Any allyship is aspiring allyship, since no one can really self-proclaim allyship. Only the community you are aspiring to be allies with can judge how good of a job you are doing. So as people who care about and work within social justice movements, our allyship is always a work in progress.
As parents, one of the important skills we can teach our kids is to keep learning, always add more depth to our understanding.
And listen. Really listen with a fully present mind.
It is with these thoughts that I share with you some of the ways I am aspiring to be an ally with indigenous communities – specifically ways that pertain to parenting.
I know whose land I occupy.
This is essential. We all need to recognize that we are settlers are stolen land, land that was taken by violent, deadly force or violent coercion.
I have given a little bit of knowledge about this history to my 3 year old, mostly in the context of fairness. I explained that we live on land that was taken away from Indigenous families and that it was white people that took it (we’d previously had short race discussions so we had a foundation to build on). I explained that a lot of Indigenous people were hurt. We talked about the unfairness of it all. My kid was newly three so I said what I felt like they could take in but as they get closer to four I am contemplating how to add depth to their understanding. One thing I know for sure is that….
I talk about Indigenous communities in the present tense.
This is so important. Using only past tense makes invisible all the individuals, families, and communities that are alive today. Using past tense makes it easy to disregard Indigenous issues as past issues that we should all just move forward from. Issues that directly affect Indigenous communities, including land issues, are historical truths but also very present day realities. And this means two things: we are still directly benefiting from harm done to Indigenous people – and – we have an opportunity to make different decisions (like not allowing for more pipelines, for example). We cannot undo history, but we can acknowledge it and we can mitigate further harm. Note: as long as non-Indigenous people continue to occupy this land, there will likely be some harm done to Indigenous communities since we will always be settlers on stolen land.
I read picture books with my children that have Indigenous characters and were written by Indigenous authors.
Recently I learned of a resource that I am excited to share with you.
Oyate is a Native organization that reviews children’s books “to see that our lives and histories are portrayed with honesty and integrity, and that all people know that our stories belong to us.” As a non- native person, it can sometimes be hard to discern the appropriateness of a book that features Native characters or tells Native stories. Not only does this site give specific aspects to look out for when considering a book, Oyate has a shop so you can be assured that whatever you purchase has been reviewed and is approved.
I take my kids to events that center Indigenous people.
As they get older this will get easier. There are several events a year we cannot yet attend, like conferences, panel discussions, and other speaking events because my three and one year old kids will only be disruptive.
Here are some events we have attended:
Weekly story/art time at a Native youth center
Presentation by Frank Waln – a Sicangu Lakota rapper and activist
I continue my self-education.
I do this for my own knowledge but also so that I can better teach my children, especially as they grow older. There are a ton of amazing resources out there so I’m just going to share my current reads.
This website calls me on my shit. It will do the same to you. And that’s a good thing.
A book that tackles how classrooms portray Columbus and Thanksgiving and re-envisions this education from a historically accurate perception, including the perception of typically silenced Indigenous people.
I teach the importance of being gentle with nature.
This section could easily be its own blog post because so much pertains to it. Through both direct teaching and modelling, I am trying to teach my kids to be gentle with nature by consuming less, using nature-friendly cleaning products (both household and personal), by driving less, by conserving water, by buying local food when possible, by buying organic when possible, and more. What does this have to do with Indigenous people? Well, take a look outside. See the trees, the dirt, the flowers, the squirrels, the birds? We are on someone else’s land, so how you treat the land is literally how you are treating their home. And lets not dismiss the fact that nature has inherent, incalculable value and should have the rights to thrive.
I teach my kids to love nature.
I really believe that intentionally having fun in nature with kids is environmentalism in action. I think that when people have nostalgic memories of a childhood spent in nature, it is harder to dismiss nature as a ‘resource’ that exists for the benefit of people.
So what about you? What are you reading? What are you talking about with your kids? What are you doing to further develop your aspiring allyship? I would love to hear. The more we share ideas and encourage each other to do more, go deeper, the better.