As part of my student co-op position with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), I had the opportunity to sign up for Indigenous Community Development Training. This was a two day, intensive workshop that educated public servants on topics ranging from cultural competency to intergenerational trauma. From this training, I took away three main learnings: the importance of knowing our shared history, Indigenous allyship and reconciliation. I challenged myself, and I now challenge you to check your cultural competency.
Cultural competence: includes knowledge of history and impacts, unintended consequences of historical policies; current realities in First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities; self-awareness of your own culture and beliefs, and differences from other cultures. (Taken from the Indigenous Community Development Training)
Intergenerational trauma and colonization are still being felt by Indigenous people today.
Knowledge of History and Intergenerational Trauma: On the first day of training, participants were tasked with dating significant historical events that have affected Indigenous communities across Canada. Although the room was largely occupied of INAC employees working in various levels of government, we stumbled to correctly date these influential moments in time. After the facilitators correctly dated these events, we were overwhelmingly reminded that knowing about our shared history matters.
Knowing this history helps to explain the social, political and economic issues, and the realities, that Indigenous people face today. Because of previous assimilative policies set to “take the Indian out of the child,” Indigenous people were taught to be ashamed of their heritage, families were ripped apart, and children were sexually/physically/mentally abused. Intergenerational trauma and colonization are still being felt by Indigenous people today.
It is not us versus them. It is human to human, nation to nation.
Indigenous Allyship: Perhaps the most significant exercise of the two-day training was a reflective exercise that had all participants share their thoughts about the first day. This emotional exercise left many, including me, in tears, and connected us all through feelings of humility, gratefulness and even guilt from hearing first-hand from residential school survivors.
What I took away from this training is this: don’t feel guilty. Why? Because feelings of guilt immobilize you. Use your voice to be an Indigenous Ally. Start with building relationships. Listen to what Indigenous people have to say. Stop victim blaming. Reject the politics of anti-political correctness. The anti-PC culture stems from a prideful/lazy position that refuses to check privilege, which further polarizes Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. It is not us versus them. It is human to human, nation to nation.
Through partnership and mutual respect comes healing.
Reconciliation: I want to reach out to my fellow students and anyone else who might be reading this. You have a human responsibility. You have a responsibility to know about our shared history and to understand that intergenerational trauma is still being felt by thousands of Indigenous people. You have a shared role on the road to reconciliation. As a non-Indigenous person, choose to drop the guilt and/or pride for the actions of previous and current governments in order to support Indigenous voices. Although this may seem to be a vague task, take the first step by reading the 94 calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Through partnership and mutual respect comes healing.
Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present glimpses into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors.
Banner image shows the author with her friend, Tegan Rose, who is of Inuit ancestry.