In past years, She is Wise has been a three-day conference holding many teachings and moments of remembrance for its participants in an in-person setting. This year, due to the ongoing changes of Covid-19, it was moved online.
Although an online setting can come with its set of problems Jessica Goodman, Training Coordinator for ONWA and producer of all three She is Wise conferences, was hopeful it would still be the energized space participants expected to step into.
“In person, you can feel people’s energy in a room, and I thought that wasn’t going to be possible online, but honestly, now that the She is Wise Conference is over I am convinced this is still possible. The energy was still flowing, the laughter and heartfelt conversations were still happening. We still managed to create a safe space online,” she says.
Goodman’s excitement was the stepping-stone for making the conference a success this year.
With an amazing line-up of elders, performers and keynote speakers, She is Wise was a space for participants to learn and speak about teachings related to land, healing and medicine.
The line-up of inspiring voices included Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Judy Dasilva, Mariea Linklater, Renee Linklater, Autumn Peltier and Tanya Talaga. Stevie Salas spoke on his newest documentary The Water Walker, featuring Autumn Peltier, and they streamed the acclaimed Canadian documentary, RUMBLE: The Indians who Rocked the World.
During these events, Goodman reflected on the moments that stood out, one of them being the morning check-ins.
“Everyone would be signing in and chatting to one another about their night and how the previous day had made them feel. I would hear such positive things about the conference and what they have got out of it and lots of laughter. It was so great considering we are all so far apart,” she says.
To make such a successful event possible, ONWA hired a third-party company, Jensen Group, to assist with the online registration and platform. As an Indigenous media company, Jensen’s Group set the webinar up as a more personal stage so participants could see and connect with other participants.
“It created this safe space of amazing people, where we still got to see each other and hear laughter and share stories,” Goodman says.
Allowing participants to connect with each other gave it an energy unlike other online conferences where only the speaker is seen. This allowed everyone to have a voice and be part of the event on a personal level even though it was from afar.
Building from success
Going forward, Goodman says she is going to keep focusing on what She is Wise is about, sharing stories and replenishing the bundles of community members with wise practices that will support ONWA’s efforts to build Indigenous women’s leadership and creating a safe space where they feel supported and empowered.
“We did not take any different steps to make this happen, we just did what we do. We followed our teachings of being kind people, staying true to the Seven Sacred Grandfather Teachings of love, wisdom, bravery and courage, honesty, respect, truth and humility,” Goodman says, noting the importance of traditional teachings and determination when faced with a challenge as upending as Covid-19.
As the future lies ahead, virtual conferences are a normal everyone is now used to and accepting of. As for ONWA, the platform of their teachings is just a small change when what’s most important is the creation of a safe space for women to feel connected, uplifted and empowered, no matter where they are or how they do it.