Meet sqilxw women who haven’t colonized their workplace

With the baby on his hips and Mike on his lips, sqilxw women Elaine Alec and Jessie Hemphill recently celebrated the economic milestone of a community planning company co-founded with Christopher Derickson in 2016.

In November, they broke down their karaoke machines and arrived at Alderhill’s retreat dance floor, celebrating both their 5th anniversary and an economic milestone. According to the founders, their journey and achievements required introspection, healing, and faith in each other.

“We were mothers … [with] Newborns … and we were able to set up a $ 2 million company, “says Alec, a Syilx writer and facilitator based in Tk’emlups, Kamloops, British Columbia.

Virtual satellite companies work with governments, businesses and indigenous communities to support organizational development and offer everything from trauma-based facilitation to comprehensive community planning, reconciliation and decolonization workshops. doing. Both Alec and Hemphill attribute much of their success to working on indigenous principles.

“Everything we usually frown on doing in a professional environment”-like breastfeeding during a zoom meeting, it’s just part of their process and they’re trying to apologize for it. Could not.

“”[It] “No, this is what we are trying to do. This is our company. We are indigenous women and mothers with babies, so we will do this. That’s all we do. Is part of and who we are. ”

Alec says Alderhill Planning was told to exist with a cup of coffee among the three founding partners with the vision of “creating something different.” [the] It’s the exact opposite of what consulting firms did in our community. ”

“We were tired of seeing people coming in and just doing this from the template … and it wasn’t really appealing. [the] We are a community and do not understand how we know and exist. ”

Instead of adopting a “colonial and streamlined linear approach” to the plan, they envisioned a planning company rooted in community values ​​and interests, Alec says.

Establishing a company as sqilxw people meant navigating a lot of self-doubt and impostor syndrome, Alec says.

She recalls worrying that “no one would take us seriously” and “we are … children compared to these other big boys.”

Co-founder and business partner Hemphill reflects similar sentiment.

“When I was working in the community in my twenties, I had a lot of impostor syndrome about becoming a leader in indigenous spaces. [being] Hemphill recalls, “very whitish.”

Henfil says her great-grandfather needed to “away from indigenous peoples as a survival mechanism” to keep his family safe from the “school” of housing.

“My family has sacrificed for generations to keep us safe, so I was able to stay here and take up space,” she says.

Alec says their co-founding partner, Derrickson, helped them overcome the fraudster syndrome.

“Chris was constantly stepping up and talking to us …” Your time, your energy is worth it, [that of] All the other white men out there are doing this, “she says.

Derrickson had to leave his day-to-day work after becoming Chief of West Bank First Nations, but Alec and Henfil say he will continue to be an essential support.

“We built a company based on mutual trust and trust,” says Alec.

Taking a colonial approach with clients and within their own team was a priority for all three founders. Among employees and clients, Alec says it is clear that colonization has affected self-esteem.

“When I see people, see their light, see their gifts, see their own suspicions, it breaks my heart,” says Alec. “All these lies that were told to line us up are to prevent us from shining brightly and not what we should be.”

“Indigenous peoples are not the only ones suffering from colonization,” says Hemphill. “Typical businesses” and “Western working styles are very harmful,” she says, which also has a negative impact on settlers.

“At the individual level, it reduces people’s health, physical health, emotional intelligence, spiritual and ritual connections … we see the destruction of the family unit.

“At the community level …[a] Deterioration of those relationships between community and business when it’s all about money.

“At the land level, we find that land and living systems are harmed under a business model that prioritizes the extraction of profits and resources … resources can be people, time and energy, or trees. It can also be oil.

“So I think alternatives are essential for us to continue living on this planet.”

Hemphill shares that it is important for the team to have participatory decision making and a non-hierarchical structure.

“We stick to our values ​​and [ensure] It’s really safe and feels like a place to grow. Also, the job we do is to create a better world for indigenous peoples. ”

This means keeping space for healing, she says.

“We provide a space for people to take care of themselves and find health and well-being, and they can spend time with their families and reconnect with family units. It is given to them.

“Then, at the land level, we just continuously reconnect and spend time. [on the land], “She says.

The company continues to work four days a week, with employees working four to five hours a day intensively while paying full-time. Team members are also encouraged to be honest about their daily health needs and are given the freedom to look for creative means, Alec says.

“We can build a company with love … [where team members] You can come in and say, “I have a mental health problem.” There you can say, “I’m leaving to go swimming or skiing,” and no one sits here and rolls or gets angry.

“We have to trust each other as we go through this … and get out of the colonial idea that we need to know. [the] “Why” for all, “says Alec.

Five years after the company was founded and the dream came true, Alec and Henfil are full of gratitude.

“Everything I wanted has come true. [and] Things are really going in the right direction, “says Hemphill.

“I’m here for the choice of my previous generation,” she says. “I didn’t come here myself.”

Alec says celebrating is also an important part of the job — especially for indigenous women.

“When I first started doing business, I was instructed by an old white conservative man … I live in that space of patriarchy … a hardcore way to do business. Was, and I was physically, mentally, and emotionally ill, “she says.

“But one of the things I learned from them … is to get out of that comfort zone, talk about myself, share and celebrate their success … they insist on that space and about themselves. Speaking, “We deserve to be here.’

“We deserve to be admitted as well, so we need to ask for space. And in space … [where] These people said we didn’t belong.

“When we can do it ourselves, we encourage people from the same situation to know that they can do the same.”

Cultural Protocol: According to some n̓syilxčn̓ language keepers, no uppercase letters are used to spell n̓syilxčn̓ words. In an egalitarian society, capitalization is more important than others, implying that there is something that is inconsistent with the ethics of the Okanagans.

Glossary sqilxw [skay-loo-kw]: Land people

Meet sqilxw women who haven’t colonized their workplace

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