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Allying with Aboriginal Communities - 2013 Vibrant Community Speaker Series
 

Allying with Aboriginal Communities - 2013 Vibrant Community Speaker Series

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June 25th 2013 Caylie Gynra presented on "Allying with Aboriginal Communities" This was part of Urban Systems Vibrant Communities Speaker Series in Edmonton. ...

June 25th 2013 Caylie Gynra presented on "Allying with Aboriginal Communities" This was part of Urban Systems Vibrant Communities Speaker Series in Edmonton.

How can we engage with indigenous individuals in our communities? Caylie Gnyra is passionate about language and its impact on healthy, vibrant communities. While pursuing a Native Studies degree at the University of Alberta, she was inspired by a class assignment to write a series of Cree language children’s books. The Little Cree Books are written using Alberta Education’s Cree Language curricular guidelines, and are a response to the limited availability of levelled books suitable for early Cree readers. Caylie’s experience writing these books and her subsequent projects have led her to reflect on the ways that both indigenous and non-indigenous people can foster healthy relationships with First Nations communities. Drawing on academic theory as well as her own successes and failures working with indigenous communities and organizations, she will present sixteen actions that professionals can take to ally with Aboriginal community members.

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  • Each guideline is summarized in one sentence, and then described in more detail. Finally, each suggestion includes one or two examples of “what this might look like.” Notably, this is not a list of protocols, since protocols are specific to each nation and community, and will vary. Furthermore, this is not an all-encompassing “formulaic model” (Harrison 2005, 210) that will ensure successful and equal partnerships. Instead, it serves as a reference for museum professionals, museum studies students, and even individuals outside of the museum profession, who want to work respectfully and appropriately—and avoid paternal or colonial engagements—with Aboriginal community members.This presentation is intended to be used in the space between legislation and personal commitments.
  • The terms “Aboriginal” and “Indigenous” can be misleading: they “lump First Nations, Métis, and Inuit together into one category as though their political, linguistic, economic, governance, etc. issues were the same” (Atkinson 2010, 19). Even the term “First Nations” implies a higher degree of homogeneity across these nations than actually exists. It is important for allies to remember that there are both major and nuanced differences between various First Nations, Métis, and Inuit nations and communities (Harrison 2005). The histories of education policies and practices, land claims, anthropological research, and countless other issues vary drastically across this large continent, and those differences are compounded further by the cultural, geographic, and linguistic differences that already existed between Aboriginal nations and communities prior to European contact. Keep in mind that the protocols, work, and methods that are useful in one nation, band, or organization may not be appropriate fits for others.
  • Over the past five years, it seems that the catch-all answer to problems involved in research and museum exhibitions is “involve the community!” or “community consultation!” or “community curation!” However, careful consideration of the concept of “community” reveals that “communities” are shifting and dynamic, and are not easily bounded or defined. Those chosen to represent the “community”—whether by outsiders or insiders—do not necessarily represent the views of everyone involved (Bishop 2002).Aboriginal “communities” are often initially equated with bands, perhaps because Canadian government policies have sought to bound and define federally-recognized bands with official band member lists, and because most bands have recognizable governing bodies that are often accessible by telephone or e-mail. Bands are a good place to start thinking about who we mean when we say “community,” but they should not be the default or the end point. What this might look like:In any work that an outsider does, he or she cannot help but create boundaries that define the borders of the “community” he or she is working with. While this may be undesirable, it is also unavoidable. An appropriate action, then, is to know and not take for granted exactly who you include, privilege, and exclude in your definition of “community,” and have an answer—for yourself and for anyone who might ask—for why those decisions have been made. Use more specific terms to denote the group of people you are working with (e.g., “the __________ family”; “the elders’ council of the __________ band”; “six members of the band’s school’s parent board”).
  • Markedness is a linguistic concept that identifies asymmetry between concepts. A dominant term is unmarked, and therefore seen as neutral (e.g., “American”), whereas a non-dominant term is marked, and therefore named and viewed in its relationship to the dominant term (e.g., “African American”) (Andersen 1989; Andrews 1990; Archangeli 1997; Battistella 1990). Sometimes, it is useful and appropriate to identify the people you are allying with as “Aboriginal” or by the name of their nation. It honours and gives credit to their heritage and perspective. However, there are times when it is problematic to identify an individual as a “Native teacher,” an “Aboriginal social worker,” or an “Indigenous expert.” St. Denis describes this problem through one of the findings of her research: “Participants knew that, ‘Staff who are allies value my opinion as a teacher. They see me as a colleague, as a peer teacher. They don’t see me strictly as a Native teacher’” (2010, 54). This is not to say that marked terms should never be used; however, allies should be aware of how in some cases, marking terms perpetuates dominant versus non-dominant dichotomies.
  • Well-meaning volunteers, philanthropists, and professionals frequently speak of their intentions to “help” other groups of people, or to “improve” or “solve” situations. While these objectives are admirable, the vocabulary conveys a kind of salvage paradigm, in which non-Aboriginal people can serve as saviours because they allegedly know what to do and have the capacity to do it better than Aboriginal people themselves (Max 2002). Museums in particular are linked to the salvage paradigm of anthropology: popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s, anthropologists collected as many cultural objects as possible from groups of people whose ways of life were presumed, by outsiders and academics, to be on the verge of collapse. When working with Aboriginal groups, non-Aboriginal allies can foster equality by identifying why it is in their own interest to be an ally (Kendall 2003).
  • “Generalized reciprocity” is an anthropological term that refers to an exchange in which a gift is given and a return similar in value but not form is expected, but is not immediate (Sahlins 1972). “Balanced reciprocity,” by contrast, refers to an exchange in which a gift is given and an equal return is expected immediately (Sahlins 1972). In many Aboriginal cultures, there are protocols to follow when there is a transfer of information, and these follow a balanced reciprocity model. As an Albertan living in Cree territory, I am most familiar with the expectation that an offering of tobacco should accompany the request and receipt of culturally-based knowledge and spiritual assistance. However, reciprocity should not end once the protocol requirements have been fulfilled. There are countless ways that non-Aboriginal allies can reciprocate the information they have been given in a professional setting, as well as the hospitality, energy, and patience that has been extended to them on a more personal level. Recognize, value, and reciprocate the time that people have put into travelling, talking about, and thinking about your project, and give whatever time and resources you can to repay that effort. In addition to following any protocols (e.g., offering tobacco) required when receiving information, offer to teach an individual or group of individuals a skill you have that they have expressed an interest in learning. Share your own knowledge of knitting, building websites, or building bicycles helps perpetuate the circle of learning.
  • For professionals who are geographically distant from the Aboriginal communities whose members they are working with, it can be difficult to maintain ongoing relationships, especially after the work is complete. Nevertheless, it is absolutely essential to cultivate continuing relationships. This demonstrates that the interest an ally has in a community is not simply for his or her own professional gain. Have a presence in the community—don’t just be there for your work (Atkinson 2010). Hanna (1999) describes driving across the province to have a cup of tea with the community consultants she was working with. If appropriate, attend social gatherings and ceremonies, or sit on committees (St. Denis 2010). Invite your friends and collaborators from the community to your own social and cultural gatherings. Try “country food” (Nadasdy 2003; Bielawski 2003; St. Denis 2010)! Visit the community on your personal holiday time.
  • The first summer I lived and worked on a reserve, I was asked by my supervisor to help clean the band’s recreation centre in preparation for the wake of a recently-deceased community member. I begrudgingly accepted the task, bitter that I had to sweep, mop, and scrub a building that seemed like it hadn’t been thoroughly cleaned in months. I complained about the work, and went home as soon as the place could pass as clean. It certainly wasn’t my best work. I knew the name of the deceased individual was Harold Cardinal, but only later realized his status as a widely-respected leader in Indian Country, an advocate for Aboriginal rights, and the author of The Unjust Society (1970)—a response to Jean Chrétien’s “White Paper” (1969), which called for the abolition of the Indian Act, the rejection of land claims, and the full assimilation of First Nations people into Canadian society. I am now embarrassed and sorry for the lack of respect I showed this leader and the community who mourned his passing. Even if the wake was not for a widely-recognized leader, I should have shown more willingness to help out. I was in a position to support the community by doing simple work so that they could focus on dealing with their loss, but instead, I selfishly focused on my own disinterest in the task.
  • In his book Ancient Pathways, New Directions, non-Aboriginal educator Thom Henley (1996) explains that the biggest challenge that Aboriginal people face when working with non-Aboriginal people is one of trust, while non-Aboriginal people have the most difficulty relinquishing control. There is a concern that Aboriginal individuals will not be able to handle the challenges of self-governance or self-management. Fully aware that critics may question Aboriginal ability to manage education, Cardinal (1999, 51–52) poignantly asks, “How could even the most stupid Indian create a worse mess than has been handed him by the missionaries and bureaucrats over the past one hundred years?” If you are in a position to train Aboriginal individuals in professional methods and practices, or to support the beginning of a project that no Aboriginal individual or group has the means to, then do so, but be willing and prepared to hand over control of the project—in part or in whole—to an Aboriginal community if and when it expresses its readiness to take on the work. At the same time, however, do not expect that Aboriginal communities want to take on the projects you have started. They may request that you or your team continue the work – or they may request (or imply a request through silence – “the yes that means no”) that you drop the project.
  • Last spring, when I was waiting to hear the results of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada master’s scholarship competition, I lurked on the Grad Café forum online and read postings written by graduate students. These students frequently acknowledged that successful SSHRC applications were written on topics that were “academically sexy.” After receiving notification that I had won an award, and subsequently beginning grad school, I realized just how “academically sexy” Aboriginal issues are right now. This is not to demean the work done or decisions made by researchers, university awards committees, or the SSHRC decision-making committee. It is simply to acknowledge that at this point in history, Aboriginal issues are a hot topic, and therefore, many researchers have an opportunity to make a name and career by reflecting on and researching these issues, thereby “garner[ing] more privilege” for themselves (Max 2002, 28).
  • Too often, when a sharing circle or similar gathering opens with introductions, Aboriginal participants will identify themselves by name, nation, and kin, while non-Aboriginal individuals are not always sure how to situate themselves. I have often ruefully identified myself as simply “a White girl,” with no acknowledgement of the ancestors and customs that made me who I am, or the fact that the term “White” is essentializing and reinforces “the idea that as white people ‘we don’t have a culture’” (Max 2002, 28). Similarly, students newly introduced to Aboriginal histories, issues, cultures, and injustices sometimes take on a “wannabe Indian” persona, becoming angry at and even attempting to reject their own heritage because of how it has contributed to harming the spirits and bodies of Aboriginal individuals and communities. While acknowledging the responsibility to right past injustices is important, denying one’s own identity and heritage and/or attempting to adopt the heritage of Aboriginal people is neither appropriate nor useful. Instead, non-Aboriginal individuals seeking to serve as allies to Aboriginal Canadians should examine their connections (or lack thereof) to their own heritages, which may help them identify cultural losses that came as a result of immigration (Atkinson 2010; Bishop 2002; Adams, Bell, and Griffin 2007; St. Denis 2010). Our ability to serve as partners with Aboriginal communities will be greatly increased if we understand our own struggles for heritage language maintenance, community-building, and pride in our cultures, rather than if we simply try to take on the language, culture, struggles, and triumphs of Aboriginal communities.
  • A visitor to a museum once told my Assiniboine friend who worked there, “‎I just have to tell you, I have so much respect for your kind.” Similarly, when I tell people I have done a Native Studies degree and am interested in working with Aboriginal populations, some people gush, “Oh, they’re such a beautiful people.” These
  • Individuals with privilege can strive for equality by serving as allies with those receiving less privilege in systems that are inherently discriminatory. Conscious efforts to recognize one’s own privilege and power mark the beginning of this ongoing process, and frequent reflection on the vocabulary one uses and actions one takes will help non-Aboriginal museum professionals become better allies.
  • Individuals with privilege can strive for equality by serving as allies with those receiving less privilege in systems that are inherently discriminatory. Conscious efforts to recognize one’s own privilege and power mark the beginning of this ongoing process, and frequent reflection on the vocabulary one uses and actions one takes will help non-Aboriginal professionals become better allies.These guidelines progress one step further in the direction that Canada’s Task Force laid out. Embracing the spirit of the “principles and recommendations” of the Task Force Report and the ethical desire of its authors to respond to Aboriginal communities’ insistence on decolonization, self-determination, and sovereignty as a foundation, these guidelines move forward by providing concrete suggestions on how non-Aboriginal individuals can reaffirm their personal commitments to working as good allies.Museums in the 21st century have an opportunity to serve as sites of reconciliation, decolonization, and understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. However, healthy and earnest relationships will not be formed through legislation; instead, individual commitments based on a sense of ethics practiced in both professional and personal spheres are essential to effect positive change within museums.
  • Individuals with privilege can strive for equality by serving as allies with those receiving less privilege in systems that are inherently discriminatory. Conscious efforts to recognize one’s own privilege and power mark the beginning of this ongoing process, and frequent reflection on the vocabulary one uses and actions one takes will help non-Aboriginal professionals become better allies.These guidelines progress one step further in the direction that Canada’s Task Force laid out. Embracing the spirit of the “principles and recommendations” of the Task Force Report and the ethical desire of its authors to respond to Aboriginal communities’ insistence on decolonization, self-determination, and sovereignty as a foundation, these guidelines move forward by providing concrete suggestions on how non-Aboriginal individuals can reaffirm their personal commitments to working as good allies.Museums in the 21st century have an opportunity to serve as sites of reconciliation, decolonization, and understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. However, healthy and earnest relationships will not be formed through legislation; instead, individual commitments based on a sense of ethics practiced in both professional and personal spheres are essential to effect positive change within museums.
  • Individuals with privilege can strive for equality by serving as allies with those receiving less privilege in systems that are inherently discriminatory. Conscious efforts to recognize one’s own privilege and power mark the beginning of this ongoing process, and frequent reflection on the vocabulary one uses and actions one takes will help non-Aboriginal professionals become better allies.These guidelines progress one step further in the direction that Canada’s Task Force laid out. Embracing the spirit of the “principles and recommendations” of the Task Force Report and the ethical desire of its authors to respond to Aboriginal communities’ insistence on decolonization, self-determination, and sovereignty as a foundation, these guidelines move forward by providing concrete suggestions on how non-Aboriginal individuals can reaffirm their personal commitments to working as good allies.Museums in the 21st century have an opportunity to serve as sites of reconciliation, decolonization, and understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities. However, healthy and earnest relationships will not be formed through legislation; instead, individual commitments based on a sense of ethics practiced in both professional and personal spheres are essential to effect positive change within museums.

Allying with Aboriginal Communities - 2013 Vibrant Community Speaker Series Allying with Aboriginal Communities - 2013 Vibrant Community Speaker Series Presentation Transcript

  • Creating Vibrant Communities Allying with Aboriginal Communities Caylie Gnyra June 25, 2013
  • Spirit in Service for Vibrant Communities
  • Caylie Gnyra Allying with Aboriginal Communities
  •  How to be a GoodAlly: Working Non-colonially and Non-patronizingly with Aboriginal Communities Creating Vibrant Communities: 2013 Summer Speaker Series Caylie Gnyra June 25, 2013 Yellowhead Brewery, Edmonton, Alberta
  • A bit on where I’m coming from Sucker Creek First Nation (Cree), and Eden Valley First Nation (Stoney), AB: Alberta’s Future Leaders (summer of 2005) Edmonton, AB: Hope Mission Winter Emergency Shelter and Youth Shelter (2005-2006) Grouard, AB: Native Cultural Arts Museum (summers of 2006 and 2007) Macushi Territory, North Rupununi Region, Guyana, South America: Ghost River Rediscovery, Youth Leadership Program (winter of 2006-2007) Grouard, AB: Native Cultural Arts Museum (summer of 2007) Edmonton, AB: B.A. in Native Studies (University of Alberta, 2007-2010); tutored Cree Washington, DC: National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (autumn of 2009) Edmonton, AB: B.A. in Native Studies (University of Alberta, 2007-2010); tutored Cree Washington, DC: Indigenous oral language assessment for the Bureau of Indian Education (summer of 2010) Victoria, BC and Toronto, ON: Master of Museum Studies (2010-2012); Canadian Language Museum (2011-present) Edmonton, AB: Little Cree Books (2009-present); family language nights (2013- present); Engage North planning committee (2013-present); Change It Up Trades (Hobbema, 2013-present)
  • What I’m working on now: Language, learning, economic development, and industry relationships “The results reported demonstrate that... youth suicide rates effectively dropped to zero in those few communities in which at least half the band members reported a conversational knowledge of their own “Native” language.” “Altogether these results demonstrate that indigenous language use, as a marker of cultural persistence, is a strong predictor of health and wellbeing” in Canada’s Aboriginal communities. -Hallett, Darcy, Chandler, Michael J., and Lalonde, Christopher E. 2007. “Aboriginal language knowledge and youth suicide.” Cognitive Development 22 (2007): 392-399.
  • What I’m working on now: Language, learning, economic development, and industry relationships Interested in the Trades? njoy fixing things and working with your hands? Motivated to become a Journeyman?
  • What is an ally?  “An ally is a member of the advantaged social group who takes a stand against social injustice directed at targeted groups. An ally works to be an agent of social change rather than an agent of oppression.” (Adams, Bell, and Griffin 2007)
  • Remember that every community is different. The terms Aboriginal and Indigenous “lump First Nations, Métis, and Inuit together into one category as though their political, linguistic, economic, governance, etc. issues were the same” (Atkinson 2010, 19). There are both major and nuanced differences between various First Nations, Métis, and Inuit nations and communities. The protocols, work, and methods that are useful in one nation, band, or organization may not be appropriate fits for others. What this might look like: ● Ask the Aboriginal people you are working with about the names they use to refer to their own communities and nations. ● If you are working with a band or other Aboriginal organization, inquire about their organizational structure. Do not assume that because one nation or one band within a nation has an elected chief and council or an elders’ advisory board that other nations or bands have the same.
  • Use the term “community” with care. Over the past five years, it seems that the catch-all answer to issues is “involve the community!” or “community consultation!” That said… “Communities” are shifting and dynamic, and are not easily bounded or defined. Those chosen to represent the “community”—whether by outsiders or insiders—do not necessarily represent the views of everyone involved. What this might look like: ● Know, and do not take for granted, exactly who you include, privilege, and exclude in your definition of “community,” and have an answer for why those decisions have been made. ● Use more specific terms to denote the group of people you are working with (e.g., “the elders’ council of the __________ band.”)
  • Beware of marked terminology. Markedness indicates asymmetry between concepts: dominant term = unmarked = “neutral” (e.g., “American”) non-dominant term = marked = named and viewed in relation to the dominant term (e.g., “African American”) What this might look like: • Consider how referring to the community members who serve on your project as “Aboriginal experts” strengthens or weakens their identities in those roles. • Consider how attempting to mark formerly unmarked terms—e.g., “Irish-Ukrainian-Canadian curator”—exposes the fact that unmarked terms that set the “norm” do not actually accurately represent the diversity of the group of people they are meant to.
  • Replace words like “help,” “improve,” and “solve” with words like “learn.” Well-meaning volunteers, philanthropists, and professionals frequently speak of their intentions to “help” other groups of people, or to “improve” or “solve” situations. While these objectives are admirable, the vocabulary conveys a kind of salvage paradigm, in which non- Aboriginal people can serve as saviours because they allegedly know what to do and have the capacity to do it better than Aboriginal people themselves. Foster equality by identifying why it is in your own interest to be an ally. What this might look like: ● When describing the work you do to friends and family members, use phrases that highlight what you, or society at large, may get out of it. ● Put this vocabulary into practice: base your work on the assumption that you are learning, not that you are “solving” or “improving” anything.
  • Seek generalized reciprocity in your giving and receiving. “Generalized reciprocity”: an exchange in which a gift is given and a return similar in value but not form is expected, but is not immediate. “Balanced reciprocity”: an exchange in which a gift is given and an equal return is expected immediately. Reciprocity should not end once protocol requirements have been fulfilled. Value and reciprocate the information, hospitality, energy, and patience that has been extended to you on both personal and professional levels. What this might look like: ● Teach individuals or groups a skill that you have. ● Write letters in support of Aboriginal partners’ grant applications, even if these do not overlap with your own work; forward emails about relevant conferences; and co-author papers. ● Reciprocate stories and information with careful listening, patience, attentiveness, and, where appropriate, action.
  • Cultivate ongoing relationships. Maintaining relationships with geographically distant communities can be difficult to maintain ongoing relationships, especially after the work is complete. Cultivating continuing relationships demonstrates that the interest an ally has in a community is not simply for his or her own professional gain. Have a presence in the community— don’t just be there for your work. Invite your friends and collaborators from the community to your own social and cultural gatherings. What this might look like: ● If you live close to the community you have been working with, see if you can play on one of the band’s recreational sports teams. ● Write letters, send cards on holidays, “friend” people on Facebook, visit on your personal time, and/or phone the people you have developed relationships with through your work. ● Have tea! Try “country food”! ● If appropriate, attend social gatherings and ceremonies, or sit on committees.
  • Be willing to do things that you might initially think are “below” you. Work that might initially seem below your station, such as cleaning, stuffing envelopes, photocopying, or driving people from one place to another, can nevertheless contribute to developing and maintaining healthy relationships and successful projects. What this might look like: ● If you are in a community for a professional or personal visit, help out by assisting with the preparation of a meal for an event, taking the garbage out, or cleaning. ● If you are stuck with a task that you’d rather grumble about, try to think about how that work contributes to your own personal goals/work and those of the community or individuals you are working with.
  • Be willing to relinquish control. Train Aboriginal individuals in your professional methods and practices if they are interested, or support the beginning of a project that no Aboriginal individual or group has the means to, but be willing and prepared to hand over control of the project—in part or in whole—to an Aboriginal community if and when it expresses its readiness to take on the work. At the same time, do not expect that Aboriginal communities want to take on the projects you have started. What this might look like: ● Arrange for ‘professional exchanges’ so employees of your organization learn in the community and an employee from the community comes and works in your institution—a skills exchange. ● Be willing to incorporate not just Aboriginal people, but Aboriginal values, into your workplace.
  • Extend your professional commitment to becoming an ally into your personal life. Acknowledge and take responsibility for the day-to-day actions we take that contribute to inequality between non- Aboriginal and Aboriginal people. “I did not see myself as part of the problem. The problem rested solely with ‘the government’ or ‘other racist white people,’ and racism was largely viewed as something left in the past, the remnants of which we were left to deal with now. I did not want to think about the negative stereotypes of Aboriginal peoples that still occasionally visited the fringes of my consciousness. I did not think about where the land came from upon which we were now building a cabin. In short I did not see that I had my own work to do on unlearning racism before I could proceed to work cross-culturally with Aboriginal peoples. My focus was on ‘them,’ learning about ‘their culture,’ ‘their languages,’ and my own assumptions went largely unquestioned.” – Karen Max, non-Aboriginal educator and ally What this might look like: ● Reflect and make a list of how your day-to-day activities affect the lives of Aboriginal Canadians, e.g., do the movies your kids watch portray Indigenous people inaccurately or stereotypically? Make changes to your activities if you feel led to. ● In your spare time, take a craft or language class at a local Native friendship centre. Take your instructor and classmates out for coffee afterwards, or let your instructor or a classmate take you out for coffee afterwards.
  • Acknowledge your privilege and be aware of how non- Aboriginal allies benefit from the continued oppression of Aboriginal people. Non-Aboriginal Canadians continue to benefit from the position of Aboriginal people in our nation. At this point in history, Aboriginal issues are a hot topic; therefore, many researchers and professionals have an opportunity to make a name and career by reflecting on and researching these issues, thereby garnering more privilege for themselves. What this might look like: ● Thoughtfully examine the ways you are benefitting from the historical and present positions of Aboriginal peoples. ● Get in the habit of identifying for yourself the specific ways that privilege comes into play in your day- to-day life. ● Include funding that benefits Aboriginal partners and/or hires Aboriginal research assistants into your grant proposals.
  • Value your own identity and heritage. Too often, when a sharing circle or similar gathering opens with introductions, Aboriginal participants will identify themselves by name, nation, and kin, while non-Aboriginal individuals are not always sure how to situate themselves. Our ability to serve as partners with Aboriginal communities will be greatly increased if we understand our own struggles for heritage language maintenance, community-building, and pride in our cultures, rather than if we simply try to take on the language, culture, struggles, and triumphs of Aboriginal communities. What this might look like: ● Acknowledge your heritage, family, and/or home community when you introduce yourself. ● Learn or actively practice your own heritage language and/or customs.
  • Talk with other non-Aboriginal individuals who have committed themselves to becoming allies. Many allies are bewildered and extremely hurt when they have spent time, effort, emotional and mental energy, and even money to serve as a better ally, but then experience anger directed at them by an Aboriginal person. Avoid getting defensive when Aboriginal individuals make angry comments about “White” culture or privilege. In these situations, it might be best to listen, resist becoming defensive, and then talk about the situation later with others who have had the same experience. What this might look like: ● Set aside some time each week with your colleagues to talk specifically about the emotions and thoughts you are each encountering. Take as much time as necessary. ● Share your experiences with non- Aboriginal individuals who have recently discovered their own desire to work as an ally—your personal experiences can be inspirational and help others deal with disheartening situations. Allies need allies!
  • Use qualifiers to identify the sources of your knowledge. As in academia, many Indigenous languages and oral history traditions use attributions that mark the source(s) of information (“evidentiality”). These markers can indicate whether information is derived from direct visual or auditory experience, inferred probability, general cultural knowledge, or hearsay. Use similar indicators in English to identify your sources of information. Be especially mindful about acknowledging Aboriginal ideas and concepts as knowledge that is not your own. What this might look like: ● Preface the information you are sharing with an indication of how you have come to understand it. For example, you could say, “From what I have come to understand through my time working on this project…” or, “I read in a book by __________ that…” or “I was told that…” or “As far as I know…” or “I feel that….” ● Before saying, “I know that…” when you are talking about Aboriginal objects, practices, or issues, reconsider your degree of certainty on that subject and locale.
  • Be equally wary of both sweeping positive generalizations and sweeping negative generalizations. Positive generalizations may be attempts to deal with the collective guilt of historical colonial actions, but they tend to essentialize and romanticize the experiences of Aboriginal people, without acknowledging that, like all groups, some really ugly issues plague Aboriginal communities. No group of people has ever been, or ever will be, infallible, and it is ridiculous to assume that Aboriginal cultures have only ever had problems because of colonization. What this might look like: ● Acknowledge both the good and the bad: recognize achievements, inspirational practices, and visions and plans for the future, but do not ignore social, economic, and health problems. Do not let all the “bad things” that haunt Aboriginal communities and individuals simply be attributed to “colonialism.” ● If someone makes a sweeping generalization—either positive or negative—press them for further reflection on why they have said what they have said.
  • Beware of taking on a burden that is not yours to bear. Be careful not to take on the burden of oppression and the anger that accompanies it, at least not as someone who is being oppressed. Do not over-personalize past actions that have led to oppression, but instead, examine the current “structural framework… where systemic oppression and marginalization are produced and maintained” (Cowie 2010, 49). What this might look like: ● Support those who are dealing with loss or anger by listening, but do not try to make the burden yours if it is not. ● Rather than becoming debilitated by feeling guilty for past injustices in which you played no part, reflect on the ways that Aboriginal people experience oppression today as a result of your position of privilege.
  • Remember that becoming an ally is a process, not a destination, and that you are accountable to the people you are allying with. Becoming an ally is ongoing process, one in which we are continually learning, making mistakes, and reflecting. There is not a fixed point where we can sit back and say, “I am now an ally,” and cease that critical reflection and growth. Similarly, the ethical considerations related to your professional work as an ally are processual. They are not limited to signed consent forms, and do not have an end date. If the work you do is considered ethically acceptable at the time it is accomplished, you still remain accountable to it years down the road. What this might look like: ● Continually try to find innovative ways to serve as an ally. Reflect on those methods, and share your successful ideas with others. ● Acknowledge to yourself that, even after years of working as an ally, you will still make mistakes—and that’s okay!
  • What I’d like to work with you on:  Multi-generational Cree language-learning opportunities for Edmontonians that can include industry staff, and funding opportunities to help support programmers and fluent speakers… with one of the end goals being stronger personal relationships between industry representatives and individuals from Aboriginal communities. Visit www.whereareyourkeys.org for more info.  Programs that combine public speaking and leadership skills from 4-H with Iwokrama’s Wildlife Clubs’ teachings on identifying and monitoring local wildlife using various methods.  Small businesses and strategic economic development opportunities, particularly for urban Indigenous youth, and bike repair shops for smaller communities.  Paid training opportunities for youth and young adults in drainage engineering and community planning, particularly for those from Siksika, Eden Valley, and Morley (due to the recent floods). To plan collaborative projects, share ideas, inquire about contacts, or ask for perspective, please feel free to contact me at caylie@littlecreebooks.com.
  • Recommended Reading  Paul Nadasdy’s Hunters and Bureaucrats: Power, Knowledge, and Aboriginal-State Relations in the Southwest Yukon  Ellen Bielawski’s Rogue Diamonds  Margaret Craven’s I Heard the Owl Call My Name
  • If you take nothing else away from this presentation, remember to:  Be good to each other.  Extend yourself some grace.
  • Creating Vibrant Communities Tuesday July 16 Gordon Howell Solar Energy for Resilient Communities www.urbansystems.ca/news/summer-speaker-series.htm
  • References  Adams, M., L. A. Bell, and Griffin, P. (eds.). 2007. Teaching for diversity and social justice (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.  Ames, M. 1994. The politics of difference: Other voices in a not yet post-colonial world. Museum Anthropology. 18 (3): 9–17.  ———. 1999. How to decorate a house: The renegotiation of cultural representations at the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology. In Museums and Source Communities, L. Peers and A. rown, eds., 171–180. London: Routledge.  Andersen, H. 1989. Markedness—The First 150 Years. In Markedness in Synchrony and Diachrony. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin.  Andrews, E. 1990. Markedness Theory: The Union of Asymmetry and Semiosis in Language. Duke University Press: Durham, NC.  The Angry Black Woman: Race, Politics, Gender, Sexuality, Anger. 2009. The Do’s and Don’ts of Being a Good Ally. October 1. Accessed on March 19, 2011 from http://theangryblackwoman.com/2009/10/01/the-dos-and-donts-of-being-a-good-ally/  Archangeli, D. 1997. Optimality Theory: An Introduction to Linguistics in the 1990s. In Optimality Theory: An Overview. Blackwell: Maiden, MA.
  • References  Atkinson, G.H. 2010. Do No Further Harm: Becoming a White Ally in Child Welfare Work with Aboriginal Children, Families, and Communities. Master’s thesis, submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies, School of Social Work, University of Victoria.  Battistella, E. 1990. Markedness: The Evaluative Superstructure of Language. SUNY Press: Albany, NY.  Bielawski, E. 2003. Rogue Diamonds: The Rush for Northern Riches on Dene Land. Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre.  Birth and Bloom. 2010. How to be a good ally to queer families. Accessed on March 19, 2011 from http://bloomingbirth.wordpress.com/2010/06/03/how-to-be-a-good-ally-to-queer-families/  Bishop, Anne. 2002. Becoming an ally: Breaking the cycle of oppression in people (6th ed.). Halifax: Fernwood.  Cardinal, H. 1990. The Unjust Society. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre.  Clare, E. 2008. Be an ally to disabled people. Accessed on March 19, 2011 from http://eliclare.com/wp- content/uploads/2008/03/disability%20ally%20flyer%20062508.pdf  Cowie, A. 2010. Anti-oppressive social work practice in child welfare: Journeys of reconciliation. Critical Social Work. 11 (1): 46–51.
  • References  Hanna, M. 1999. A time to choose: ‘Us’ versus ‘Them,’ or ‘all of us together. Plains Anthropologist. 44 (170): 43–52.  Harrison, J. 2005. Shaping collaborations: Considering institutional culture. Museum Management and Curatorship. 20 (3): 195–212.  Henley, T. 1996. Rediscovery: Ancient Pathways, New Directions: A Guide to Outdoor Education. Vancouver: Western Canada Wilderness Committee.  Jacobsen, W.H. Jr. 1986. The Heterogeneity of Evidentials in Makah. In Evidentiality: The Linguistic Coding of Epistemology, W. Chafe and J. Nichols, eds., 3–28. Ablex, Norwood.  James, D., S. Clarke, and M. MacKenzie. 2001. The Encoding of Information Source in Algonquian: Evidentials in Cree/Montagnais/Naskapi. International Journal of American Linguistics. 67 (3): 229–263.  Jonaitis, A., and R. Inglis. 1992. Power, history, and authenticity: The Mowachaht whalers’ washing shrine. Southern Atlantic Quarterly. 1 (Winter): 193–213.  Kahn, M. 2000. Not really pacific voices: Politics of representation in collaborative museum exhibits. Museum Anthropology. 24 (1): 57–74.
  • References  Kendall, F.E. 2003. How to Be an Ally if You Are a Person with Privilege. Accessed on March 19, 2011 from http://www.scn.org/friends/ally.html  Max, K.E. 2002. Joining the Circle: Working as an Ally in Aboriginal Education. Master’s thesis, submitted to the Graduate Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto.  McIntosh, P. 1989. White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. Independent School. 49 (2): 31–35.  Mushin, I. 2001. Evidentiality and Epistemological Stance: Narrative Retelling. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing.  Nadasdy, P. 2003. Hunters and Bureaucrats: Power, Knowledge, and Aboriginal-State Relations in the Southwest Yukon. Vancouver: UBC Press.  Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. 1990. 25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq. [Nov. 16].  Sahlins, M. 1972. Stone Age Economics. Chicago: Aldine-Atherton.  Smith, L.T. 1999. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. London; New York: Zed Books; Dunedin: University of Otago Press.
  • References  St. Denis, V. 2010. A Study of Aboriginal Teachers’ Professional Knowledge and Experience in Canadian Schools. Canadian Teachers’ Federation, University of Saskatchewan.  Straight for Equality. 2011. 10 things to do as an ally. Accessed on March 19, 2011 from http://community.pflag.org/Page.aspx?pid=613  Task Force on Museums and First Peoples. 1992 (2nd edition). Turning the Page: Forging new partnerships between museums and First Peoples, Ottawa: Assembly of First Nations and the Canadian Museums Association.  Tapsell, P. 2011. “Aroha mai: Whose museum?” The rise of indigenous ethics within museum contexts: A Maori-tribal perspective.” In The Routledge Companion to Museum Ethics: Redefining Ethics for the Twenty-First-Century Museum, J. Marstine, ed., 85–111. New York and London: Routledge.  Tatum, B. D. 1994. Teaching White students about racism: The search for White allies and the restoration of hope. Teachers College Record. 95 (4): 462–476.  Waldie, R. 2010. Evidentials in Nuu-chah-nulth. PEPA 2. Vancouver: University of British Columbia. April 28, 2010. Accessed March 19, 2011 from http://137.82.103.200/linguistics/sites/default/files/Waldie2010OrigoPEPA.pdf.