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How to Build Good Relations with Indigenous Peoples: An Interview Series (Part 3)

Building good relations with Indigenous Peoples is imperative for good business, especially in Canada, and yet building these “good relations” can mean different things to different people. In this three-part interview series, we explore what it means to create intentional, meaningful, and equitable partnerships that meet the needs of all parties.

In the first part of this blog series, Sxwpilemaát Siyám — also known as Chief Leanne Joe, of the Squamish Nation — highlighted the importance of understanding Indigenous histories and worldviews, engaging with openness and sincerity, and taking the time to understand the needs of the Indigenous Peoples on whose land you are working. In our second blog, Chief Leanne Joe provided her insights into what “good relations with Indigenous Peoples” can look like, how to start the process of engagement, and provided examples of leading practices.

In this third and final entry, we share some resources recommended by Chief Leanne Joe that help guide your journey to building good relations with Indigenous Peoples. While there is no single resource that has all the answers, these platforms, reports, guides, and videos can help you to get started in building a greater understanding of Indigenous truth-telling, history, systemic discrimination, and essential business practices that can help you build long-lasting respectful relationships that advance reconciliation.

Top resources on Indigenous rights and sovereignty

When it comes to resources related to building good relations with Indigenous Peoples, a great starting point — both in Canada and around the World — is UNDRIP.¹ It establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, and well-being of the Indigenous Peoples of the world, and elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms.

We also recommend the Indigenous Navigator: a framework and set of tools that can help you to understand the realisation of Indigenous rights on the ground.² It was created for — and by — Indigenous Peoples to systematically monitor the level of recognition and implementation of their rights, and features community-based monitoring tools and a community data portal to make implementation gaps more visible. This is an excellent hub for tools, publications, tutorials, and other resources for change agents and leaders seeking comprehensive tools to help anchor their work in the provisions of UNDRIP.

The next step, and particularly when engaging with Indigenous Peoples in Canada, is exploring the final report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.³ Its findings and recommendations are essential knowledge for those who live and do business in Canada. The report draws on six years of testimony from witnesses and explains the history of Indigenous cultural genocide in Canada, including the legacy of the residential school system and of institutional discrimination and assimilation. It also explores the challenges of reconciliation against enduring colonial politics and economics and lists 94 calls to action that your organisation can help to advance.

If you are interested in learning more about the land on which your business operates, Native Land Digital⁴ and Whose Land ⁵ are web-based apps and maps that can help you with identifying Indigenous Nations, territories, and communities, especially in the Americas, as well as learning about relevant treaties and agreements.

Top resources on reconciliation and systemic discrimination

Beyond reading the final report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, there are a number of great resources that can grow your understanding of the history and legacy of settler colonialism on Indigenous Peoples in Canada. We recommend this short video from Murray Sinclair⁶ — the chair of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada — and this one from Chief Robert Joseph.⁷ These heartfelt primers will help you to understand the impact of the residential school system on survivors and their descendants, and provide thoughtful questions that can help guide your company’s approach to fostering its relationship with Indigenous Peoples by advancing reconciliation.

The web series First Things First can help to expand on these experiences by explaining key related topics, such as what non-Indigenous people need to know⁸ about Indigenous experiences, worldviews, and the history and persisting effects of colonialism before seeking out ways to help in a hands-on way; what reconciliation means,⁹ and immediate steps that can help to advance it; and why Indigenous topics cause such emotional discomfort.¹⁰

Another excellent resource — and one that can be applied beyond the context of Canada — is the Reconciliation Toolkit for Business Leaders, which was created by the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples to help you progress toward reconciliation and collaboration with Indigenous Peoples.¹¹ This flexible toolkit is structured around four specific areas of reconciliation: Reflection and Learning, Leading Transformation, Inclusive Workplaces, and Outreach and Engagement.

Top resources on essential business practices and economic inclusion

Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. (ITC) has produced excellent e-books and other resources specific to best practices when engaging with Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Relations: Insights, Tips & Suggestions to Make Reconciliation a Reality is a good starting point for understanding preferred Indigenous terms; common myths and stereotypes about Indigenous Peoples; Indigenous worldviews and barriers to employment; Aboriginal Rights and Title; the differences between types of Indigenous leadership; and the effects of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in Canada.¹² The book also introduces a training model (RESPECT) that will help you to build effective relationships with Indigenous Peoples. 23 Tips on What Not to Say or Do when Working Effectively with Indigenous Peoples features a handy list of practical tips to incorporate in meetings with Indigenous Peoples.¹³

The Decolonize First guide and workbook features processes, prompts, and links to resources that can help to guide and shift your framings and actions away from colonial defaults.¹⁴ Their resources have a wider scope than the context of Canada, but the topics they address — such as colonial narratives, decolonization, intention and impact, and reconciliation — are notably relevant, and include an accessible social change framework and a decolonizing process map. This book is a good starting point for critically examining your company’s maturity in its decolonizing journey and for creating the space necessary for self-reflection and conscientious change.

ITC offers a broad range of free and paid in-person and online training programs that can help you with building Indigenous awareness; improving negotiations, consultation, and engagement; recruiting and retaining Indigenous employees; and more.¹⁵ The AFN Education Toolkit is another helpful learning platform, featuring a series of modules on topics such as Cultural Competency, Residential Schools, and First Nations Holistic Lifelong Learning.¹⁶

The National Indigenous Economic Strategy for Canada 2022 is a great resource for learning more about how to advance the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in the Canadian economy.¹⁷ We also recommend reading Chief Leanne Joe’s writing, such as her article on Economic Reconciliation, the guiding principles that influence it, and the outcomes of effective Economic Reconciliation.¹⁸

We also have a range of additional resources available in our Issue Snapshots, including those related to empowerment, the rights of Indigenous workers, and creating and supporting inclusive communities.

Last of all, we want to share this final piece of advice from Chief Leanne Joe: “Create a knowledge mobilization team within your organization, and create a dedicated space for reconciliation and relationship-building. There are tremendous resources out there […]. Give your champions the time and funding to build a resource list, and to create the right relationships to build and bring in the right training.”

¹ “United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” UN General Assembly, 2 October, 2007, https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2018/11/UNDRIP_E_web.pdf

² “Indigenous Navigator.” n.d., https://indigenousnavigator.org/

³ “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.” Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015, https://ehprnh2mwo3.exactdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Executive_Summary_English_Web.pdf

⁴ “Native Land Digital.” n.d., https://native-land.ca

⁵ “Whose Land.” n.d., https://www.whose.land/en/

⁶ “What is Reconciliation.” Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2011, https://vimeo.com/25389165

⁷ “Namwayut: we are all one. Truth and reconciliation in Canada.” Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), 18 December 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zuRQmwaREY

⁸ “What non-Indigenous Canadians need to know.” TVO Docs, “First Things First,” 2 April 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1E-3Hb1-WA

⁹ “What is reconciliation? Indigenous educators have their say.” TVO Docs, First Things First, 5 April 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hE_08EQbWRI&t=0s

¹⁰ “Why do Indigenous topics cause such emotional discomfort?” TVO Docs, First Things First, 3 April 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtaqRVI-JAk&t=0s

¹¹ “Reconciliation Toolkit for Business Leaders.” Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, n.d., http://www.abo-peoples.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/WP-Revised-Reconciliation-Toolkit_Digital_May12-compressed.pdf

¹² “Indigenous Relations: Insights, Tips & Suggestions to Make Reconciliation a Reality.” Indigenous Training Corporation, 9 May 2019, https://www.ictinc.ca/books/indigenous-relations

¹³ “23 Tips on What Not to Say or Do when Working with Indigenous Peoples.” Indigenous Training Corporation, 2019, https://www.ictinc.ca/23-tips-on-what-not-to-say-or-do

¹⁴ Nahanee, Ta7talíya Michelle. “Decolonize First, a liberating guide & workbook.” Nahanee Creative, n.d., https://www.nahaneecreative.com/products/decolonize-first-a-liberating-guide-and-workbook-for-peeling-back-the-layers-of-neocolonialism

¹⁵ “Indigenous Corporate Training Inc.” n.d., https://www.ictinc.ca/training

¹⁶ “It’s Our Time: The AFN Education Toolkit.” Assembly of First Nations, n.d., https://education.afn.ca/afntoolkit/

¹⁷ “National Indigenous Economic Strategy for Canada 2022.” June 2022, https://niestrategy.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/NIES_English_FullStrategy.pdf

¹⁸ Siyám, Sxwpilemaát (Chief Leanne Joe). “What is Economic Reconciliation?” 2 April 2019, https://www.sfu.ca/ced/economic-reconciliation/transformative-storytelling/what-is-economic-reconciliation-.html

Originally published at https://www.embeddingproject.org.

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