Do you want to make progress in Indigenous reconciliation?
If you’re a non-Indigenous Canadian, there are many wonderful ways that you can make a difference in Reconciliation with Indigenous people.
Reconciliation with Indigenous people as a non-Indigenous person can be a complex journey to begin and in no way is it smooth sailing.
There are a lot of ups and downs and ways that you can become overwhelmed or discouraged along the way.
Even if you have the best of intentions as a non-Indigenous person, there are things that you can do that will disrupt your progress, or deter you from experiencing success in learning, connecting and reconciling with indigenous peoples & communities.
To avoid these mistakes, here are 10 things to stop doing in order to make progress in Indigenous reconciliation.
1. FOCUSING on the negative news [AKA the loudest, angriest voices in the room]
What this means is paying too much attention to negative news surrounding Indigenous people, Indigenous communities, racism and injustices toward Indigenous people.
I know the loudest and angriest, negative messages are always the ones that stand out the loudest!
Why you should stop FOCUSING on the negative news for reconciliation is because negativity is going to get you in a negative mindset pattern.
It can get overwhelming and it can make you feel discouraged to continue learning or to even get started in your reconciliation efforts because it will feel too uncomfortable, or feel like its a mountain to climb with no positive outcome
What to do instead - Focus on the positive stories and progress happening in Indigenous communities, positive reconciliation stories.
This will help you have positive associations and feel more invested in Indigenous reconciliation if you are focussing on those positive impacts & empowering progress that you can make as a non-Indigenous person supporting Indigenous reconciliation.
2. Relying on Someone else to make Progress in Reconciliation
What this means is, waiting for people in government, or social organizations, or people in your organization to Make Indigenous reconciliation happen
WHY you should stop this is putting the responsibility on someone else to make progress when in reality you as an individual can take the initiative to begin learning about Indigenous culture history all on your own which will absolutely cause a chain reaction to people in your life including large organizations that can make radical change.
Instead of relying on someone else to make progress in reconciliation, what to do instead is find areas of Indigenous culture that are genuinely interesting to you.
You don't need to become a history expert on all of the truth as long as you know the general facts of what happened that is enough.
An important way to support reconciliation is to know the truth & honor past & present and making Indigenous people culture and communities relevant and celebrated today.
3. LISTENING to gatekeepers
Listening to Gatekeepers means paying attention to the negative voices that are setting rules and restrictions for participating in anything Indigenous culturally related.
Gatekeepers can be Indigenous people or not Indigenous people who have these strict strict rules for who can and cannot learn practice cultural, or have any involvement in anything Indigenous.
WHY you should stop listening to Gatekeepers is because Gatekeepers are particularly gatekeeping because they are allowing the generational trauma that was passed down to them that affect their life today so much to the point that they feel the need to screen out people, because they think they’re “protecting it” to only those who fit a specific criteria.
What to do instead is simply Don't pay any attention to them
4. AVOIDING learning because it's dark and uncomfortable
Procrastinating or choosing not to learn about the true events that occurred in the history of Canada with Indigenous people because it is very negative &dark.
Why you should stop avoiding learning about Indigenous Canada is because avoiding important topics is not going to get you anywhere in life.
The only exception to this might be young children who are not emotionally intelligent enough to process the information but anyone High School or older avoiding learning Indigenous history in Canada is not really excusable.
What to do instead is acknowledge that it is dark and uncomfortable but that's okay because life is not all butterflies and rainbows and being aware of the truth is powerful and allows you to not be ignorant. It allows you to be knowledgeable when you have interactions with Indigenous people in the future or non-Indigenous Allies who might really care if you are knowledgeable of it.
5. NEGLECTING your own cultural heritage
By neglecting your own cultural heritage I mean having no reflection or awareness or appreciation for your own cultural background, & wherever you came from before your family immigrated to Canada or settled in Canada
What this can look like is adopting the Canadian cultural heritage as your own which is okay but you might want to stop doing this for a second if you want to make progress in reconciliation with Indigenous people.
Why you should stop neglecting your own cultural heritage if you want to make progress in reconciliation with Indigenous people is because Indigenous people will appreciate and connect with you better if you share “YOUR” Indigenous culture with them wherever it is that your ancestors originated from.
It's something that they can relate to more than just leaning into your settler identity.
In a way by identifying with your cultural background that your ancestors possessed prior to immigrating to Canada you are identifying with your identity that comes across more deep rooted in a way that is more relatable to Indigenous people.
What to do to accomplish this is ask your parents Grandparents about your families background, and traditions that were very important to them.
This Learning Journey is one that will naturally allow you to explore reconciliation in an authentic way and take action with Reconciliation in a genuine way.
6. RESISTING the true history of Canada
What I mean by resisting the true history of Canada is being in the state of disbelief or denial that these truths that have been discovered couldn’t be real, that the research and stories are false, or questioning why these Indigenous issues and conversations have become more relevant in the last few years.
It is really common for non-Indigenous Canadians to resist the true history of Canada, this is because when we're growing up we are supposed to trust teachers and Educators. They have our education in our future in their hands with what they share with us and what they teach us and they have a due diligence to teach us the right things and to try their best to set us on the right path for our lives.
Why you should stop resisting the true history of Canada is because you're likely insulting a lot of people in your life non-Indigenous or Indigenous by denying the truth, or not taking action in learning about the truth and the importance of reconciliation.
What to do instead resisting or being in denial or questioning is to accept and learn because learning more about it will help you understand.
So stop RESISTING the true history of Canada.
7. OPTING-OUT of learning because you have friends who are Indigenous
If you have family or friends who are Indigenous, it doesn't mean that you have a free pass out of reconciliation and you don't need to learn about the true history.
WHY should you stop OPTING-OUT of learning?
Indigenous reconciliation is very personal, including for those who are non-Indigenous Canadians. The process of learning about these events that took place in a nation that you call home can have personal effects on you that are unique to you as an individual.
Especially if you have friends and family who are Indigenous, discovering some of the truth of Indigenous Canada can make you feel and even larger amount of shame or guilt surrounding what took place that you might even receive from your family or friends who are Indigenous.
Learning about the true history and learning about ways of taking action as a non-Indigenous person and how you can support people that are close to you who are of Indigenous background is really important and knowledge can support you in your interactions with those people that are likely really important in your life.
What to do instead is learn on your own as an individual and reflect on what you've learned and how it affects you personally because conversations that you might have with your family and friends can be very intimate so equip yourself with knowledge so that you can be better prepared for those deep conversations with people that really matter to you in your personal support circle.
So if you have Indigenous friends or family - stop thinking that learning or reconciliation isn't needed for you because it is.
8. ASSUMING all Indigenous people are offended by things
What this means is believing or making blanket statements such as:
- All Indigenous people are offended by Native American logos, or headdress apparel, or cultural appropriation or
- All Indigenous people are offended by the term Pow Wow to describe a meeting
- All indigenous people are offended by the term Indian
Why you should stop is because it's incorrect. Making blanket statements is generalizing and yes some Indigenous people are assumed by some of these things but there are a lot of Indigenous people who are not personally offended by certain logos or sayings or names or ways of addressing them.
Stop ASSUMING all Indigenous people are offended by things because Indigenous people as a whole has many many subcultures with hundreds of Nations and tribes so our beliefs, values, teachings are unique and different.
Another reason you should stop assuming is because it will naturally make you feel really defensive and won't interact with Indigenous people at all or immediately think that you can't ask "Hey is this defensive or not I'm just trying to learn".
What to do instead is FIRST get to know the Indigenous individual or individuals Community or indigenous group or Indigenous organization that you are interacting with get to know them.
Instead of assuming all Indigenous people are offended by things, share your intention for learning and that you do not want to be defensive and that you come from a place of respect and then try to gauge their situation their comfort level and use your best judgement to ask if a certain something is effective to them personally or not.
9. ASKING: How Can I help?
What this means is asking how can I help you as an Indigenous person?
This is actually happened many times in the past and non-Indigenous person being apologetic and asking what they can do to help with the pain and the wrongdoings.
Why you should stop asking the question specifically worded like how can I help is it is because it implies that we NEEED help.
There are so many Indigenous people who have no desire for reconciliation because they're still holding on to the pain and trauma, or they're not ready to heal yet, or they are trying to heal but it's just very difficult thing to do. So, asking someone (or even a community or group of people) who are in their process of healing what you can do to help, a lot of times it's just best to leave them alone until they're ready to talk or ready to connect in some way..
What you want to do instead is ask yourself:
- Why you want to reconcile with Indigenous peoples?
- What is Meaningful to you? Why are you passionate about the things that you are passionate about?
- After you have learned about the truth of Indigenous people in Canada, what does it mean to you, how do you feel, why is it relevant to you?
- Why are your intentions to support Indigenous people in Truth and Reconciliation intentions that they are?
I talked a lot about setting focus and clear intentions whether you're not Indigenous person wanting to become an Indigenous Ally or if you are an Indigenous person wanting to reconnect with your cultural identity, clear intentions are so important and it comes with asking yourself “why” questions instead of “how’ questions.
10. FEELING personal shame for the countries wrongs-doings
What this means is taking personal responsibility for the decisions that Indigenous Canada's leaders made, laws that they created.
The Canadian government and the Catholic Church created Indigenous residential schools and Canadian government created the Indian Act to eradicate or destroy Indigenous culture, language , ways of knowing, and traditional ways of life.
Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians have a responsibility to educate themselves on the truth of Indigenous history and also to make an effort in their actions towards reconciliation.
Feeling shame is natural and it shows that you have a high level of empathy which is amazing and necessary for reconciliation to take place however it's not going to be helpful to live in those feelings of shame because shame is a very negative mindset to have which isn't going to serve you well in your Truth and Reconciliation efforts.
Another reason why you don't want to be living with feelings of shame is because you might come across Gatekeepers who will leverage your feelings to blame you and manipulate you into thinking you should’t learn about Indigenous culture or take part in Indigenous cultural practices
If you're someone who feels deep personal shame for the countries wrongdoing, you should try to stop feeling responsible because you're not.
What to do instead is FOCUS on your current responsibility to educate yourself on the truth of Indigenous history and prioritize your actions towards supporting others to become Indigenous allies for truth and reconciliation.