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Article: Monday Must: How To Be An Indigenous Ally

Monday Must: How To Be An Indigenous Ally

Pulse check this Monday morning. How’s everyone feeling? Over here at MARY YOUNG, our hearts are very heavy.

The confirmation of more than 750 unmarked graves on the grounds of a former residential school in Saskatchewan comes just weeks after the remains of 215 children were found in Kamloops. It’s verification of what Indigenous people have long known and has many of us Canadians wondering what to do next — and how to help.

There is no simple way to reconcile with this. A first step is to acknowledge that racism still exists within our institutions and is an ideology that continues to serve the purpose of keeping Indigenous peoples oppressed.

Since 1491, there have been over 500 years of heartbreaking examples of trust betrayed in relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities on Turtle Island. We need to build an ally relationship on trust because trust is the source of all good relationships — and frankly, as a country, we’ve messed that up big time. 

There’s courage in speaking out for what you believe, in raising an issue others are hesitant to speak about. And that courage can be seen as the truest form of patriotism; critical patriotism. Critical patriotism holds a mirror of this country's better, ideal self to expose its wrongs and urge its citizens to right them. Critical patriotism isn’t about mindless adoration, but demands strict accountability. It judges as well as celebrates. It is simply necessary if this country, conceived in multiculturalism and dedicated to the proposition that all of us are created equal, is to long endure.

So where do we go from here and what does it mean to be an ally? Allyship is more than just tolerance. It means actively trying to break down barriers and create better circumstances for others. Obviously we are no experts on allyship, and a big part of this is continued learning and relearning. This is how we’re committing to allyship:

Educating Ourselves

We promise to study the history of Turtle Island and the Indigenous Nations with traditional territories in the area. By examining how colonization has disrupted Indigenous Peoples’ relationships with these places, we recognize that the impact of these injustices is still felt by survivors and their descendants and will be felt by generations to come.

Listen, Reflect and Take Action

We’re following Indigenous leaders and advocates like Sarain Fox and Scott Wabano and listening to their stories. We’re prepared to hear difficult truths about other people’s experiences, which might completely challenge our beliefs — and that’s okay. We are being aware of our own reactions to what we’re hearing and learning how to respond constructively. How does this news make you feel? Are you feeling defensive or on edge? Sit with that. And when you’re ready, advocate. Challenge positions that perpetuate stereotypes and miss the chance to highlight positive work and outcomes. Educate your peers. 

Do No Harm

We commit to continue reflecting on our behaviour and doing our part in bringing down an unjust system. 

Hold Space/Be Mindful

Allyship requires embodiment, not a “tell me what to do” mindset. We promise to be aware of what space we’re taking up and how much we’re demanding from the community. When the community needs to act alone, we will respect their boundaries and will remain supportive. 

Responsibility for Ourselves

As a company we are aware of the land and resources we’ve taken away from communities through our presence. We strive to give back more than we’ve taken away. 

With Canada Day just around the corner, we’re feeling this in a big way and asking ourselves important questions:

What is causing anxiety, shame, or guilt for me? 

What am I in denial about? 

How can I better educate myself on the experience and injustices that the Indigenous community faces?

Where have I shown a lack of awareness or insensitivity? 

How can I take ownership for any unconscious biases I hold and shift out of it?

What about you? We’d love to hear how you’re doing. 


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