Wisdom Stories: Jessie Williams
Jessie is a member of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation). Leaning on wisdom gained from her lived experience, educational attainment, professional journey, and elder teachings, Jessie has developed a passion for empowering Indigenous presence, voice, and capacity. This has inspired her meaningful career which has been focused on collaboration, strategic planning, business development, innovation, inclusivity, engagement, leadership, partnerships, programs and services, and diverse aspects of nation-building. She currently serves as the Director of Business Development and Communications for the New Relationship Trust, an Indigenous not-for-profit organization providing resources to First Nations in BC. Jessie is passionately committed to promoting whole human well-being and fulfillment, including creating opportunities for others to step into their personal power for themselves, and for each other.
What is matriarchy to you?
To me, Indigenous Matriarchy involves realizing what my knowledge, wisdom and gifts are, and sharing them with family, community, and society for personal and collective health and wellbeing. To some this may mean the passing down of wealth, power, and political/leadership. To me, it is that and so much more as it has a strong link to knowing who we are, which takes work. It also is about sharing who we are in a way that is good for us as individuals, and, has impact in ways we feel passionate about. Matriarchy in leadership can look many ways, it’s a way of being and doing in the world. Matriarchy is an action, is a way of authentically walking in the world with intention to uplift and contribute to positive impact. This requires leaning on and drawing from our walk in the world as women. Matriarchal perspective, women’s voices are powerful, important and necessary as part of balance in the world.
How did you get to where you are? What is your foundation?
I had to begin by working through my fears and leaning into the discomfort of not knowing everything, learn to believe I was enough, and know I will figure it out. I also had to learn that my presence and voice is needed in leadership places and space, roles, and positions, professionally and personally. What helped me was surrounding myself with people who are in value alignment with me, believe in and create space for me. These amazing humans recognize my knowledge, skills and abilities are valuable and needed. And by nature, I do the same a hundred-fold. Reciprocal relationships are extremely important, as we need each other. When we come together and bring the best of us, amazing things happen.
My foundation is my teachings, I make a habit of reflecting on what my grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles have shared with me. One that always comes to mind is from my late grandfather who told me I was going to be a leader, connector, relationship holder, a bridge and not to let anyone tell me any different.
Who or what is/was your inspiration?
My children, my grandson, nieces, and nephews are my inspiration. Children remind us why we work hard, strive for more, and how we want to contribute. It is the legacy we want to leave for future generations that needs to be at the centre of our leadership efforts.
Also, other women who are leading from a place of meaningful, impactful, and most importantly authentic to them ways inspire me. These include my chosen family, my chosen sisters who I am blessed to call my life-long and beyond friends.
What words of wisdom do you have for your sector/industry?
As I mentioned above, Reciprocal Relationships are vital. Before we do business, focus first on building right relations. There is a word in my language that I live by, Nch'u7mut (to be one, to be in unity). I’ve been taught that we must always give to receive, that we need each other in this work. There is so much impact that happens through coming together to uplift communities. I call on everyone to look around, see who is not present in your work, but needs to be. And create space for them. Because representation matters.
What is your vision for the next generation?
My vision for the next generation is that youth and children know their medicine, power, purpose, that they know their authentic selves at an early age. And that they use this to guide them through their decisions in life, personally and professionally. My vision is for the future generation to always know they belong, and are always enough. I pray to creator that the next generation take their space in the world from a place of confidence.
What words of wisdom do you have for the next generations?
1st: Most importantly, always remember to focus on whole human education and wellness. To me this means put time and effort into developing your Spiritual, Emotional, Physical and Mental selves. Society tends to provide more opportunities for educational and professional growth, rather than a balance of also spiritual and emotional development and knowledge.
We need emotional intelligence, cultural connections, spiritual depth, and physical health to be whole and fulfilled.
2nd: Also very important, is to listen to your inner wisdom, you know that gut feeling you get sometimes about a decision or a situation. I like to call this our ‘spirit voice’. This spirit voice is so strong, and when you feel it, listen to it, trust it. It has valuable information about whether something is right or not right for you. Whether it be about a person, a job, a situation, or anything. Listen to your inner wisdom. We have the power to choose what makes us feel good, safe, and happy.
3rd: Live in service of yourself first, fulfil your needs first. Ask yourself often, “what do I need, what do I want.” When we do this, we have so much more to give all the people and all the things we care about.
4th: Let your inner light shine always. Never shrink yourselves to make others feel more comfortable, and never change yourself to fit into anything external to you. When you know and share your strength and amazingness always, you help and inspire others the same.
To learn more about the Indigenous Leadership Circle, please go HERE.