by Shaelyn Wabegijig, Project Coordinator, Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 Agenda & Office and Outreach Coordinator, Kawartha World Issues Centre (KWIC)
I am immensely honoured and grateful to have taken part in the webinar discussion about online public engagement and global citizenship education with diverse communities. Thank you to the ICN team who are amazing to work with, the eloquent moderator, and the brilliant speakers who taught me so much.
This timely topic is much needed in today’s rapidly changing context. The range of sub-topics discussed by the panelists fully addressed this broad topic in an open and honest discussion that I will always carry with me. I revere their work and their ability to share their wisdom to ignite change in a society that continues to marginalize and silence groups of people.
As the last speaker, I followed suit in firstly sharing my positionality. For me, this includes my white privilege, my BAH in Indigenous Studies and Philosophy, working for 3 years in the non-profit sector, advocating for social and environmental justice, my Algonquin family’s experience in residential schools, living on a reservation, among many other relationships and experiences that shape my perspective.
When discussing the engagement of Indigenous communities in Canada, I first acknowledged how diverse the term ‘Indigenous’ is. It refers to the people who are inseparable from a place. No Indigenous person’s perspectives or experiences are the same, and they are intersectional (term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw).
I also acknowledged the engagement in question is coming from Western society trying to make space for Indigenous worldviews. Most often, organization processes are dominated by Western society, and Indigenous engagement is excluded from main programs or activities.
Being equipped to engage multiple perspectives allows for meaningful engagement. The term Ethical Space was coined by the Indigenous philosopher, Willie Ermine, from Sturgeon Lake First Nation. The ethical space of engagement is a framework that examines the diversity and positioning of Indigenous peoples and Western society.
Collaboration between Western and Indigenous worldviews is best described in Mi’kmaw Elder, Albert Marshall’s, Etuaptmumk – Two Eyed Seeing approach. This approach generally means utilizing the strengths of both worldviews together.
Identifying challenges and accommodating these needs is key to engaging Indigenous peoples. Some challenges include:
- Under capacity – Indigenous leaders are in high demand;
- Underfunded communities – Ex. Access to affordable food, housing, potable water. This leads to crisis mode;
- Crisis mode – Being focused on survival. Ex. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples, addictions, suicide, etc.;
- Isolated communities – less access to resources necessary for engagement.
Although engagement can be challenging, Indigenous pedagogy has much to offer all sectors of society. Indigenous peoples’ cultures and languages are timeless, based on the Natural Law of the land. Making space for Indigenous paradigms opens new paths to live with each other and the natural world.
If you’re looking to engage Indigenous communities, here is my advice:
- Educate yourself: Research credible sources and listen to Indigenous voices! Participate in training programs and suggest them to your employer. Find the community’s protocols online and/or contact them. It’s ok not to know, as long as you approach learning with openness, respect, honesty and humility.
- Building relationships: Invest in spending time with Indigenous peoples. The better relationships you have, the more you will understand them.
- Awareness of context: Meaningfully collaborate with Indigenous peoples to co-develop programs and activities that are culturally appropriate.
Thank you, chi miigwetch for reading!