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Jessie Hemphill

Sa̱nala Planning is an Indigenous-owned company providing Indigenous planning and community engagement services to a variety of clients, primarily in British Columbia. We use planning and engagement to support Indigenous self-determination for the well-being of all.

Tell us about yourself?

I am an Indigenous woman (Kwakwaka’wakw and Métis) who grew up on Vancouver Island, BC. After completing a BA in linguistics and Indigenous studies, I embraced planning as a pragmatic way to help my own community (and, later on, many others) move our vision from dreams to reality. In addition to my work as a planning consultant over the last decade, I have also spent some time as an elected leader in local government, and I am a faculty member at the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

I would tell myself to really soak in the slower times and breaks – it’s been a very busy couple of years, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up the pace.

What problem does your business solve?

We help Indigenous Nations and groups and Indigenous-serving organizations and governments work together to navigate complexity and move together towards a desired future state. We do community, strategic, and other types of planning projects, as well as providing support for community engagement and communications, research and writing, and training. Our team is grounded in Indigenous values and approaches, and as a result, our projects are each unique and designed to support the self-determination and Indigenous laws of our Indigenous clients.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

A lot of Indigenous communities and individuals have incredible planning traditions and practices that have been developed over millennia, designed to help us take care of each other and the lands and waters in incredibly creative and sustainable ways. Colonization blocked many of those practices from continuing to happen and has caused incredible harm to Indigenous Peoples as well as these lands and waters. The revitalization of Indigenous planning is critical for restoring our collective well-being.

What is your magic sauce?

Sa̱nala Planning is special because we embed Indigenous values from the ground up. We believe that the way we do our work can and should be joyful and nourishing and that when we take care of each other within the company, we are able to do better work for our clients. We have a four-day flexible work-week, significant well-being supports for staff, and incorporate trauma-informed practices into our work with clients. We believe that process is more important than product (though we’re very proud of the work we produce!) and put a lot of energy into relationship-building with clients. As CEO, I might be biased, but I also think we have the most amazing, creative, kind-hearted team around, and I often hear from folks that they really enjoy working with us, even when the work itself is tricky.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

In the next five years, I hope we continue to grow slowly and steadily while building the skills of our team and continuing to refine our internal systems. I would also love to see us develop some toolkits and resources for folks that are easily accessible from the website and maybe take on some national and international projects that get our team out into the wider world.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Supporting our team’s wellbeing through the COVID-19 pandemic was a big challenge – we had to get really good really fast at using digital tools to connect and collaborate. Another big challenge has been the growth of the size of our team while trying to maintain strong personal connections and consistency in our work. We’ve learned a lot about communication, collaboration, and project management.

How can people get involved?

Folks hoping to work with us can reach us at our website, You can also follow us on social media – Sa̱nala Planning on Facebook and @sanalaplanning on Instagram.