Jennifer Varenchik (she/her) is a writer, director, and public speaker who graduated from Carondelet in 1989. She was adopted at 12 weeks old and grew up in Danville, CA. In honor of Indigenous Peoples Month, Jennifer spoke with freshmen and sophomore classes to share her experiences as a Native American woman and how she “found her authentic self.”
Jennifer grew up not knowing her Native American background. “I learned about my culture through books my parents gave me,” she said. “I knew I looked different from the rest of my family, my classmates, and others in my hometown, but I did my best to fit in.”
She explained that she worked hard, getting involved in everything high school had to offer her, from leadership and clubs to sports. “I made connections with my teachers who are so loving and compassionate about their role in making us strong, independent thinking women,” Jennifer said.
Now as a writer and director, she works to create roles and stories that provide accurate depictions of indigenous people on screen. She was inspired after moving to LA which has one of the largest urban Native American populations in the US, and working as a youth coordinator for the Native American after-school program. “It was an eye-opening experience and I worked there for five years. I got to know the community and their families and it was the beginning of my journey to discover my roots.”
Jennifer is a proud member of the Tohono O’odham Nation of Arizona (toe-ho-no aught-tum) and has written and directed eight short films to date. Her work has screened at the Portland Horror Film Festival, Indigenous Film Summit (Canada), Copa Shorts (Arizona), and her horror short “Crossers” (2019) was nominated for “Best Scare” by the Independent Horror Movie Awards.
Her latest work In Our Own Hands depicts the story of a group of Native American women who take matters in their own hands when a woman goes missing from their reservation. Jennifer said, “As an Indigenous woman, this conversation is common (i.e., women that have gone missing), but outside the Native American community it is not known, and I didn’t realize this until I started pitching this film.” In Our Own Hands has won the Gold Award at the Mindfield Film Festival in Albuquerque, NM, and was nominated for best short film at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco and the Los Angeles Skins Fest in Hollywood, CA.
“I am hoping In Our Own Hands will become a full feature film and show the injustice of this event and the strength of indigenous women living on reservations,” Jennifer said. “Staying grounded in my work is important to me as I continue writing stories that support my community and bringing awareness to the larger world.”