Spotlight Interview with Secretary Jessica Ghosen
Jessica has been contributing to the Chapter in the capacity as a Director since 2019. She has been involved in many of the Chapter’s activities since birth through her mother, now Treasurer of NCNW, Valerie Ghosen. Jessica is currently working on her business, Conscious Craft, to provide art and healing in the wellness sector.
Q: What is your background and your family’s background?
A: I am Cayuga, Turtle clan, from Six Nations. My mother is Cayuga, Turtle clan, from Six Nations. My father is Seneca, Turtle clan, from Cattaraugus. Currently residing on Haudenosaunee land also known as Buffalo, NY.
Q: What are some ways you like to celebrate your Indigenous heritage?
A: I started beading as a way to celebrate and connect to culture and heritage. It is an art form that has always captivated me and has provided me with so much medicine. I feel that when wearing, or making bead work, I can embody the beauty and strength of our ancestors. Having had an interest in fashion for a large part of life, I feel a deep connection to celebrating myself and who I am through what I wear as a form of self-expression. I have also started dedicating more of my time to connecting with land and learning about medicinal plants around me in order strengthen my knowledge and love for the world around me.
Q: Who was/is an Indigenous woman that may have been significant in your life and why?
A: I’m going to have to say my mother, Valerie Ghosen. Not just because without her I wouldn’t be here today, but for all that she does, not just for her family, but also the community as well. Both her and my father worked at Native American Community Services as well as Native American Magnet School #19. I’ve heard countless stories from friends, coworkers, and colleagues about what a giving, loving, and a wonderful person she is. I am proud to be her daughter and to have always had her support in all that I do.
Q: When and how did you start volunteering or working with the Indigenous community? Why was and is it important to you?
A: Several years ago I was asked by the Buffalo Resource Center to speak about my experience as a Roller Derby athlete to the Indigenous class of graduating seniors in Western New York. It was around that time, paired with my involvement with Team Indigenous, that I truly started to understand the absolute importance of Indigenous representation in almost any capacity. I am proud to be able to speak about the accomplishments I’ve achieved so far in life and hope to inspire others to live authentically and passionately in whatever ways feel good to them. I plan to continue to find ways to volunteer and work with Indigenous communities because I think it’s important for us to come together, unite, and share.
Q: When and how did you first get involved with the Chapter?
A: My mother, Valerie, has been involved with the Chapter for my entire life from what I can remember. I have many fond memories growing up going to the holiday events the Chapter would hold as well as the times I was able to travel to Toronto to attend big gatherings, events, and workshops. I can’t recall what age I became a member but it’s been quite a bit of time and I officially joined the Board of Directors back in 2019.
Q: Why is it important for Indigenous women to have organizations like NCNW where we are governed by Indigenous women?
A: I believe organizations like NCNW are important for Indigenous women for a number of reasons. Firstly, it provides real, accurate, and necessary representation. It helps to foster a sense of safety, support, and community. It also provides services that are most pertinent and needed within our communities where other programs and services might lack due to not necessarily knowing or understanding the needs of our people.
Q: What is your most memorable accomplishment with working with NCNW?
A: I am pretty proud to have been asked to be a speaker for the annual sports fundraiser, Blockers and Attackers. This was the second time I had been asked to speak about my experience in Roller Derby and it’s always a pleasure to recall upon such wonderful memories. The event felt like a big stepping stone for me in my personal journey and I’m honored to have been asked to be apart of the event again and am hopeful this year will be even bigger and better than the last!
Q: What is your next goal?
A: Currently my goal is to find presence, as much as possible, in all that I do. I am in the process of finalizing my personal business, Conscious Craft, that encompasses my work as an artist, yoga practitioner, and healer in the wellness sector. Over the summer, I have been helping to co-facilitate a series of Full Moon Ceremonies, where I offer gentle movement and sound healing. I am also looking forward to the upcoming Blockers and Attackers event which I had also participated in last year. Additionally, I am gearing up for my second vendor show at a local event in Buffalo, New York called Buffalo Women’s Gifts and that will be hosted in late November. So my focus for the remainder of the year is geared towards each of those individual events, while finding presence so that I can maintain a sense of balance; both internally and externally, stay focused, and really feel and embody the excitement of it all.
Q: What is the most important message you would like to get across with your work and involvement with the Indigenous community?
A: Right now I am really focusing my personal life and work on finding rest and joy. I think it’s so important for us, especially during this traumatic time, to remember not just the strength that we carry with us but also to seek joy within our lives the most we can. I feel that it’s also very important for us to be kind to ourselves, our bodies, and our spirits. I’ve found that when I truly take care for myself, I am better able to serve and take care of others. I think rest is an extremely undervalued medicine that each of us not only desperately needs but also craves. I truly enjoy being able to create and offer a safe space to move, breathe, and rest because we’re all deserving of that kind of nourishment and care.
Q: What is an important lesson others can learn about the Indigenous culture and people?
A: I think it’s important for people to re-evaluate the stereotypes or ideas they might have of Indigenous people and our culture. We are still here and we’re a diverse, vast and expansive, living and breathing peoples, all across Turtle Island. If you choose to educate yourself on Indigenous history and culture of the past, don’t forget to look into what’s happening within our communities and peoples now. Follow, support, and uplift Indigenous artists, activists, story tellers, speakers, performers, musicians, chefs, land stewards, etc. There are so many beautiful things happening and coming out of communities across the country that deserve to be acknowledged for their work.
Q: In your opinion, how can someone become the best ally possible to the Indigenous community?
A: I think education is the first step. Know whose land you occupy, what tribes originally were stewards of that land, and learn about their history. Learn not just about the problematic history and issues that Indigenous people have faced and continue to face, but also understanding the impacts and outcomes of those things. There is a lot to be uncovered that hasn’t necessarily been taught in school or in history books. I think it is also important to amplify and uplift Indigenous voices of all walks of life. There are so many perspectives, knowledge, and stories to be shared that it is important for our voices to be heard, in our own words.
Q: How does the border, being a line composed by two governments, impact on your Indigenous pursuits regarding the Territory?
A: It can feel quite disconnecting and troublesome at times. To think that an imaginary line separates “us from them” and can create such an area of tension. Crossing the border always been an overwhelming, and somewhat jarring, experience for as long as I can remember. It can also be difficult to navigate the bureaucracy and politics of it all because if you don’t take the proper precautions, you may wind up detained for hours, and searched, all for just trying to make it to the Pow Wow in time for Grand Entry.
Q: What does the Indigenous community or do Indigenous women need the most from Canada at this point in time?
A: Sovereignty. Land Back. To honor Treaties. True reconciliation and not just false words or promises. To be held responsible and take ownership for their part in our traumatic and problematic history. To end the decimation and extraction of and on our lands. To have real justice and action for the Missing and Murdered.
Q: What lasting messages do you want to share with the Indigenous women in this region?
A: We have the power to shape our future. We are here today for a reason and our actions now will ripple through the next Seven Generations. It’s important for us to not just find strength and resilience within, because that has always pulsed through our veins, but it is imperative for us to find joy and happiness in our every day lives. It is important for us to find ourselves and our path toward healing. It is important for us to care for our minds, bodies, and spirits. You are important and the world needs and deserves your presence, your voice, and your gifts. Be proud of who you are, stand tall in your power, and don’t be afraid to make waves.