Do you want to make friends with Indigenous people?
If you’re someone who’s wanting to connect and build relationships with Indigenous people who are either already in your life, new to your life, or you’ve known them for a while but you want to get to know them more - then this is for you!
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In this article I’ll be talking about the 5 most important strategies to help you make friends with Indigenous people, build connections and support Indigenous people who are already in your life or will be in the future!
If you’re wanting to make friends with Indigenous people, or at least talk to us, maybe build a connection through starting an initial conversation - you’ve probably asked yourself one of these questions:
- Where do you start? How do you go about initiating a conversation?
- How will I know someone is Indigenous before I begin talking to them?
- How do i address them appropriately and respectfully?
- Should I just go to an Indigenous ceremony? Or pow wow or event?
- What if I’m not allowed to be there?
- How can I make sure I don’t offend an elder or Indigenous people in general
- How do I know if things are open to non-indigneous people or not.
It definitely sucks not knowing the answers to these questions - so my goal is you will be able to cross those questions off the list and you’ll be ready and 100% confident to build some amazing relationships with Indigenous people.
I’ve put together 5 of the most important strategies to make friends with Indigenous people, and I’ve ranked and ordered them from #5 to the top #1 strategy that I feel is the most important, most effective way to make significant progress in your relationships with indigeneous people.
The 5th Strategy for Making friends with Indigenous people is to understand the difference between someone who has friends who are Indigenous, and being an Indigneous “ally”
Recently I was searching on quora, and typed in “What is the difference between allies and friends?”
And I absolutely love this response that someone gave:
“Friends help and support you whenever you are down , and whenever you want to achieve something. They don't expect anything from your success.
Allies are anyone who supports you to achieve something for mutual benefit. They help you because working with you helps them achieve what they want.After achieving what they want they may or may not support you again.
Friends are people united by bond, Allies are people united by a common cause.“
So this means that:
Being a ‘friend’ to Indigenous people means your aim is to support them as an individual and have their back no matter what.
Being an ‘ally’ to indigenos people means one of your goals should be to support overall truth & reconciliation for Indigenous people & communities as a whole.
If you’re unfamiliar with what an Indigenous ally is, and how to become one you can read this article about How to Become an Indigenous Ally
You can even find out exactly “Am I an Indigneous Ally”? by answering 7 quick questions to find out what type of ally you are and get exact supports on what to do to be an even better ally for Indigeous people & communities.
So now you know the 5th strategy for Making friends with Indigenous people is to know the difference between being a friend to those who are Indigenous, and being an Indigneous “ally” which brings us to the next strategy on our list -
The 4th Strategy for Making friends with Indigenous people is to be self-aware of when it’s more appropriate to be someone's friend, or to be an indigneous “ally”
What this means is knowing the difference between when to be someone’s friend first, or an ally first.
This requires us to look deeper into the difference between being a friend and an ally to Indigenous people.
Friendship with Indigneous people, and allyship are two different things but they’re not mutually exclusive meaning that you can be both a friend and ally in different situations.
In the same sense you can be an indgenous ally but not really have an indigenous friends yet, and you can have friends who are Indigenous, but you’re not really an ally.
If you already have Indigenous people in your life, sometimes youre liekly wearing the ‘Friend’ hat, and other times you’re wearing the ‘ally’ hat.
What this means is that it's important to be able to judge the situation using your experience with the person, your personal values, and your priorities, and your intuition to know when to be a friend or ally.
To help you with this a little more, I’ll give you a little example:
- Let’s say an Indigenous person in your life is struggling with their own identity, and feeling not Indigenous enough.. To deal with this maybe they putting down other backgrounds & ethnicities in your presence.
- A friend might support them in this, where as an ally would maybe try help them appreciate other backgrounds and ethnicities as that's super important for truth, reconciliation, and healing generational trauma for Indigenous peoples.
So that is what I mean by being self-aware of when it’s appropriate to be someone's friend, or to be an indigneous “ally”, and using your judgment on that,
The 3rd Strategy for Making friends with Indigenous people is to not only learn about Indigenous culture, but lean into your own background, and culture so that you can appreciate where you come from, and identify whatever similarities & differences of your background to that of your new Indigenous friends
What this means is start by learning about your own heritage, and cultural background, what is significant to you, and what is it about your personal heritage that you want to explore more.
This will really help you when making friends with Indigenous people because you will have something to share about yourself. If your parent were born in Canada, don’t just say I’m Canadian, my culture is maple syrup… please don’t . Look into where your ancestry is from prior to your parents or grandparent coming to Canada, and what there original background is.
It will open up the person that you’re talking to so that they will feel comfortable to share about themselves too!
If you want Indigenous people in your life to reflect on their history and culture, in order to share it with you, (as an ally, or a friend) you have to meet them halfway and do the same thing by reflecting on your background as well.
Doing this will naturally allow Indigenous people to emerge in your life. You don’t want to just go seeking them out, because you can’t always recognize when a person is indigneous or not.
All identity is complex especially Indigenous people’s identity with the history within Canada specifically.
The 2nd Strategy for Making friends with Indigenous people is to understand the timeline of the Truth & Reconciliation, Resiliency Model - How it affects Indigenous People & Allies
Truth and reconciliation is a very important topic when its comes to Indigenous people.
It's really hard to be an Indigenous ally if you have no knowledge of truth & reconciliation. Truth & Reconciliation is really the starting point to becoming an ally. The foundation, if you will.
However, it's quite easy to have Indigenous friends and not understand Truth & Reconciliation at all.
We've got tons of articles on truth & reconciliation, and if you want to learn more about those, you can read this article on Truth & Reconciliation as I think you’ll find it really helpful.
The timeline that I’m talking about with the truth, reconciliation, & resilience model is once we’ve created at Tribal Trade Co, to help illustrate the stages of learning about the truth of the history of Canada & Indigenous peoples, reconciling those relationships as has been ordered for all canadians to do by the government of Canada.
I have a full workshop on the truth & reconciliation model and how to use it specifically for allies in the Becoming an Indigneous Ally training
The 1st Strategy for making friends with Indigenous people is to share your genuine intention with whoever your speaking with, and put it out into the world as you will attract exactly whatever energy you’re putting out there
Ask yourself why you want to have friends who are Indigenous? Or improve the relationships with the Indigenous people in your life already?
If being an ally speaks to you more, what do you want to achieve in that?
Are you wanting to build relationships with Indigenous people because your curious of the culture?
Are you focused on being an Indigenous ally because you have clients, or employees or some other kind of professional stakeholder?
Whatever your intentions are, its ok, but they need to be honest, and come from a genuine place.
Once you’re clear on your intentions, share them with friends and family that you respect, and see what their response is, if it makes sense to them. This will give you the opportunity to reflect on your own ideas and perspectives.