Are We Good Allies to First Nations?

This is what solidarity looks like; make sure it’s authentic!

Lots of us care about deepening relationships with and social/economic/political justice for first peoples. It’s hard to come in, though, sometimes as a person from an oppressor or settler class. But there is a good checklist to make sure we’re actually contributing effectively.

It’s hard to know how to live humility, sincerity and really really good listening to make sure we are not a hindrance, but this Ally Bill of Responsibilities does a good job of helping us be mindful of humility, and maintaining a sincere focus on assisting those who are oppressed, and not taking up everyone’s airtime, particularly if we’re from a class that is used to entitlements to air time.

Enjoy, and let this enrich your spirit and activism!

Ally Bill of Responsibilities
© Dr. Lynn Gehl, Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe
Responsible Allies:
1.  Do not act out of guilt, but rather out of a genuine interest in challenging the
larger oppressive power structures;
2.  Understand  that  they  are  secondary  to  the  Indigenous  people  that  they  are
working  with  and that they seek to serve. They and their needs must take a
back seat;
3.  Are  fully grounded in their own ancestral history and culture.  Effective allies
must sit in this knowledge with confidence and pride; otherwise the “wannabe
syndrome” could merely undermine the Indigenous people’s efforts;
4.  Are  aware of their privileges and openly discuss them. This action will also
serve to challenge larger oppressive power structures;
5.  Reflect on and embrace their ignorance of the group’s oppression and always
hold  this  ignorance  in  the  forefront  of  their  minds.   Otherwise,  a  lack  of
awareness of their ignorance could merely perpetuate the  Indigenous people’s
6.  Are  aware of and understand the larger oppressive power structures that serve
to  hold  certain  groups  and  people  down.   One  way  to  do  this  is  to  draw
parallels  through  critically  reflecting  on  their  own  experiences  with
oppressive power structures. Reflecting on their subjectivity in this way, they
ensure critical thought or what others call objectivity. In taking this approach,
these  parallels  will  serve  to  ensure  that  non -Indigenous  allies  are  not
perpetuating the oppression;
7.  Constantly listen and reflect through the medium of subjectivity and critical
thought versus merely their subjectivity. This will serve to ensure that they
avoid the trap that they or their personal friends know what is best. This act
will  also  serve  to  avoid  the  trap  of  naively  following  a  leader  or  for  that
matter a group of leaders;
8.  Strive to remain critical thinkers  and seek out the knowledge and wisdom of
the  critical  thinkers  in  the  group.   Allies  cannot  assume  that  all  people  are
critical thinkers and have a good understanding of the larger power structures
of oppression;
9.  Ensure that a community consensus, or understanding, has been established in
terms  of  their  role  as  allies.   Otherwise,  the  efforts  of  the  people  will  be
undermined due to a lack of consultation and agreement;
10.  Ensure  that  the  needs  of  the  most  oppressed  –  women,  children,  elderly,
young teenage  girls and boys, and the disabled  –  are served in the effort or
movement  that they  are  supporting.  Otherwise, they  may  be  engaging in  a
process that is inadequate and thus merely serving to fortify the larger power
structures of oppression. Alternatively, their good intentions may not serve
those who need the effort most. Rather, they may be making the oppression
11.  Understand and reflect on the prevalence and dynamics of lateral oppression
and horizontal violence on and within oppressed groups and  components of
the  group,  such  as  women,  and  seek  to  ensure  that  their  actions  do  not
encourage it;
12.  Ensure that they are supporting a leader’s, group of leaders’, or a movement’s
efforts  that serve the  needs  of  the people.   For  example, do  the  community
people  find  this  leader’s  efforts  useful,  interesting,  engaging,  and  thus
empowering? If not, allies should consider whether the efforts are moving in
a  questionable  or  possibly  an  inadequate  direction,  or  worse  yet  that  their
efforts  are  being  manipulated  and  thus  undermined,  possibly  for  economic
and political reasons;
13.  Understand that sometimes allies are merely manipulatively chosen to further
a  leader’s  agenda  versus  the  Indigenous  Nations’,  communities’,  or
organizations’ concerns, and when this situation occurs act accordingly;
14.  Do  not  take  up  the  space  and  resources,  physical  and  financial,  of  the
oppressed group;
15.  Do not take up time at community meetings and community events. This is
not their place.   They must listen more than speak.   Allies cannot perceive all
the larger oppressive power structures as clearly as members of the oppressed
group can; And finally,
16.  Accept  the  responsibility  of  learning  and  reading  more  about  their  role  as
effective allies.

Here is the poster version: ally_bill_of_responsibilities_poster

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist.
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website,

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