We were really excited to stumble on the Towards Braiding project. The project looks at the troubled terrain of non-Indigenous people or organizations trying to develop relationships with Indigenous people.
It is led by Elwood Jimmy and Vanessa Andreotti with Sharon Stein.
Table of Contents
The beginning of their book, which is available for download, speaks about the experiences of Indigenous people in organizations, and tells a story that has strong echoes of this. They write:
“The Indigenous employee is expected to facilitate convenient Indigenous involvement, to exercise conditional Indigenous leadership, to curate Indigenous content that is palatable to the taste of non-Indigenous consumers, to perform gratitude for “being included,” to embrace the opportunity for reconciliation, to offer redemption to the organization, to appear in equity photos, and to allow the use of their presence as an alibi for the continuity of colonial desires and relations.”
As in our tool, the relationship sours over time and the blame is placed back on the Indigenous person.
At one point the Indigenous person burns out, threatens to quit, and accuses the organization or individuals in the organization of racism and (neo)colonialism. The organization then feels justified in their judgment that this Indigenous person is unstable and incompetent. The Indigenous person quits or is fired. The organization hires another Indigenous person, who seems to be more amenable to performing the required set of tasks. In time, the different expectations clash, and the damaging and re-traumatizing cycle unfolds.
They describe their project as an “effort to interrupt the cycle, and to see what else is possible if we approach things differently”,
Questions for Non-Indigenous Organizations
They have a worksheet for non-Indigenous organizations that includes reflections on a series of questions:
- What do you expect the Indigenous perspective to do for you?
- What kind of learning are you willing to do?
- What are the hidden costs and labor involved in your invitation to engage?
- Are you committed to addressing the individual and group conflicts and anxieties that will probably arise?
Relationship To Colonial Governments
In that workshop, they talked about how knowledge keepers are over solicited and asked for free consultations by nonprofit organizations in the city, in a way that recreates an extractive, always taking, dynamic. They invited non-Indigenous organizations to redefine and reimagine expertise and work on practices inside the organization before seeking help. They added a reflection question:
- What is the relationship your nonprofit has with local, provincial and federal governments?
You can find other resources on related topics on our website:
- The MMIW report and nonprofits
- Institutional indifference to MMIW
- Indigenous Ally Toolkit
- Land Acknowledgments