Fostering Allyship to Indigenous...

Fostering Allyship to Indigenous Communities: Driving Change

by Elora Pharai
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

In recent years, the tragic history regarding the horrors behind the systematic discrimination of Canada’s Indigenous communities has come to light in mainstream media. In 2021, the devastating news of over 200 remains of children in unmarked graves being discovered at Kamloops Residential School shocked the world (Dickson & Watson, 2021). And even more residential school sites are being investigated today with 66 more potential graves found at St. Joseph’s Mission School in British Columbia (CBC News). The harrowing discoveries sparked candle vigils around Canada and even a visit from Pope Francis himself. Most notably, it also spawned Truth and Reconciliation Day (also known as Orange Shirt Day).

Taking place every year on September 30th, the holiday is meant to acknowledge the mass devastation that has been inflicted upon Indigenous communities. It is a day in which all Canadians commit themselves to act against the discrimination that Indigenous people continue to face on a daily basis. However, this should not be limited to just one day. We should all strive to be allies to Indigenous people all around the world every day. Establishing Truth and Reconciliation Day has indeed brought more awareness towards educating people about the residential school system and the government’s role in the operation of them. That said, it has yet to bring more attention to many of the other obstacles Indigenous people are dealing with.

For instance, the mental health and housing crises on reserves. According to Statistics Canada, the suicide rate for First Nations people in Saskatchewan is four times higher than that of the national average (Stefanovich, 2021). There is also the fact that despite Canada being a first world country, most reservations do not have access to clean water. This has subjected many communities to health concerns like skin problems such as sores, rashes and eczema, birth defects, and gastrointestinal illnesses (Goldfinger, 2021).

These are just a few of the systemic barriers they continue to grapple with every day. This is why your allyship is so important. When it comes to issues like these, they can feel far away; we can feel like nothing we do makes a difference. But this is not true, being an ally to Indigenous communities is what can raise awareness and educate people. And with education and awareness comes a change for a better future.

So, what can you do? Read below for tips!

Learn Your History

To be an ally to Indigenous communities, it is important that you know what you are fighting for. Therefore, I would recommend doing some reading about the history of Indigenous people in Canada. While it is important to make sure that you read about all the systematic discrimination they have faced ever since the settlers came to Canada, don’t just read about the tragic side of things. Take some time to research the history of Indigenous culture and traditions. What were they like before the settlers came to Canada? How did everyone play a role in the community? It is important to remember that their history is not just one of tragedy, it is also one of great beauty and diversity.

Learn about the Indigenous Communities Where You Live

I am sure you’ve noticed the Land Acknowledgements at the beginning of morning announcements and meetings at your school. But have you ever taken the time to learn about those communities? It is important to know whose land you’re living on. There are so many different communities to learn about: the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Moose Cree First Nation, the Attawapiskat First Nation. There is so much to learn about! I have linked a website where you can learn more about Indigenous communities and where they live in Canada.

Diversify Your Media Intake

The media that you consume is an avid teacher in your life. We can learn a lot from the characters and people that we watch on TV because they show us so many different perspectives. As such, what you choose to entertain yourself with can teach you a great deal. A personal recommendation of mine is Sterlin Harjo’s Reservation Dogs. The show is dominated by Indigenous actors and producers and it addresses the mental health crisis faced by Indigenous youth.

I also know many of us spend way too much time on our phones. Hence, I would also recommend supporting Indigenous content creators on platforms such as Instagram. There are so many out there such as James Jones (@notoriouscree), Michelle Chubb (indigenous_baddie) and Tia Wood (tiamischik). A lot of these content creators are dedicated not only to educating people about the obstacles facing Indigenous communities, but also on Indigenous culture and its traditions. I recommend supporting Indigenous music groups. A personal favorite is Young Spirit, a Cree drum group.


Map of First Nations on Government of Canada Website:

Map of Canada


Follow Indigenous Content Creators:

@notoriouscree @indigenous_baddie @tiamiscihk


Works Cited

CBC News. “66 more potential burial sites discovered at former B.C. residential school.” CBC News, 25 January 2023, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/williams-lake-st-josephs-residential-school-1.6724370 Accessed 25 November 2023.

Dickson, C., & Bridgette Watson. “Remains of 215 children found buried at former B.C. residential school, First Nation says.” CBC News, 28 May 2021, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/tk-eml%C3%BAps-te-secw%C3%A9pemc-215-children-former-kamloops-indian-residential-school-1.6043778. Accessed 25 November 2023.

Goldfinger, Daina. “‘An ongoing symbol of colonization’: How bad water affects First Nations’ health.” Global News, 30 September 2021, https://globalnews.ca/news/8199988/first-nations-water-crisis-health-effects/.  Accessed 25 November 2023.

Myer, K., & Kaitlin Grable. “Honor With Action: 10 Ways to be an Ally to Indigenous Peoples.” GreenPeace, 8 October 2021, https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/10-ways-to-be-ally-indigenous-peoples/. Accessed 25 November 2023.

Stefanovich, Olivia. “‘We don’t want any more tears’: First Nations urge Ottawa to boost mental health spending.” CBC News, 17 April 2021, https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/indigenous-mental-health-resources-federal-budget-2021-1.5989070. Accessed 25 November 2023.

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