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Listen, Learn, and Act

Life has taken me various directions these days and it has all happened without even leaving the county I live in. Between farming, teaching yoga, interning, painting, and just trying to live; not much time is left. Luckily, my life is stimulating and one of the most interesting parts is my internship with Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples (7genfund.org). I have learned a great deal about Native American and Indigenous Peoples issues, past and present, as well as the rich and vibrant culture which still thrives today. The past several months I have been assisting with a research project about how white people (Non-Natives) can be an “ally” to Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples. The goal is to write a paper detailing the subject, which reach far and wide; however, with such broad topic, we feel the project may grow into something much more than a single piece. Below is an exert from what I have learned so far and I chose this portion specifically to help clear the air. Enjoy!!!

 

—Listen, learn, and act. These are some of the most important actions Non-natives can take towards being a strong ally to Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples. Non-natives need to step aside and allow the Native and Indigenous Peoples the opportunity to finally speak freely and be recognized. Non-natives must stand strong and committed alongside Native brothers, being aware of past, present, and future Native values. Once educated and conscious, then Non-natives must educate others. The hardships of Indigenous peoples are only a part of what Non-natives do not understand; however, one of the greatest misunderstandings is the vital culture and heritage that has thrived through centuries of oppression. “Being Indigenous is not just an identity but a way of life (Walia).”

The term “ally” holds much stigma and criticism in many activist communities and rightfully so due to the repeated exploitation by white “allies.” With ally (defined as something united with another, especially by treaty) losing accountability, not many other terms fit the mold of what is needed from Non-Natives to support the cause. Accomplice (helper, especially in committing a crime) inches us closer; however, Non-natives cannot be helpers in this fight. Non-Natives must fully participate as Natives do each and every day of their lives, willing to put everything on the line. Non-natives must acknowledge and respect why they are supporting a cause. Is it really for the greater good? Or is it just satisfying a selfish motive? Victimization and/or the thought of “saving” Natives are often romanticized, fabricating reality. No one needs to be saved. What is needed is action (Accomplices).

As a Non-native, it is difficult to approach the subject of how Non-natives can be an ally to Natives without sounding hypocritical or leaving a sour taste to any readers, whether Native or not.  With discussion, research, and abiding by my own advice; listen, learn, and educate, I have discovered it is impossible to satisfy everyone. The best way to avoid complications is to simply share the wisdom of the Native voice that has been so often muffled the past several centuries because now is a time more than ever to listen to those who have embraced Mother Earth for so long.

“Then they grow away from the earth

then they grow away from the sun

then they grow away from the plants and animals.

They see no life

When they look

they see only objects.

The world is a dead thing for them

the trees and rivers are not alive

the mountains and stones are not alive.

The dear and bear are objects

They see no life.”

(Silko)

… The following quote from the book, What We Leave Behind, serves as an example of what we all should be asking ourselves in regard to the seventh generation (referring to the idea how our decisions now will impact the seventh generation), “Will your legacy be a world who is healthier, stronger, more resilient, more diverse, than had you never lived? … If not, then the world would have been better off had you never been born.” Most of us, despite race or status, whether we chose to argue differently or not, would not have positively impacted the world if we died today (Waziyatawin). It is nothing to get down about; however, it is a new concept that requires reflection.

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