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My Relations

Indigenous engagement guide

Created by the Office of Community Engagement, Dewemaagannag/My Relations is a self-reflection guide that provides key principles and values to guide any non-Indigenous individual or organization who wish to decolonize relationships with Indigenous communities.

Watch the launch of
Dewemaagannag/My Relations

The launch was held on September 27, 2023 at the SHIFT Centre at Concordia. 

Don't miss the 
Dewemaagannag/My Relations workshops!

A summary of the guide

Indigenous Peoples operating in higher educational colonial institutions are often solicited for their knowledge, experiences and relationships with Indigenous communities. The requests are fueled by an increasing awareness of inequalities, a desire to make space for diverse perspectives and by Indigenous advocacy. Whether universities are answering the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action, or leading an Indigenization or decolonization process, they should be guided by Indigenous experts.

The goal of the guide

  • Centre Indigenous perspectives on community engagement
  • Encourage a reflection on the motivations for soliciting Indigenous communities
  • Provide guidance on ways to move from reflection to action. 

This guide supports:

  • individuals and groups who wish to learn how to best collaborate with Indigenous Peoples, organizations and/or communities.
  • long-term collaborators who want to improve and deepen their relationships through a self-reflexive process. 

What does it contain? 

  • Key principles and values that are central to building relationships
  • Stories and advice from Indigenous individuals

The approach

Colonization is as an ongoing process that has affected the ability of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples to engage in respectful and equitable relationships. Indigenous Peoples have been and continue to be made invisible in institutions, including universities.

As you use this guide, you are invited to be critical and to challenge power imbalances in your personal and professional relationships. 

Guiding principles & values 

Whether you are doing a class project with a community, developing a research proposal, creating an advisory committee or hiring Indigenous employees, these principles and values can be applied to various collaborative contexts. 

To help you put into practice the principles and values detailed in this guide, the guide includes questions to reflect on. 


Oral storytelling as a mode of transferring knowledge is fundamental to Indigenous communities. As such, listening is a core Indigenous principle. Listening means learning to be quiet, wait and be present. Taking the time to listen to the community’s stories because they are used to share experiences and knowledge. Your project should fulfill a need, respond to a demand, address a concern, voiced by the community.

Respecting Indigenous expertise

Indigenous Peoples and communities are the experts on their own needs. Imagine collaborating with people who embody thousands of years of experience on this earth. The collaborations you initiate with Indigenous individuals, organizations and communities will only be stronger by pulling together different types of expertise towards the same goal. 

Relating in reciprocity

Reciprocity is viewed as a non-material exchange that extends beyond the beginning and end of a project. Reciprocity is ensuring that your collaborators benefit from the partnership and in the case of Indigenous individuals and communities, they should benefit the most. 

Being accountable

Fostering relationships with Indigenous Peoples and communities creates accountability and responsibility for what actions are acceptable and for sustained action over time. This is fundamental to a meaningful coexistence.1 Relationship building is a shared process and so is learning about the impacts of colonialism and the community’s history.   


Indigenous expertise is often rooted in lived experience, stories, and traditional knowledge. An Indigenous collaborator who shares individual experience should be compensated fairly for their time and expertise. 

Obtaining consent

Unfortunately, Indigenous expertise is often sought without consent or compensation. Extraction from Indigenous communities has been going on since colonization and this includes resources, traditional knowledge, intellectual property and time. When approaching Indigenous communities and individuals, be aware of the power dynamics at play and that those dynamics can influence how Indigenous communities and individuals respond. 


Finally, it is recommended to take time to reflect on your position of power and privilege. “This is an important part of decolonization, as it forces [non-Indigenous] people to suppress their privileged voices and the notion of superiority that has been impressed upon them from birth and to listen to the perspectives of [Indigenous Peoples]”2

Dreamcatcher created by Amanda Shawayahamish

Creators of this guide 

Geneviève Sioui

Wendat Nation, Co-ordinator, Indigenous commununity engagement, Office of Community Engagement at Concordia University

Amanda Shawayahamish

Anishinaabe from Animbiigoo Zaagi'igan Anishinaabek, M.A. student, Project assistant, Office of Community Engagement at Concordia University


Allan Vicaire

Mi’maw from Listuguj, Senior Advisor, Indigenous Directions Office of the Provost and Vice-President, Academic, Concordia University

Celeste Awashish

Cree from Mistissini, Bachelor of Education, specializing in Kindergarten and Elementary Education

Iako'tsi:rareh Amanda Lickers

Seneca, Six Nations of the Grand River

Katsistohkwi:io, Jacco

Kanien'keha:ka from Kahnawa:ke and part of the bear clan

Michelle Smith

Red River Métis filmmaker, educator and PhD candidate at McGill University

Véronique Picard

Huron-Wendat & Québécoise, and PhD candidate at Concordia University

Vicky Boldo

Cree/Metis, adoptee from the 1960s, mother, daughter, sister, auntie, and kohkum

Illustrations by Amanda Ibarra, Kanien’keha:ka from Kahnawake, Chilean, freelance graphic designer and bead worker. 

Editing by Mel Lefebvre, Red River Michif, Nehiyaw, French, Irish traditional tattoo practitioner, artist, writer and PhD candidate at Concordia University.

Thanks to Dr. Bimadoshka Pucan, Dr. Jason Edward Lewis, Manon Tremblay, and Dr. Monica Mulrennan for their support and feedback.

  1. Office of Aboriginal Initiatives, Indigenous Allyship : An Overview. Wilfrid Laurier University, 2015, p.12. 
  2. Office of Aboriginal Initiatives, Indigenous Allyship : An Overview. Wilfrid Laurier University, 2015, p.13.  
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