Principled Engagement with Indigenous People

Written by: Jennifer Alsop, Manager of Policy and Evaluation

In January of this year, on unceded Squamish, Tseil-Waututh, and Musqueam lands, CAI welcomed Rain Daniels and Chelsey Branch to guide our Leadership Council and staff through a day of learning focused on Principled Engagement with Indigenous People.

The session provided a reflection on Canada’s deep history of colonization and its uninterrupted influence, informing settler-Indigenous relationships, and the official policies, practices and resource flows impacting Indigenous communities. As a team, we were given the chance to reflect on specific events, decisions and policies of colonization, as well as the longer pattern of history between first contact and present day. We were invited to reflect deeply on settler privilege and the defining question of land ownership, in connecting the individual to the systemic. We discussed all the various ways in which bias and stereotypes towards Indigenous people, while in institutional structures and systems, is nevertheless present and influential.  Until this bias is identified and voiced, we as settlers may continue, perhaps unconsciously, to perpetuate the inequities created through the historical and ongoing process of colonization.

What is Decolonization? What does it mean to “Indigenize” and when might that not be appropriate? What are implicit and explicit bias? What is white privilege? What is settler colonialism? How do I interrupt bias? What is my role? These are just some of the questions Rain and Chelsea helped us consider and reflect upon in our work at CAI.

This session illustrated that our personal and collective learning journeys have only just begun, and will require a deep commitment to identifying and disrupting colonial patterns of thought. Action necessitates giving voice to the historical and long-entrenched roots of systemic inequities. Allyship demands explicit recognition of the ways in which our own histories are intertwined with and impacted by colonialism.

At CAI, we find ourselves examining power and privilege, cultural safety and the idea that power can be reclaimed through social action. Its uncomfortable to acknowledge how we might be participating in and benefiting from systems that unfairly disadvantage others. We are taking action by listening, by sharing or in many cases by giving up power to privilege and prioritize voices of community wisdom and by changing the way we support Indigenous people and communities through our granting process.

We will continue to share aspects of our learning journey in the months ahead, as we find ways to take action in relation to our granting, convening and evaluation processes.

This type of training has the potential to be transformative. If your organization is interested in participating, visit their website for more information or contact Rain and Chelsea via email.

Rain Daniels:
[email protected]

Chelsey Branch
[email protected]