How to be an Ally to Indigenous People
By Avreet Jagdev
What is Allyship?
Allyship is a word which means building relationships with marginalized communities to help support and advocate for them. Marginalized groups are those that may have fewer privileges and be discriminated against for factors such as their race, culture, religion, gender, class, sexual orientation, or disability.
Why is it important?
It is important to be an ally because it means you have an active role in working with people from disadvantaged communities towards their goals of justice and equity. In other words, you get to be a part of the solution and help make the world a better place for communities that face mistreatment, just because of the identities they encompass.
Allyship & Indigenous communities
In Canada, our Indigenous communities have a long history of mistreatment and abuse. Indigenous people were the first to live here, but European settlers who wanted ownership over Canadian land caused their communities to face many adversities, including forced assimilation through the Indian Act and residential school system, as well as physical harm to their communities, such as through the physical removal of their people so that the Canadian Pacific Railway could be built.
To this day, Canada’s Indigenous peoples face many inequalities including lack of access to safe drinking water, and ongoing struggles for justice for communities such as Grassy Narrows, an Indigenous reserve in Ontario which has faced many injustices such as mercury contamination and clearcutting of their forests. These ongoing problems highlight why it’s important to support and be allies of Indigenous communities. There’s a lot of work to do to make things right.
How to be an Ally to Indigenous communities
- Listen genuinely and seek to understand.
It is important for allies to educate themselves about the experiences and challenges that Indigenous communities face. In addition to educating yourself about current issues, it is important to learn about the historical context of their oppression as well. The issues that Indigenous communities currently face are the result of a history of trauma and discrimination.
- Show up
A big part of being an ally is taking action. This can be done by showing up to events and actions, signing petitions, donating, volunteering, or lobbying as an act of your solidarity and allyship. This may also involve speaking out against discrimination and amplifying the voices of Indigenous peoples.
- Being open to feedback
Learning is not a one-time thing, but an ongoing process that never ends! This is why it is important for allies to continually listen and be open to feedback. Making mistakes is okay, but it’s important to learn from and grow from them. Being a long-term ally means continually learning about what is going on, and what can be done.
- Centering Indigenous voices
A key aspect of allyship is recognizing and prioritizing the perspectives and leadership of communities you are an ally of. To be a strong ally with Indigenous communities, it’s important to center their voices and perspectives when it comes to issues that they face.