Introducing Danielle Wilson: RAVEN’s New Executive Director

Danielle Wilson is from the Masso and Frank families of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation located in Tofino and Opitsaht, also known as Meares Island. From her community, she has been given the name, Haahupcha-akswa, which means: one who listens, learns, and teaches others. True to her name, Danielle is already showing RAVEN staff how good leadership is rooted in listening. The entire RAVEN team has been energized by her arrival. Danielle’s excitement and motivation for her new role is sweeping a breath of fresh air across the organization.

Read more to learn about our inspiring new leadership and why she decided to join the RAVEN team. 

What does the day-to-day of your role at RAVEN look like? Or what do you hope it will look like as you continue to settle in?

That’s a good way to ask it, because my current day-to-day is still a lot of fact finding and orientation work, getting to know RAVEN as an organization, and then personally getting to know each of the employees. It has been a bit of internal fact finding for the first little bit, but now that I’m coming to the end of six weeks, I’m looking at the community relationships of RAVEN, such as our amazing community partners and donors. I anticipate the future of my day-to-day to look like much of what this onboarding has looked like, supporting the team individually and as a group, along with working with the board of directors, building relations with our nation partners and donors. Along with promoting RAVEN, publicly, proudly, and broadly, out into this social media world.

Danielle stands in front of the ocean looking at the camera.
Photos by Jamie-Leigh Gonzales

What drew you to work with RAVEN?

When I had my very first conversation with the recruiter, they introduced RAVEN as an organization that does fundraising for environmental justice and land and title rights for Indigenous communities. I had previously never heard of an organization that does that kind of work. Looking at it from a lens of reconciliation and true allyship, that was when the novelty and the innovation of RAVEN struck me.

Additionally, I was also looking at it from the perspective of land and title cases and environmental justice, which is near and dear to my own heart given my background in public health, environmental health, and my personal understanding of the connection of Indigenous peoples to land, air, and waters. For me, this role has also given me the opportunity to do a full cycle back to the beginning of my career, looking at how we protect the environment and maintain the integrity and the sacredness of our Indigenous communities for our future generations. All of these factors combined really drew me to this role and the RAVEN team as a whole.

Is there anything else that you are bringing to your position that  will benefit RAVEN? Whether from your career experience, or personal life experience, etc.?

Yes, definitely. I bring leadership skills, the ability to look at the mission and vision statements, and formulate the plan that will fulfill what we set out to do. As well as, just being a leader that encourages the team, staff, and donors to say, “yes, I believe in this work of RAVEN.” So I feel that’s the work and the skill I bring to the team, to create the processes, plans, and inspiration to complete the mission and vision statement, in a good way.

What does Indigenous sovereignty mean to you?  

To me, Indigenous sovereignty is having the autonomy to deconstruct the Indian Act. It is taking it apart and saying, we, as Indigenous people, self define and self determine what is a community member, who is a community member, what our resources are, how we manage and maintain our own resources, and how we determine our own leadership. 

Indigenous sovereignty is taking everything in the Indian Act, and putting it as, “thou shall not” – that shall not apply to Indigenous peoples. Indigenous sovereignty is recognizing Indigenous autonomy and ability to determine our own membership, determine our own priorities, what is our own land and territorial areas, how to manage and maintain those land and resources- because we have done that for time immemorial.

Before colonization there was no decimation of fish stocks, there was no ban on whale hunting because there were enough whales. I come from a community of whalers, so I know there was no banning because we managed our resources in an environmentally sound practice. That is what Indigenous sovereignty means, it is the autonomy for Indigenous people to decide our own fate, over our own peoples, and over our own resources and land.

What is something that makes you feel connected to the land and the water?

That’s a good question. It’s a good question in the sense that I never really have to think about it, right? I always start my day off, going close to the water, and I find myself at the end of the day, going back down to the water again. I practice this by walking my dog there every day.

So there’s an everyday-ness to this connection. I listen to the sounds of the ocean, smell and feel the ocean breeze, watch the sight of the sun coming up over the water and the mountains, this connection, it uses all your senses. This connection helps me to have a moment to ground myself to start my day. Sure, I am awake when I start walking there, but I don’t really fully awaken until I’m actually there, close to the water. That’s my grounding moment. And it’s the capstone of the day when I go back to the water. I have a routine, I look at the water on the east side in the morning, and at the end of the day, I go down to the water on the west side of my community. So that’s my connection, it starts my day and it ends my day.

I find that the ocean is non judgmental, and where I’m from, on the West Coast, we didn’t use sage for smudging, we used water for cleansing. We would have our own time and go and have a sacred bath. So that connection to the water, it is that detox that you need.

Danielle and her dog, Arlo, stand in front of the ocean

 What’s something that brings you joy?

What brings me joy? Many, many things. But if I can just give one example of something that brings me joy, it is knowing that I’ve raised three decent human beings. It’s a worry of every parent: “is my child going to be a decent person?” Having said that, they’re still young. One is still in high school, the other two are already going into college, but I can say that they are grounded, well-rounded, and kind people. When I see my children flourishing, and when I hear feedback from others, it brings me joy knowing that I have three people that are good people, and I hope that they will be good citizens of this world and continue to do kind things. It’s not only joy but it’s very peaceful knowing that they’re grounded people.

Anything else you want the RAVEN community to know or any message you want to put out?

The only thing I wanted to share is that I’m just excited about the future, and more importantly, I’m honored to be a part of this journey with the RAVEN community, partners, and staff.

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