jenny Sawanohk: I’m still legally a Sutherland and a proud member of the Sutherland clan up in moose. The name is key for the First Nations. As I just mentioned, but Sutherland is a Scottish name and Cree and English German. There’s no Scottish in me. So it was just heavy on me that it was only a part of the colonial naming system. As a healer, I’m constantly involved in my own healing and I felt like I needed to do some work on this colonial wound and reclaim my power, my identity as an indigenous woman.
And that meant indigenizing my this name. So a lot of people are doing. This is different from our spirit names, our native names, which mine is Redstone Snake Woman yeah. , this is our last names. And normally we were known through our clan systems and this is something that’s new I’m still exploring ancestry.ca actually to just see how far back this goes.
But Sawanohk is the Cree way of saying Sutherland. Yeah. Sutherland is is old Norse. It’s a regional name for means in the south land. So it’s about the region, the territory’s that south to the Shetland islands and Orkney area. In Scotland. For me it made sense I’m living in the south, I’m in the Ottawa area now I’m far south from my territory, which is 15 hours north of here. So it felt right for me. I’m the only one in my family that decided that to do that. And that’s okay. Some families went completely. Over two different names, like the smallest became the category shifts as example, I thought that was just so awesome.
So I approached my family to see if they wanted to join me and they’re proud Sutherland’s and that’s okay. This was my way of moving forward and healing, but still paying respect and love to Sutherland. Cause it’s basically just translation thing.
[00:04:29] Suzanne F. Stevens: Keeping mind is such an important decision. And what I just want to emphasize to the audience is the healing part that you’re emphasizing that as a Cree woman that you’re going through and also acknowledging that you want to embrace your heritage and systems haven’t allowed allowance. To do that. So I just want to congratulate you on doing that because you’ve just done this. You were on a panel conversation with me in June. 30th. You’re going to the conversation with me and Southerland just rolled off my tongue, but I look forward to learning how to say a lot of indigenous words more effectively.
So this is, will be one of many I’m. Sure. So what was the catalyst for you? Starting Redstone. Snake woman does a fabulous name as well.
[00:05:22] Jenny Sawanohk: Thank you. When I received my spirit name, which was only four or five years ago now, our spirit names are the reason we’re here. My elder explained, you really step into your medicine when you realize what the spirit world has intended for you with your time here in this human.
And when I learned that name, not only was I so excited to be embracing a ceremony that, it was pretty much denied to me because we’ve been so colonized that, the ceremonial way of life was oppressed for so long. So part of what I do is bringing back the ceremonies again. But when I realized I was Redstone snake woman and who she is and why she’s here, it really launched me forward more in my career.
I was already on the path when I was took on this job of creating the indigenous treatment program. Which was, if this is a foster care program that is committed to providing treatment based care for youth, then I thought, for indigenous youth, then we should be bringing back our elders and traditional healers and therefore ceremonies again.
And birthed all through that. And so I was in the mode already of doing these things, but then it was an affirmation you’re supposed to be moving in this area. You’re supposed to be helping to reconnect, not just these youth to these ceremonies and the lands, but I think all people of all colors. And also to be speaking up more as I learned more about snake medicine, it is speaking. It is being a public speaker. I was very shy and nervous about that initially. And it’s just, now I’m anything that makes me feel fearful. I dive in because of those are also the things I’m really passionate about and that’s why I’m scared to do it.
And yeah, it really from there, I. I birthed Redstone snake woman. And so all these new programs that I was developing and workshops, I’m like, I need a business to start launching this myself. And these were all, ideas for me as the visionary behind them. So I had to make that move that into more of a professional field.
[00:07:19] Suzanne F. Stevens: And you also do a lot of volunteering with children welfare. And can you tell me what drew you to that initiative and that beneficiary of your expertise in mental health and care and healing?
[00:07:39] Jenny Sawanohk: I left Mussolini knowing that when I pursued education, it would be to work with children and youth specifically indigenous children. And I studied child psychology and then I went on to my master’s to specifically look at working with indigenous families and to become a psychotherapist. And during that time, all those years of study, I worked for various child welfare organizations across Ontario. And then I worked for the advocacy office in Toronto, and then I worked for children’s mental health and Muskoka. And so I got a really good idea of just what was out there in terms of the supports and services available to youth. And I found myself working for a private company providing residential service because of the number of indigenous youth they had in their care. As a private contractor, I had more ability to do, to see youth more often.
Children’s mental health. There’s a very long wait list and it’s very excruciating to work in that environment sometimes. My heart goes to all the people working there and doing that good work, but the wait lists are so long. I was able to work more often with these youth and I was able to develop my own style and my own workshops and bring in elders. So there was a lot of flexibility. And allowing to, be innovative and how I thought these, I should be working with these youth. So my passion is working with these youth. And also as a granddaughter residential school survivors, it was really important for me to help give back to the families and communities in some way.
And so what better way than working directly with these youth? Because the number of youth in care is overwhelmed. Half, do you think care across Canada are indigenous, so we’re really overrepresented. F or me it was how to support these youth. How can I give back to the families and the communities and the nation at large?
And so I do a lot of that volunteer work that way with the past the feather, the indigenous art collectives of Canada. We’re all volunteers. And it’s this remember me ceremony on September 30th that we were working so hard to put together because we just want to facilitate, healing on a bigger level.
[00:09:45] Suzanne F. Stevens: Thank you mentioning the, remember me ceremony. It, and that’s what it’s called. Correct. Yeah, and I just launched that because it’s such an important one and why I wanted to have you today on September 1st is because of that ceremony. And do you want to just talk a little bit about that ceremony and what the objective is of that ceremony so that people are aware.
[00:10:13] Jenny Sawanohk: So now that Canada is awakening to our story with the uncovering of all our babies in these burial grounds at residential schools across Canada we finally have the support that we need from the, our non-indigenous community. And it just seems like the perfect time and with the launch of this now national day for truth and reconciliation, that we could bring everybody together. To mourn and honor all the children that were lost and like a remembrance day ceremony.
I’m very vocal that I look at the residential school era as an Indian war, there’s more pieces to that. Residential schools was just one tactic, I would say to the genocide that we’ve been through. And I really started researching and looking at it this way, especially when I worked with all these indigenous youth that were hypervigilant due to trauma..
And where sometimes, I just in a situation and this limbic mode where they were like in warrior mode, and so I was really looking at this as war and I’m like, Canadians don’t realize the war that’s been happening here. One in 26 Canadians that served in world war II died. One in 25 and indigenous youth that went to residential schools.
That’s drastic. We have to really look at that and see that this is far more than just neglect. This is abuse. This is murder. There was horrific stories that our survivors have shared with us. And so I really need Canadians to start looking at the situation that my people have been in and are still going through.
There’s still a lot of. Oppression and systematic racism. And because we’ve had this lack of acknowledgement and lack of support, it has been so difficult to move forward in our healing. And so this Remember Me a day of remembrance ceremony is bringing us all together to mourn for the loss of these youth and to support and offer healing to those survivors today and all their families that we all carry this legacy of trauma.
And so it’s bringing us together in unity. To do that honoring we have a spirit walk planned, which is not a March or protest. It’s just, can we all walk together and rise forward together and really peacefully and beautifully. So we have beautiful songs like tributes. It will be an emotional day and that’s needed too, because we all need to come together and mourn together.
As a healer, I’m all about sacred tears and releasing and that part. Needing to happen before we can start to get into celebrating, which we need to do too, because we are celebrating that we are rising and we are reclaiming our power despite all of the attacks on us show great resilience and still hold onto our ceremonies, which we are just so honored to be able to embrace today and to be able to share.
So this is not just for the indigenous community it’s for the non-indigenous community as well to help bring them together to give them an opportunity to show support, because there’s a lot of people mourning collectively across Canada, but it’s also to acknowledge that there’s a collective wound here that the non-indigenous community carries. There’s a lot of guilt. There’s a lot of shame that I hear from a lot of the non-indigenous community about what’s happened here. So it’s giving us a space to heal together.
[00:13:31] Suzanne F. Stevens: Absolutely. And I couldn’t agree with you more in regards to the feeling of shame and guilt and ignorance. All of it.
And I think it’s a great opportunity to get together, so I’ve posted it below and by all means, we should get involved. You had made a really important point, which I’ve heard before, probably from you on their panel dialogue, is that 50% of children that are in care are indigenous children.
Why is that?
[00:14:09] Jenny Sawanohk: It is the trauma from residential schools. So residential schools were designed to break the bond between parent and child. That was the propaganda in order to assimilate us to the Eurocentric way of life, they thought the best way to do that was to break the bond between parent and child remove the child completely from their family, community, and culture, and make them feel ashamed to be indigenous.
And so what I studied in school was the lack of parenting. So you have incredible trauma. You have children that become parents that have grown up in institutions that lack of parenting skills needed. And then these communities, they so lack the services and supports to help families through their healing.
So youth are really overrepresented in care. And what we’re also seeing is because there’s still such racism and there’s still such lack of support, that it turns out to be more of an issue of neglect by the state or by, the government who said that they would support us.
And so it becomes a huge thing on state neglect as being the number one reason that youth are in care. So it’s not to say that abuse doesn’t happen in homes. We know it does. And we are, working and doing our best to heal our families. But the overall picture is that there’s a crisis here and there’s a lack of support by the county.
And so youth, some of the number, one reason they come into care is neglect and overcrowding. If you look at the situation on many of these reserves there’s a lack of housing and there’s, lack of supports and services to help those in need. And so what happens is child welfare goes in and apprehends, and the other thing I was seeing is there are no real preventative services.
I used to work with Niagara child tile new services, and I’d compare that to when I worked up and pick 10 and I’m like, oh my gosh, the services in the south are just incredible. Just all of these different organizations coming together as a village should support the youth and care there up north it’s pretty sad. Yeah. When you look at the city, some of those communities are in third-world conditions. And if Canadians knew about the lack of water, about the lack of these basic human rights, I think there would be a lot more help going north and it’s isolated, it’s flying communities. It’s expensive to travel. So there are all these different factors at play here. And so I always want people to look at the larger puzzle. So why are we in this situation, the first place? Residential schools look at that trauma and look like the last school just closed in 96.
Look at all the generations of children that went through that. And now we’re seeing, still the intergenerational trauma that’s passed along. But again it’s the lack of parenting skills, the struggles in the homes and the struggles overall in the community and the government who said that they would help through these treaties and are not.
[00:17:06] Suzanne F. Stevens: There’s so much there to unpack. I appreciate that you’re talking about this here as well, it’s so important, but the alarm bell that goes off in my mind and does with most social issues is we fix, we don’t prevent. Or we don’t fix and ignore the case within the indigenous community.
Prevention is where our time and money should go. And I’m a huge advocate of prevention. So to see that is such a gap here, and now I do understand without getting into a political debate too much at this point, cause I’d rather focus on what your impact is that finally there has been some movement in regards to the water being provided and the commitment to that occurring. And there’s some optimism that this time it will actually happen. Time remains to be seen. However, for someone like me, who’s traveled to developing countries. And when I found this outlook a few years ago, I couldn’t believe that was the case that I have a developing. Regions in my own country, so that education will never get old.
For sure. So thank you also for sharing the child welfare perspective, because it’s my understanding that also took you on your own healing path and to your calling, far as your business, red stone snake woman who benefits from your services and that calling?
[00:19:03] Jenny Sawanohk: So there are a few things that I do. We were speaking to, these communities and a lot of Canadians wanting to know how to help. So the truth and reconciliation work that I do is to individuals just looking what the, like coming to me and wanting to know what their steps can be. So we break down the truth. We break down reconciliation calls to action for each individual and what they can do personally within their homes and families within their communities and then the nation at large. So that’s everybody, I get called into organizations. And yeah, I just opened my own workshops and a lot of people sign up that way. That work is the most important to me. Because I really think that it’s going to take each and every one of us just to stand up, to make the changes that are needed. People just, want to help, but they just don’t know how.
So you mentioned earlier, there is a lot of ignorance, but there is a lot of educational material out there now. So it’s just helping people make those connections. And then with reconciliation, it’s like looking at, okay, what do we need to reconcile within ourselves? There’s a lot of healing work there.
There’s we need to rebuild our trusting relationships together as a community, and it’s helping them move into, Their churches, their schools, and doing work to start moving us forward. With reconciling our differences in doing what’s needed from each and every one of us. So that’s a lot of the work that I do, the healing lodge.
I created a safe and sacred, affordable space where other people could step into their care. We are each here with the sole purpose and it’s to be of service to each other. So it’s helping people understand what is their medicine, why are they here? And now here’s a platform to do that.
And I started doing that in the child welfare field, because as I was trying to bring in traditional people into the lives of these youth I was just reaching out to the community and saying, Hey, you’re an incredible artist. Could you come in and provide that service, teach the youth about it.
And then it also gives the job to somebody and then also the youth benefit and they get to learn. They get to reconnect with tradition and find a new way of coping. And so I’m always looking to help make people create jobs for themselves, with what they really are passionate about. So the lodge is a space to do that.
And we do a lot of ceremonies here and we have our healing forest here. The healing forest is a national healing forest through the truth and reconciliation. It was a call from the national center. And so that’s a space we’ve been working on to have benches for elders to be able to come into the forest.
And we all know about forest bathing and the powers of reconnecting to nature. And so that’s for residential school survivors and their families, but also anybody who wishes to visit us. So we have a lot of initiatives like that, open the doors to the community, to come here, to heal and to encourage them of their own abilities, to give back to the community.
So it’s the little domino effect, just trying to create a sacred space for people to find themselves and then figure out what it is that they need to do for the rest.
[00:22:08] Suzanne F. Stevens: We’re in the same space, is trying to find people to also contribute, find their purpose, find meaning in their life. And usually when it’s meaning, and how I identify it as when you’re uplifting somebody else, you’ll find more meaning in your life. I think I’m going to have to schedule some time to come to you. And look at the lodge. I looked at pictures of the lodge. It looks fabulous. Being out in the wilderness is my meditative movement. It is such an amazing thing.
Now you were mentioning in regards to your workshops and providing those to families and organizations. Because this is a wisdom exchange. TV focuses very much on sustainable solutions. You get paid, of course, to go to organizations. But also when families want to understand what roles they can play in truth and reconciliation, they hire you to do that?
[00:23:03] Jenny Sawanohk: Families, a lot of the people who come are coming from from the heart space, they’re just trying to figure out, okay, how do I raise my children to be more informed than I am?
And when I speak to family work, it’s usually those parents going back and now having books that they can bring into their homes or movies, they can start introducing their families to and so on. What we’re trying to do. I’ve recently had other indigenous organizations coming in who are interested in what I do with Connor homes and the youth in care to start delivering those services elsewhere.
And what we’re seeing is. There’s a lot of work being done for the youth in care but not a lot of work helping the transition to go home. And so we want to start focusing more work on when, before the youth go home, bringing the families into a safe space where they can start, working on their relationship with each other and doing some trauma based healing as well. And so we’re going to start offering that. And I think that’s the key. And some of the other organizations that I’m collaborating with, we want to get into the communities and start bringing back our traditional ways of healing, getting them set up that way so they can have what they need because right now a lot of the communities are lacking that service. And the difficulty there is Many communities are now Christian.
So there are some times we just bump heads a little bit about, a lot of us are traditional and believe so strongly in our traditional ceremonies. And we believe so greatly in the need for those ceremonies to get back and for our communities to reconnect. So that’s the bigger picture work that we’re trying to facilitate now.
[00:24:38] Suzanne F. Stevens: Yeah. And that’s interesting that a lot of the communities are Christian and I would challenge that a bit because the churches are empty. It’s an interesting paradox all of a sudden we don’t want to let go of our beliefs, but we’re not going to be active on those beliefs either.
It’s interesting. I’m gonna go back to that question though. I appreciate that you’re helping families, but I’m also looking at your sustainability element. You get hired by organizations. They pay you, correct? Yes. Okay. If a family wants to learn ways to contribute and you’re consulting with them on how to do that, do you make income from that as well?
[00:25:22] Jenny Sawanohk: Normally all that work is honorarium basis. So what people can pay towards the healing forest is where I put that.
[00:25:30] Suzanne F. Stevens: Okay, thank you. Just understanding though that most of you are your structure because you’re doing a lot of good things out there. And sometimes people get overwhelmed and say, okay, how is she doing all of these great things, how she’s sustaining herself.
[00:25:50] Jenny Sawanohk: And I appreciate you bringing that up because I do a lot of work by volunteer and there’s a lot of expectation from the organizations and communities that indigenous people should come in and share this knowledge for free. And I’ve been to hospitals recently was at our hospital to offer a smudging ceremony for a patient there.
And I was very honored to help, but I chatted with them. I said you need to create a sacred space for this. Cause there isn’t one here yet. And you really need to pay elders to come in, to do this week and most elders will want to honorarium. And that’s the same for schools and, there are two thoughts on this.
When it comes to sacred ceremonies there’s a thought those shouldn’t be paid for. And traditionally what you would give is tobacco. And we still offer tobaccos in our exchange today, but traditionally there would be some sort of trade. The economy has changed. So I believe some things I’m not comfortable with accepting money for there’s a belief there.
And I support that. I said, but we’re in a day, in an age where I can’t give tobacco to my elders to put in their gas tanks or to pay their mortgages. So I always pay my elders, the healers that I hired to come and work with these youth, the artists and everybody I’m, I make a money payment. And if they want that to be income or honorarium, whatever is that.
But that’s the economy of today. We need money. Traditionally. I’m always giving tobacco too to honor that’s always been our traditional way of exchange too. When people come to me and they need help sometimes especially with some of the work that I do, I’m not comfortable receiving an income for it.
And I’ll just say, please give me a donation. And that goes into creating the healing forest space that I’m working so hard to create for the community. But most times I am very comfortable at this point in my life to say, this is my service. This is what I’m offering. This is what they are worth.
And so that always brings up that question of worth right too. And I think a lot of us have struggled with that. I know for myself as a businesswoman, it’s really hard to put a price on things. But I’ve come into a lot myself, a lot in terms of Redstone snake woman. There are services and there are programs that I’ve created and I’ve spent years investing money into to learn and educate myself on.
[00:28:05] Suzanne F. Stevens: And it is important because for the entrepreneur it’s been extremely challenging and we still need to justify our wage. And it seems almost there’s an expertise that you are bringing and there are years and years of education that you have.
And that’s why you’ve achieved it. I appreciate you saying there are certain things you’ll do, but we also have to come up against challenging those expectations, but just because you’re expected not to pay for this service doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay for this service.
[00:28:40] Jenny Sawanohk: Yeah. I don’t receive funding.
I’m an entrepreneur here. And so sole proprietor. And when I have my kids, I’m a single mom with my kids, so I have to pay all the bills. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:28:51] Suzanne F. Stevens: Yeah. And now you do focus on calling and create space for people to find their calling. How important do you think it is for people to actually find their calling?
And what advice do you have for them to do that?
[00:29:08] Jenny Sawanohk: I think it’s of utmost importance. I want people to be happy about what they’re doing, like I think they say, if you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like you’re going to work. And I can understand what that means now. I feel sometimes I overwork myself.
Cause I’m so busy sometimes, but I love what I do. And I just feel what I do is extremely important and that’s why I’m so invested in, so why I’m so passionate about it. And I want everybody to feel that way about, what they dedicate most of their day to doing. So I always say, there’s healing for me. It was a lot of healing journeys to come into myself and to remember who I am and why I’m here. So I love providing those ceremonies, but, I just say to people, if you want to know what your calling is, what do you love doing most? What are you most passionate about?
And then how can you bring that into a job for yourself? How do you make an income with that? So it’s getting, innovative, it’s helping people envision the life that they imagined for themselves and that they can do it. And I speak to that a lot of my dream catcher workshops, I’m always talking about, you’re weaving your dreams together. You’re setting that intention out there. And I want people to just feel really good about, why they’re hearing what they’re doing. I think that’s what we all need to in order to throw.
[00:30:26] Suzanne F. Stevens: Absolutely. I can appreciate that. And, finding your calling also can be overwhelming. I’ve had conversations with people that say, I can’t find my purposes. I can’t find how to create meaning, and that can be very daunting and exhausting. And stressful. When in actuality, finding your calling in the job, as you say to explore it and it’s supposed to be rewarding, do you have any advice for those people that feel that it’s overwhelming to actually find their calling
[00:31:04] Jenny Sawanohk: Heal. Everything comes down to healing. I’m constantly engaged in my healing. And as you heal, you release all the stuff that you’ve been doing, because you think you should, or someone told you to, or you were, a lot of us do things that, we’ve developed this belief system that we should be doing certain things, or we’re only worthy of certain things.
And so a lot of the work that I do is challenging people on their limiting beliefs, on the negative thoughts and emotions that they carry. And as we work through all of those things and we come back to who we are. We’re better able to determine exactly what it is that we truly want in life. Too often, we’re living up to the expectations of others.
So it comes down to healing and creating boundaries and really just investing in yourself and your self-love. And then you’re better able to really connect to what is it exactly that little spark and that little spark in me? What turns that into, a flame. And so I think it comes down to our…
[00:32:05] Suzanne F. Stevens: Taking all the work that you do between the volunteerism and within your business, some of its heavy work. And when you’re focusing on healing, do you ever find that it weighs you down? And if it does, how do you manage to present your best self in those circumstances.
[00:32:32] Jenny Sawanohk: I think that comes down to boundaries as well.
I remember my medicine man saying something to me that his grandfather had said to him. And it said I give you permission to disappoint others. I loved that. I’m like, I needed that permission to, yeah.
I do sometimes. I’st just, me, I take forever sometimes getting back to emails because I just got so much going on and I’m trying always to be professional, but I have to really create boundaries where I’m in healer mode now. I’m in mama mode. Now I just need time for me.
So it’s a really balancing act of being able to stay grounded. So it really comes down to boundaries cause it can get heavy. And when I have that client in my space for that moment, I just give it my all. But when they leave, I stay in touch with them to see how they’re doing. And usually, usually I have repeat clients that come back again and again, but I have to only just do what I can in that moment. And I think when I was younger I took too much on. I took too much on, and I remember going at the end of the day, people make their own choices. Anyway, you can give us, you can do as much as you can give as much as advice you can. And I was like, oh gosh. And then it was, I just got a smack with humility and said, oh my God, everyone is on their own journey.
I really, I stopped being judgmental and let go of all of that and was just. Everyone has their own journey. Just hold a space of unconditional love and grace and allow people to come in into, so it’s just, for me, it’s just trying to create the safety and a place of sacredness for people to come in, do what they need to do, and then they go and then that’s off the go, so it’s yeah, I think I think if that all makes sense, that’s how I’ve been able to stay rooted. And I spent a lot of time outside with my feet on the ground and that, that means everything as well..
[00:34:28] Suzanne F. Stevens: And it’s great advice, boundaries for sure. You have several beneficiaries of your work.
Your volunteer work is youth. Who else benefits from the work you do more in your business of Redstone snake woman?
[00:34:50] Jenny Sawanohk: A lot of people just come up here to use the space. I have a lot of women, especially that are moving in and out of the space. Sometimes they just need somewhere to come from Tea. Feels like it’s been halted a bit, quite a bit with COVID, but now that we’re opening our doors to them again, it’s been wonderful.
When I first started running the lodge, I told women they could pay less if they helped me care for the space. When we looked at rental fees and we’ll bring this way down, you can come in, you can help me care for it. And then we created this little membership system and they ended up, I think a lot of them feel like They benefited from this, the sacredness of this space that way too.
And a lot of women just come and go and I want it to always feel that way. I want it to feel like a place that they could just sneak into the forest when they have time without needing to ask me, just get back there and do what they need to do. A young lady came by the other day. I wasn’t here and she says, I just need in your forest too.
She had a deck that she needed. I worked with bird medicine, so everyone knows me and my birds and the plucking and ceremonies I do. So there’s a lot of birds that end up in the forest and she needed to come in and very, and spend time there and honor those feathers and whatever stories she had with it.
And I love being a space for that. That’s with Redstone Snake. Woman. And just, a lot of the work that I do is with soul space. It’s a group of us that came together to help and support the frontline workers. The, that are down working with the homeless and those struggling with addiction and volunteering too, to be a person to run healing circles, like grief support circles that they, the people downtown Ottawa have been burning out with this pandemic with the amount of overdoses and the struggles that are happening down there, that not a lot of people talk about. The other side of this pandemic is addiction. Rates are sky high and suicide rates are sky high, and there’s a lot of people struggling. So just wanting to support and offer services, healing, circle services to those workers.
And I’ve recently started to work directly with indigenous women that are homeless and struggling with addiction.
[00:36:56] Suzanne F. Stevens: So when you started your organization, what did you see as the biggest opportunity?
[00:37:01] Jenny Sawanohk: For Redstone snake woman? I just wanted to do be someone that people could to go to for consultation or speaking or whatever workshop did it was.
I just wanted to inspire them to come into who they are. A lot of people come into the lodge and they say, oh my God, this feels like home. I had a veteran come in and just said, this was the first lodge. He felt he didn’t need to look over his shoulder while he was in. I work really hard to keep the energy here, soft and nurturing mothering. Because I feel like we just, all of us just need a home, a place to feel like we belong. And so I’m really just wanting to help people come home to themselves and reconnect. There’s a loneliness that I think everybody felt during the pandemic, it started to bring up that wound in so many of us and I’ve wanted this for myself is not to be lonely in my own company.
Not just to need me to put that self-care, self-love first, because when I’m in that space, I’m the best mom and I’m a healer. And I’m the best version of myself to be able to reach out to the larger community. So I was just trying to be very innovative and in ways to reach people. And so I started coming up with different workshops.
I work with bird medicine and a lot of people come to me wanting to understand the different types of bird medicine. And so it’s helping people understand the medicine and gifts of nature. And, a lot of people love my dream catcher workshops and that’s about dreaming the life you’ve imagined for yourself and starting to really create intention and vision boards and how to reach your goals.
So it was just, I was just wanting a space where I felt like I can try these new ideas. Gave us space for other people to be a little creative and with what they wanted to be able to offer the world as well.
[00:38:48] Suzanne F. Stevens: Why is having a social impact so important to you?
[00:38:54] Jenny Sawanohk: I’m all about community. The indigenous way. The Western versus indigenous worldview is very different. And we are a very collective people. We’re very matriarchal. We’re very much about Offering holistic services reaching the larger community. I believe it takes a village to raise a child. And I want to start seeing the social shifts where we all start behaving that way again.
Everybody’s playing stranger in by-standard to one another. And we can’t make the change that this world needs that way. We have to start seeing each other as kin. And that’s our traditional way of looking at the world. We say all our relations, that’s the, what my lodge is named miscellaneous all our relations recognizes you are my relatives.
You’re my sister. So is that rock? So is that tree, so is that plant, and we start to treat each other better in the environment better when we look at each other from that powerful view.
[00:39:48] Suzanne F. Stevens: Absolutely. So we’re going to end very shortly, but I’m going to give you somewhat I like to call rapid-fire questions, just to mix it up Jenny and first thought best thought.
And if you don’t have, when you can pass, but give it a second and see if something comes up. What is one thing you wish you knew prior to engaging down the path of particularly Redstone snake woman?
[00:40:13] Jenny Sawanohk: One thing I wish I knew earlier. I think I think I wish I knew my worth more. I think I could say that for me.
And I think I have a lot of my clients. That’s the first thing we work on is self-worth. This investment into yourself first and foremost. I think I was always trying to do what other people thought was needed and not relying on my own intuition and not leaving in myself as greatly as I should.
[00:40:38] Suzanne F. Stevens: The best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
[00:40:41] Jenny Sawanohk: I think I shared that one and that was the I give you permission. It’s okay to disappoint other people. And I’m learning that comes back to their own wish issues and the things that they need to take ownership and accountability for. Yeah, I can only do so much and if I give it my best effort, Pretty proud at the end of the day. So I have to just release the weight of people’s expectations and just do what I’m able to do. And that’d be enough.
[00:41:05] Suzanne F. Stevens: Great. Which of your strengths. Do you rely on most to have the success and impact you have achieved?
[00:41:13] Jenny Sawanohk: I think my strength is my connection to the earth. I have to stay grounded. I have to stay balanced. And otherwise, when I look back at the challenges that I’ve had in my life now I’m able to more quickly move through obstacles.
With my healing work and I call her the number one healer. So spending time in nature, that energy exchange that she offers us is very grounding. And I utilize that. I utilize that with my feet on the land or hands in the dirt. I also utilize that with grounding sheets, a yoga grounding sheet or anything that connects to the earth energy.
And I think that’s something we all need to really become more aware of. because we’re literally killing ourselves by having such a disconnection with her.
[00:42:05] Suzanne F. Stevens: Which beneficiary do you think needs the most investment of time research and money?
[00:42:10] Jenny Sawanohk: The work that I’ve been doing has been really to support indigenous women. We do that with the collective. We’ve been creating websites and trying to create job opportunities for indigenous women.
And I, and a lot of my work, supports indigenous women is because I really believe in. Sacred feminine, rising, and that we need to get back to being a matriarchal society and we need to bring the heart back. And our women are the leaders and the change-makers and warriors of today. My concern is the indigenous men.
I don’t see the same services and supports for them. And I know they, they really struggle. So I’d like to start seeing more people reaching out to them and looking at, prisons and jails and corrections and the justice systems. Our two most precious resources are our children and the land.
So a lot of focus needs to be there always. So being the village that we are, I guess there are many different things that we need to look at.
[00:43:06] Suzanne F. Stevens: To your point about the indigenous man, this is what happens when pendulum swings are someone. And I often call a talk about consequences of your contribution, and often when you contribute one place. And right now a lot of attention is being put on women in general and intersectional women in which is, indigenous black women, white women, all women. And as a result, there’s there is that fear that men are being ignored. And my whole thing is there, there is, there’s a pendulum swing.
It will come back. When we see equitable environments when people are treated, then it will come back. But we have to push until that occurs. And that’s truly in the indigenous community as well. That’s what needs to happen. We’re finally having the conversations. We’ve talked about men for years. I’m concerned about indigenous men as well, and they need the attention as well. So hopefully we will meet to interview someone who…
[00:44:14] Jenny Sawanohk: We will get there because of sacred, feminine, rising. Once you’ve got that there then. And then we’ll have the supports they need because the woman will ensure it. Where the caregivers.
[00:44:24] Suzanne F. Stevens: You’re my sister from another mother. So with that, who is the greatest female influence in your life?
[00:44:33] Jenny Sawanohk: I always say my mama because my mama raised me. She’s just a beautiful, loving soul. So I. always have to share my gratitude for her. And I, I don’t have to be a child psychotherapist to realize the importance of that connection and that relationship, but it sure makes me more grateful for her. But Cindy Blackstock, everybody should know her. She is a wise, strong, graceful woman who does such advocacy is such an activist. Does such great work for indigenous youth in care. Such as taking on the government. And I have the utmost respect for her. I’ve been to many of her speaking engagements. She is so inspirational and the way she speaks is just pulls you in because she speaks from the heart and she talks to the heart and I found that extremely inspiring.
And I felt what term her mission was. And I’m like, I’m with you. I’m on that same path. And so a lot of the work that I do is because of her. And I’m just so grateful. Grateful for everything she represents.
[00:45:35] Suzanne F. Stevens: Your words do have power because you mentioned her during our panel dialogue with the indigenous community. And of course, I immediately after looked her up and was reading about her and yeah very impressive. So I hope to see her speak someday.
What three values do you live?
[00:45:53] Jenny Sawanohk: Humility. I am like. I’m trying my best to just wake up each morning with gratitude and just live more humbly.
My I’m, I think my path is, and what I encourage everyone else to follow is this as to walk and gracefully. And when we look at humility, it comes with just accepting being able to accept Everything that comes and finding the medicine in it. And so I’m always trying to live that way.
I believe in unconditional non-judgmental love. And I’m just trying to be that space trying to receive it and I’m trying to give it always and values and it’s what would be my third? Live respectfully. We can have our differences with each other and that’d be okay as long as we respect them.
Yeah. Yeah. And I think when we live in more, a lot of people struggle with that one because differences, sometimes challenge their ideas and their faith and everything else. And it can cause. Can cause issues. And so I think when we try to just be respectful, that we all have, are allowed to have our own values and our own ways and our own religions and everything else that we co-exist more harmoniously together and that’s the goal.
[00:47:11] Suzanne F. Stevens: Thank you, Jenny Sawanohk
Thank you so much for sharing your heart and your insight. And I’m going to come back to you in one moment with another question, but you can subscribe to wisdom exchange, TV, everyone on this call. If you only caught part. Of the live episode, it will be on Jenny’s exclusive page. So you’ll receive each new interview notification in your inbox as well.
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Jenny. Do you have any words of wisdom for the audience regarding making a conscious contribution to society?
[00:48:36] Jenny Sawanohk: As you were bringing up the social impact again, I’m like we, and he was the child psychotherapists from me, studies attachment coming out. We are meant to connect with one another we’re meant to relate. And I think when we just talk about making conscious efforts it’s always looking at the community at large and just trying to truly value our relationships and that when we’re looking at helping it’s thought it’d be wide, it’s gotta be, we can’t do this where we try to act like we’re separate from at all when we’re just one community that’s extremely interconnected. I always call it the eternal web of life. And yeah, I think we just need to be open more to this idea that we are social beings and everybody around us is, has a role. And that has to be respected and honored and we need to work together more, more in a more loving way.
[00:49:29] Suzanne F. Stevens: Amen to that. I know that’s a Christian term, but let’s. That’s okay. I never name a state of that or how do I, how would I end that in an indigenous. We say a Hoya a lot. Yeah. Thank you. Until next time, make your contribution count for you. Me. We. Think words,
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