Here are ten things to help strengthen your understanding of Indigenous peoples this Indigenous History Month as an ally

As we commemorate Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day, it is essential to acknowledge the resilience and strength of Indigenous peoples in the face of historical and ongoing challenges.

This period encourages education, understanding, and respect for Indigenous heritage, fostering a collective commitment to reconciliation and recognizing Indigenous rights. Through storytelling, cultural events, and educational activities, we are invited to deepen our appreciation for the Indigenous ways of life and to build a more inclusive and equitable future for all.

Here are ten things to help strengthen your understanding of Indigenous peoples this Indigenous History Month as an Ally.

Language, present tense and not past tense

The diverse history of Indigenous Peoples is rich and unique. It’s important to ensure your use of language is inclusive and in the present tense. Using past tense to describe Indigenous people becomes harmful and non-inclusive. For example, “Indigenous people had lived here since time immemorial” versus, “Indigenous people continue to live here since time immemorial,” really sets the tone to ensure the dialogue is open and welcoming.

Sovereignty rights

If you are in a room full of people discussing the issues of another race, class, minority, or group, without accurate representation of the given group, then you need to ask yourself if you are truly being an ally. In other words, it’s important to recognize the sovereign rights of an Indigenous person and include them in any discussions, proposals, email threads, social posts, news articles, essays, and so forth. It happens too often when a person of a minority is spoken on their behalf, and never given space to speak themselves. To become a worthy advocate of causes, respect the sovereignty rights of an Indigenous person.

More than land acknowledgments

It’s 2024 and land acknowledgements have become normalized. It’s written in email signatures, in social media bios, on the bottom of reports and websites, and so forth, but have you considered going out on the land and listening to the wind dance in the trees, or listening to the rush of the river, and practicing gratitude. This selfless act of mindful presence is an example of what it means to do more than a land acknowledgment. Take the time to introduce yourself to the land you work and live on and perhaps the land acknowledgment on your report and emails will have a deeper and fuller meaning.

Relationship building: Just Show Up

It can be hard to meet new people on your own. It was traditional for gatherings and meetings to happen in each other’s homes and to this day, visiting amongst each other as kinship is more common than you think. So this is your sign to change your perspective of what it means to build a relationship with an Indigenous community or peoples, bring coffee and talk with an open heart. Step out of your 9-5 email and office-only mindset and just show up.

The Good Life, an Indigenous philosophy

Indigenous peoples are diverse and unique in many ways, but a common understanding is to live the good life. To live the good life means to live in a humble and grateful state of being. As you continue to walk your journey of being an ally and what it means to be a worthy advocate, let the good life philosophy guide you to meaningful relationships and a deeper understanding of Indigenous people’s history and culture.

Diverse and Unique

A common misconception made about Indigenous people is that they are all the same, when in reality they are unique and vary from one to another. Each nation and community has its own oral stories, traditions, and ways of life that might be similar or different, and that’s why it should feel exciting to meet with Indigenous people.

Culture appropriation and culture appreciation

There is a fine line between appropriation and appreciation.

Appropriation looks like misrepresentation and stereotyping, power dynamics in which ​​the appropriating group holds more power or privilege than the group being appropriated from. This can perpetuate historical injustices and exploitation. Often, those who appropriate cultural elements benefit economically or socially from their use, while the originating culture does not receive recognition or compensation. This can perpetuate economic and social inequalities.

Appreciation looks like empowerment and support, acknowledgment, seeking permission, and a genuine interest in learning more. Appreciation also means taking the time to reflect and be self-aware. Cultural appreciation fosters mutual respect, understanding, and enrichment, contributing to a more inclusive and interconnected world. It allows for meaningful cultural exchange and celebrates diversity in a way that honours and respects the cultures involved.

Laughter is medicine

Have you ever heard someone laugh so loud that you wonder what they are laughing about, and then you hear them again and this time you feel your cheeks twitch and you want to laugh too? This is Indigenous humour, where laughter is a form of expression and a form of healing. Indigenous laughter comes in all forms, from telling stories to losing a loved one.

“Indigenous humour, including teasing and banter, may be misunderstood or perceived as inappropriate by non-Indigenous people, particularly in formal settings. For those raised in Indigenous families, we understand the role of teasing is not meant to be harsh or cruel but to keep everyone humble,” shares Sarah Jackknife in an article she wrote and shared online.

As you walk your journey and strengthen your relationship with Indigenous people, seek out the sounds of Indigenous laughter, stories, banter, and teases.

Education is the new buffalo

Take the time this month (and every other month) to educate yourself on historical and contemporary Indigenous issues. It’s fair to ask questions of curiosity to your fellow Indigenous co-worker or friend, but it’s also your responsibility to seek out resources to learn about the impacts of colonialism in the forms of residential schools, ’60s scoop, child and welfare systems, food insecurity, land back movements and so much more. The willingness to learn on your own is a form of harm reduction and an example of creating a safe space.

Pride and Summer Solstice

It’s Indigenous History Month and Pride Month. Can it get any better? The answer is yes. Indigenous Peoples Day lands on Summer Solstice (June 21st), the longest day of the year that signifies many celebrations, gatherings, and ceremonies. Find out more about Indigenous 2spirit and Indigiqueer people and gain an understanding of these identities and the challenges they face.

Indigenous History Month, observed annually in June, serves as a dedicated time to honor and celebrate Indigenous peoples’ rich histories, cultures, and contributions. This month offers an opportunity to reflect on the diverse and vibrant traditions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities, recognizing their profound influence on the social, cultural, and environmental landscapes.