The WLC is pleased to welcome Shauna Johnson to the team!
Learn more about Shauna and how her expertise and training will help fulfill the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council’s mandate. Click play to view the short interview, or read the transcript below.
Shauna: My name is Shauna Johnson and my mother is Roberta Pelkey from the Tsawout First Nation. My father is Terry Johnson from the LaxKwala’ams Indian band. I’ve mostly grown up in the Tsawout reserve. My role at the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council is a Marine use planner, I just started October seventh.
Interviewer: Can you tell us what you did before October seventh, in terms of your career?
Shauna: Sure. My last position was with the Firelight group and I was an Indigenous community planner. That was my title and I did a lot of land use planning. Prior to that, for about a year after I graduated, I was with RELAW (Revitalizing Indigenous Law) working as a contractor through the Tsawout First Nation. And for that project it was very specific and focused. It was focused on revitalizing Indigenous law, using creation stories. And my part in it was going through all of the stories and articulating mostly natural law related to a very focused research question on marine issues. Our question was “how are we going to protect the marine environment?” Because there was a lot of … well the main issue at the time was Kinder Morgan going through all of our waterways, and as W̱SÁNEĆ people that’s like most half of our territory. Through that process we did a lot of community engagement and that, is where the planning part comes in. We did very focused sessions on articulating those laws and deliberating what those meant. It was a very community based, community driven process.
Interviewer: Wow. Can you tell us what kind of training and education you bring to the table?
Shauna: Yeah, sure. I originally started doing a technical diploma at Camosun college. I have a diploma in environmental technology. I did that for a couple of years and I worked in the field as an environmental technologist, mostly with a consulting company. After that, I felt like I was doing some of the work that people who had degrees were doing. So I’m like, “I might as well go back and get my degree.” So I went back to Royal Roads University and I did my bachelor degree in environmental science and I completed that in 2009. I ended up working a couple more years after that. But what I felt was missing at the time was that I really wanted to come back and use my skills at home.
I was fortunate to be able to do that working with the Tsawout First Nation. I was the environmental technologist there for two and half years. I originally started doing traditional use youth studies, and that was a very different position than what I thought I would end up doing, but it got me in. I was able to interview elders and they were talking about how they use the waters and the land and telling me stories about our history and all of the place names and places where they harvested and used on a regular basis. And that was a position for about six months. Then the Tsawout lands department saw my credentials and saw that I was also Tsawout and asked if I would join the Land’s team. So I worked for them as the environmental technologist for two years after that.
Shauna: Then I got to the point in my career where I felt that I could do more. So I decided to go back to school again for my master’s, and it was almost like I was doing planning already at the time. I just didn’t have the right tools in my skill set, or even knew what I was really doing, in terms of planning work, I should say. But yeah, so I went to the University of BC. It’s a two year master’s program called Indigenous community planning. I graduated from that program in 2016. Actually, I’m now working there as an adjunct professor. That title itself is kind of weird too, because mostly what I do is mentoring. In my second year, instead of a master’s thesis, we do a practicum. For eight months we went to Tla’amin Nation up in Powell River, right in the middle of ratifying their treaties, So they were becoming a treaty nation in that year.
So everything that they are planning was focused around supporting that. They were really excited about knowing what the youth wanted, looking forward to treaty, how did the youth envision their future. So we did a lot of youth engagement. That was our main focus of my practicum. So now that there are more students going through this program, a lot of them are Indigenous, which is great. I’m mentoring a pair of students just like myself, going through that program. But I’m mentoring them one-on-one. So we’re going up to with Stellat’en atin First Nation, for example, this year. And I was also supporting the students last year through that program with the same community and now it’s my second year. So I’m very excited about that too.
Interviewer: Wow, impressive to say the least. What are you going to be working on at the WLC?
Shauna: Yeah. Well, we were going through my job description last week and finalizing my title. And so, Marine use planning. The original job description was a Marine Issues Analyst and Outreach Coordinator, which I was like, “Whoa, that’s a mouthful. How am I supposed to say that all the time to people?” So I was like, “As a planner, you generally wear a lot of hats anyway. You wear the hat of sometimes negotiating or advocating or communicating things to community members or educating, and then you also facilitate and engage people and there’s all these different hats.” So I was like, “Marine Use Planner just seems like it fits underneath all of that, of looking at Marine use issues that affect the nations together. “
Especially reaching out to community members and asking, “What do you think are the issues that you’re most concerned about? What matters most to you?” And bringing that back to the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council and helping them make a plan to address these issues in the future. So looking forward, we were talking about the possibility of doing a Marine Use Plan, which I’m very excited about. I’ve done a Marine use plan before in the past working with Firelight, or at least on the start of it. Also really looking about looking at how we can get our people out on the waters doing monitoring, doing research in the marine environment. Hopefully being the Indigenous guardians, hopefully, out there. The eyes and ears on the water. I think that’s kind of it. Everything in a nutshell for what I’ll be doing. I’m very excited about it. It’s really good to be home and to working for the W̱SÁNEĆ people in this way again and being able to use skills as well. So yeah, I’ve got three years, I guess, in this position so far, and hopefully this may end up growing into something bigger.
Interviewer: So when you’re not doing all of the things that you do professionally, which is quite a lot, what do you do outside work or to relax or to enjoy yourself?
Shauna: Sometimes I like to bead. In my family we do Cedar bark weaving, so sometimes I like to do that. Most of the time I just like to be outside and go for a walk with my dog. I really like to go to movies, or sometimes just read a book at home, and yeah, just relax.