What does “ally” mean?
Being an ally means recognizing that oppressions exists and affects people that are not yourself, so as an ally you are trying to align yourself with actions, ideas, and movements that serve to undermine the systems that perpetuate that oppression and strive for liberation.
How do you start the process of becoming an ally?
This is different for everyone and I’m not claiming expertise on anything but my own experience. The key is to start with recognition of your own privileges and benefits as a result of the oppression of others. This doesn’t need to be a self-shaming process; it is a process of recognition of privileges, including racial, class, ablest, gender, and more privileges as they apply. In the context of being an Ally to First Nations people this means also addressing colonial privilege. Be grateful and humbled by those whose knowledge and respect for this land made it possible for Canada to be here, and become knowledgeable of the ways that our government systemically attacked the cultures of First Nations peoples in an attempt to wipe them out.
Why do you say attempt to wipe them out?
To honour the resiliency of First Nations people’s and their cultures, although some of the languages have been lost, some are seeing a revival. Some traditions have changed, as they likely would have over a 500 year period anyways, and some traditions remain steadfast.
So the process begins internally. But what are some real steps people can take?
Connect with a group whose working on an issue you care about, the ear so many affecting Indigenous Winnipeggers, introduce yourself, ask questions and answer questions to see what skills you might be able to offer them, then wait for directions. While waiting make sure you use the knowledge your continuing to gain that goes against the colonial discourse we hear all the time to challenge that discourse, don’t let stereotypes or racist micro-aggressions fly in conversations you have with people, calmly and politely call into question what’s presented as factual that is really offensive, inaccurate and perpetuating oppression. If it’s in a group you’re unsure of consider asking the person to talk after so as not to embarrass them, we learn better when our teachers are kind.
What are some dos and don’ts of being an ally?
- Check-in with those you seek to be an ally too, ask questions like “is this helpful”, just generally ask questions.
- Make sure you talk about your engagement as an ally in ways that are not self-glorifying or remove the Indigenous leadership that allowed for that work to happen.
- Expect challenges, colonialism casts a heavy shadow that frames all of our interactions. It will take time for trust to be developed and it can take time for you to be recognized as an ally. Eventually because of your repeated listening, showing up, and being supportive you’ll not only make great activist connections but also great friends.
- Still take care of yourself- even though I’m about to say don’t just be an ally when it’s convenient also a burnt out frustrated person might not be an ally anybody wants. Have realistic expectations and make realistic promises of what you can do. Find ways to help that are a fit for you and feel free to recruits for others.
- Make it an Indigenous persons job to direct all your behaviours
- Be an ally only when it’s convenient
- Take up all the speaking time, or speak on behalf of Indigenous people,
- Don’t get comfortable, if you’re not continuously morally challenged by the experiences of Indigenous peoples in our city, or the ease with which racist language is accepted in privileged circles, you’re not listening enough.
Final advice to a beginning ally
Start now, reach out, go to Meet Me at the Bell Tower, join 1JustCity’s anti-racist ally training this November, read Lenard Monkman‘s, Michael Champagne’s or other Indigenous leaders’ blogs, attend a circle at North End Stella Community Ministry or start reading! Check out a list of starting books on at 1justcity.ca or resources at groundworkforchange.org.