Aboriginal specific strategies
Here are a few strategies that are specific to Aboriginal allyship:
1. Recognized that Aboriginal people have survived war, disease, the residential school system, colonialism, ongoing institutional racism, and attempts at cultural genocide. Aboriginal people are not ‘weak’ or ‘inferior.’ If anything, they have proven how strong and resilient they actually are. Don’t mistake ‘functioning in pain’ for ‘Dysfunctional’ when you see an Aboriginal person facing challenges. But even if a people were ‘weak,’ ask yourself, “Who am I?” “Am I a person who kicks a person when they’re down? Do I walk on by? Or do I extend a hand?”
2. 'Aboriginal' is an umbrella term. Recognize that Aboriginal people are not all the same. There are 6 distinct Aboriginal groups in this province. There are over 600 sovereign Aboriginal Nations in Canada. Recognize and acknowledge diversity.
3. ‘Aboriginal’ is only one part of a person’s identity, and each Aboriginal person will subscribe to their own culture, heritage, ethnicity, ancestry, nationality, etc. to differing degrees.
4. Recognize that one Aboriginal person cannot speak for all Aboriginal people. It is inappropriate to ask an Aboriginal person to interpret the history, actions, language, etc., of another Aboriginal person even if they share an affiliation (remember, there are over 600 distinct nations in Canada). It is not one person’s responsibility to fill in the gaps in another’s learning. Please do not single out Aboriginal learners. We must take responsibility for our own inexperience.
5. Think of Aboriginal knowledge as being under copy write. Just because something was shared with you doesn’t mean that you were given permission to share it with others. People have been appropriating and bastardizing Aboriginal knowledge for centuries, and it has jeopardized the integrity of the knowledge. As a consequence, Aboriginal knowledge keepers have become reluctant to share.
6. Aboriginal people do not look like the mascot for a baseball team. Do not assume that Aboriginal people can be identified by a common physical characteristic. “You don’t look Aboriginal” is a demeaning statement.
7. Aboriginal people do not need others to speak for them. They more likely need people to listen more often and be less dismissive. Many Aboriginal groups/people have been reluctant to name allies, as many ‘allies’ in the past have attempted to forward their own agenda under the guise of advocacy. Aboriginal people do sometimes seek legal representation for example, as Aboriginal people have had to fight for their rights within the confines of Western systems. But this is not an example of allyship.
8. Remember that there has been centuries of mistrust in the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. There is no quick fix and people shouldn’t be told to “just get over it.” To do so would to be to identify the parameters of a very limited understanding.
9. Remember that empathy is more useful than sympathy. The goal of allyship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples is not to create guilt, fear, or obligation among non-Aboriginal people. It is to exercise responsibility, act against social injustice, and commit to the notions that oppression has no place in our future and that we all have a role to play so that childhood, schooling, or occupational pursuits are not experiences that anyone has to recover from.