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 oganization who wish to decolonize relationships with Indigenous communities.
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 is to:
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 taken
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 fulfil 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.
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.
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
Wendat Nation, Co-ordinator, Indigenous commununity engagement, Office of Community Engagement at Concordia University
Anishinaabe from Animbiigoo Zaagi'igan Anishinaabek, M.A. student, Project assistant, Office of Community Engagement at Concordia University
Mi’maw from Listuguj, Senior Advisor, Indigenous Directions Office of the Provost and Vice-President, Academic, Concordia University
Cree from Mistissini, Bachelor of Education, specializing in Kindergarten and Elementary Education
Iako'tsi:rareh Amanda Lickers
Seneca, Six Nations of the Grand River
Kanien'keha:ka from Kahnawa:ke and part of the bear clan
Red River Métis filmmaker, educator and PhD candidate at McGill University
Huron-Wendat & Québécoise, and PhD candidate at Concordia University
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.