On June 23rd, the ELN brought together rising and risen leaders from the Indigenous community in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area for Real Talk on Reconciliation.
Over 100 ELNers joined us to hear what these incredible Indigenous rising leaders had to say about allyship, land acknowledgements, taking action beyond Indigenous History Month, and more.
Below are some of the insights we heard during the event and some key actions rising leaders can take.
Impactful allyship goes beyond what we say and what we write; it’s about what we do. As rising leaders trying to become more active allies, we must:
- Acknowledge that we have a long way to go towards reconciliation in Canada, and that we must commit to unlearning the incomplete versions of our history that many were taught.
- Understand that allyship means playing a role in dismantling systems of oppression. To do so, we must create and give space for Indigenous peoples and communities to share their knowledge and determine their own solutions.
- Rather than focusing on ‘quick win’ actions that can be seen as tokenistic and performative, commit to developing truly meaningful relationships with Indigenous communities through education, listening, and learning.
A land acknowledgement, commonly practiced at the beginning of a public gathering to recognize the traditional Indigenous territories it takes place on, must become more than just a checkmark for event organizers. It must signify a longer-term commitment that the speaker and organizing parties hold towards Indigenous reconciliation.
As rising leaders practicing land acknowledgements, it is important to:
- Make the effort to be informed about the territory and treaties that are included in your land acknowledgement. Take the time to educate yourself about the land that you are on and reflect on your own relationship with it.
- Go beyond the script of the typical land acknowledgement, and share your own personal connection, whether as a settler to the land or otherwise.
- Recognize that not all Indigenous people will feel the same way about the impact of land acknowledgments. Each of the panelists at Real Talk on Reconciliation brought forward different viewpoints on them, from feeling that they were tokenistic, to thinking that they are a starting point for further education and learning.
Black Lives Matter and Indigenous Sovereignty
When asked about how Black Lives Matter and Indigenous sovereignty are connected, our speakers had a lot to share, including:
- There are in-depth histories of Black and Indigenous people knowing each other and facing disruption due to colonization.
- Indigenous and Black communities face many of the same challenges and can mutually support each other in fighting to dismantle systems of oppression.
- Indigenous communities can play a role in elevating the needs and voices of Black communities.
Beyond Indigenous History Month
Practicing active allyship is not just important during Indigenous History Month. It is a lifelong commitment. Some of the suggestions our speakers had for incorporating allyship into your everyday life include:
- Taking on the responsibility of educating yourself and your peers about Indigenous history, culture, and issues, rather than placing the burden on Indigenous people themselves. There are many existing resources available to learn from. Visit an Indigenous cultural centre, such as the Woodlands Cultural Centre on the Six Nations of the Grand River territory, share articles and educational resources with your networks, and support Indigenous businesses, such as Nish Dish Marketeria and Catering.
- When considering how you can be the most helpful, first reflect on the skills, talents, and resources that you can offer. Take the time to research what Indigenous-led initiatives and organizations need support, and then volunteer your time and donate your resources.
- Within the teams and organizations that you are a part of, do not shy away from the challenge even if it’s uncomfortable. Commit to doing the hard work to learn and inform, strategize, and then act.
During Indigenous History Month, the ELN Executive Committee focused on education and compiled a list of resources focused on allyship and reconciliation. Moving from education to action, they shared three commitments they are taking as a team and a network working towards reconciliation. Read the commitments and check out the resources here.
What commitment to action will you make? Share it with us @elnonline.