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Supporting Indigenous Cultures

Bob Joseph on Indigenous Support and Reconciliation in the Time of COVID-19

Bob Joseph
Bob Joseph

Bob Joseph, Founder and President of Indigenous Corporate Training Inc., has provided training on Indigenous relations since 1994. Mediaplanet asked him how organizations can best support Indigenous communities, businesses, and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the COVID-19 pandemic greatly affecting the Indigenous economy, what actions can organizations take to better support Indigenous communities?

If an organization wants to show support by providing supplies, I suggest they contact the band office and ask what supplies are needed. Items that the band may be in need of include bottled water, diapers, baby food, sanitizer, masks, gloves, non-perishable food items, and non-prescription pain medication.

Take a look at your procurement needs and then try to find an Indigenous-owned firm that you can purchase from.

If you want to support urban Indigenous peoples, find and make a donation to your local Native Friendship Centre or contact the Aboriginal Mother Centre Society, which is currently in dire need of support.  

As workplaces become increasingly virtual, how should organizations conduct land acknowledgements in a virtual meeting with participants who may be calling in from a variety of traditional and treaty territories?

 It’s important to continue acknowledging traditional and treaty lands even during this period of working remotely. There are a few options, depending on how your meeting is structured:

  1. Each speaker acknowledges the traditional or treaty territory they’re speaking from. For example: “Hi, I’m Jane Smith and I’m joining this meeting from the traditional territories of …”
  2. The Zoom call organizer acknowledges the traditional or treaty territories they’re speaking from as well as the fact that their colleagues are situated on the traditional or treaty territories of Indigenous peoples right across the country.
  3. An acknowledgement could be developed based on the story of how Canada was named. For example, “We would like to acknowledge that we’re in Kanata, which today means Canada. Kanata really is specific to a people in a region, namely the Huron-Iroquois, whose traditional lands are in what is now known as Quebec. In the Huron-Iroquois language, ‘Kanata’ means ‘village’ or ‘settlement.’ In 1535, two Indigenous youths told the French explorer Jacques Cartier about the route to Kanata, which was the village of Stadacona, the site of the present-day City of Québec. Cartier used the word “Canada” to describe not only the village, but the entire area controlled by its Chief, Donnacona.”
  4. Invite an Elder to jump online and do protocol and opening prayers from their location.

Why is it important for organizations to learn about Indigenous cultures, both during National Indigenous History Month and year-round?

For many Canadians, the history of Indigenous peoples and Canada was, until recently, unknown. Generations of Canadians have lived their lives without knowing about residential schools, the historic and ongoing impacts of the Indian Act, the significance of treaties, or the contributions of Indigenous peoples to the mosaic of Canada. Understanding the historical and ongoing impacts of Canadian policies that control the lives, opportunities, and economies of Indigenous peoples is key to understanding the realities, barriers, and issues many Indigenous peoples live with every day. This, in turn, will make us a better country by pushing us toward our national reconciliation goals.

What are some resources individuals and organizations can refer to for further guidance on building positive relationships with Indigenous communities? 

 Indigenous Corporate Training’s blog, Working Effectively with Indigenous Peoples®, has over 800 articles that cover a broad variety of topics. We also have free eBooks and offer eTraining and virtual classroom instruction on building effective and respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples. I also recommend tuning into Unreserved, a great weekly CBC radio program. Further, I recommend people read the Calls to Action put forth by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and the Calls for Justice stated in the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. It’s important to understand the past in order to work toward reconciliation.

Indigenous dancer in a Big House
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