Indigenous Perspectives Society

Category Archives: Blog

Have A Culturally Respectful Halloween

I am not a costumeI have worn an indigenous costume. It wasn’t for Halloween, it was for a summer festival and I wore it to be playful about my believed American Indian ancestry, although it really didn’t even come close to a beautiful real buckskin dress. When I put on that costume, I was completely unprepared for the comments it, and I received. And no, they were not about cultural appropriation, they were remarks containing Disneyified hyper-sexualized stereotypes of indigenous women. My costume selection unintentionally perpetuated harmful beliefs.

Growing up, my family thought that my great-grandfather, my father’s mother’s father, was an American Indian from the Phoenix, Arizona area. In the United States of America, indigenous groups were often moved great distances from their traditional territories and told to live on reservations with other unrelated groups. Phoenix is a very culturally diverse area. Both my grandmother and my aunt spent time in Phoenix looking for traces of our family’s roots and with 20 different reservations I imagine this was a challenging task.

In their journey, my aunt and grandmother found out that most of the family records from the time of my great-grandfather had been burned, as fire was a common danger in those old buildings. They were not successful in discovering anything about my great-grandfather’s roots. This happened to families in Canada too.

Keeping in mind the continued oppressive nature of colonization, a people’s traditional dress is not a costume for a party or for Halloween, but rather it is symbolic of a cultural lineage that is still alive and evolving. Cultures are not caricatures or cartoons.

So this Halloween ask yourself these questions to make sure you costume is culturally appropriate:

  • Is what you are planning to wear based on a race, culture, ethnicity, or social group?
  • What is your intention for the outfit?
  • What message might you be sending and at whose expense?
  • Why is your costume funny or sexy?
  • Would you wear your costume around that group of people?

Think about why you are making these choices and remember that sometimes what makes a costume sexy is that marginalized people are often hyper-sexualized, and that sometimes what makes a costume funny is the fact it is a white individual wearing another ethnicity or race. This is racist behaviour.  As former Indigenous Perspectives Society staff member Alicia BigCanoe says in her I Am Not A Costume campaign, “Let’s get creative, not oppressive.”

For more information on how to have a culturally safe Halloween and the I Am Not A Costume campaign visit www.lspirg.org/costumes.

About the Author

Alesha Doran is the Business Development Coordinator for the Indigenous Perspectives Society – Creating Excellence through Training and Leadership. A non-indigenous ally, Alesha was born and raised in Secwepemc territory and now enjoys life in beautiful Lkwungen territory on southern Vancouver Island. For more information on Cultural Perspectives Training email her at aleshad@ipsociety.ca and visit www.ipsociety.ca

Cultural Perspective and How to Get It

Cultural PerspectivesTo understand another we first have to understand ourselves, and to do that we need to reflect on our history.

Cultural Perspective can be defined as:

“Cultural perspective refers to the way that individuals are shaped by their environments as well as social and cultural factors. Such factors include a person’s nationality, race and gender.” Reference.com

Each of us comes with a unique story that shapes who we are and how we see the world. Where we grew up, the size and makeup of our families, our ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and our educational background all contribute to our world view. Two people who grew up next door to each other can have radically different cultural experiences and points of view. Biological siblings raised together have different cultural perspectives from having different gender identities, and being interested in different things.

Self-awareness about the origins of our beliefs gives us the understanding to appreciate the origins of the beliefs of others. We learn to receive people as part of a story that has brought them to where they are today and what their future potential might be, rather than a predetermined set of assumptions based on stereotypes from external cues.

Three steps you can take to cultivate cultural perspective are:

  • Participate in professional development training that can fill in the gaps of your knowledge and understanding.
  • Be open-minded and in relationship to the people around you for who they are and not just what you may want or need from them.
  • Study yourself and how you react in different situations. Take note of how you are when you are succeeding in your relationships and cultivate those ways of being.

Cultivating cultural perspective is an important step in developing intelligent and agile social skills that create value in our organizations. Workplaces rely on our ability to forge strong relationships, both internally and externally, to foster collaborative creativity, attract talent, retain clients and grow support.

About the Author

Alesha Doran is the Business Development Coordinator for the Indigenous Perspectives Society –Creating Excellence through Training and Leadership. A non-indigenous ally, Alesha was born and raised in Secwepemc territory and now enjoys life in beautiful Lkwungen territory on southern Vancouver Island. For more information on Cultural Perspectives Training email her at aleshad@ipsociety.ca and visit www.ipsociety.ca

Be the Spark – A Call for Social Innovation

LeadershipWe all have a sense of the enormity of our world’s challenges.

The news informs us each day of our social inequalities, our superfluous violence, and our rapidly changing climate. We see the problems in our immediate lives and we feel fearful of the future.

We know that each of us is complicit in this mess simply by participating in the world we are born into, and by following the paths we have been told to follow. The issues seem insurmountable and often we retreat into just working with what is, as best we can.

At some point we may awaken and see that we live in an interdependent world, sharing each others problems. And when we wake up, we feel a responsibility to help and are faced with so many choices.

This is where I think the perspective of social innovation can help to guide our actions.

The Stanford Business School’s Centre for Social Innovation describes the concept as, “A social innovation is a novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just – than current solutions. The value created accrues primarily to society rather than to private individuals.”

Looking at our endeavours through the lens of social innovation guides us to create social value through our ideas, solutions and processes in addition to benefits for individuals and organizations.

Social Innovation does not have to be a big change. In the continual process of refining and building our organizations, it is often the small adjustments that have the most significant impact. Reviewing your organizations’ activities with a social innovation perspective may reveal a subtle shift that can be transformative.

Here are some actions that can help start the social innovation shift in your organization:

  1. Set conditions by building common intent.
  2. Structure the issue or design question with data from collective sensing, research, and results.
  3. Generate ideas with proposals and idea generation sessions, giving space for new ideas to emerge from the process.
  4. Test ideas with prototypes, experiments, workshops, and pilot programs.
  5. Implement ideas inside a sustainable context with room for them to evolve and be adjusted to keep serving the intention of the established common intent.
  6. Share the social innovation with related nonprofit, public, and private sectors to contribute to a replicable model that can transform systems and be of service to a wider community.

Social Innovation relies on the exchange of ideas and values, shifts in roles and relationships, and integrating private capital with public and philanthropic support. To truly understand and solve our challenges the nonprofit, public, and private sectors must work together with our collective good as the outcome.

About the Author

Alesha Doran is the Business Development Coordinator for the Indigenous Perspectives Society –Creating Excellence through Training and Leadership. A non-indigenous ally, Alesha was born and raised in Secwepemc territory and now enjoys life in Lkwungen territory on southern Vancouver Island. For more information on Cultural Perspectives Training email her at aleshad@ipsociety.ca and visit www.ipsociety.ca

Cultural Humility – What does it mean?

Cultural HumilityIn a world that celebrates knowledge and expertise, we invest a lot of time and money in learning to increase our sense of knowing. Knowledge is powerful. We are told that when we go into a situation we need to know how to handle it, how to keep control, how to do the right thing, how to be safe. Knowledge protects us from our fear.

As a child, when I began to raise my head from playing with my toys and started to observe the world outside of my immediate familial relationships, which were themselves fractured and unreliable, I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to create what I was seeing. The world of social division, war, consumerism, and environmental destruction I was witnessing was a stark contrast to how I felt about those I loved and the beauty I saw, as imperfect as it was. Acquiring knowledge was the only way to make sense of any of it.

When I went to university I was on a quest. I wanted to find out how the world works, how it ended up the way it is and why. I studied anthropology, history, geography, sociology, philosophy, and political science in an attempt to piece together how we all ended up here behaving the way we do. I learned a lot. I learned so much that the year following completing my degree I was part know-it-all and part completely disillusioned. I remember a friend saying to me, “You think you know, but you don’t.” I disconnected for a while, not knowing how to best be of service.

Emerging from healthcare and social work interactions is a concept of Cultural Humility. It is a view that encourages people to cultivate self-awareness and realize their own places of power, privilege and prejudice. By reflecting on what has shaped our views, and what may have impacted the views of others, we can cultivate compassion and meet each person with our cups empty, to be filled with the information they share about who they are. We are only experts on our own experience. Sometimes the best education teaches us how much we don’t know, how much we can’t know, and with that knowledge we learn to be fully present.

About the Author

Alesha Doran is the Business Development Coordinator for the Indigenous Perspectives Society –Creating Excellence through Training and Leadership. A non-indigenous ally, Alesha was born and raised in Secwepemc territory and now enjoys life in Lkwungen territory on southern Vancouver Island. For more information on Cultural Perspectives Training email her at aleshad@ipsociety.ca and visit www.ipsociety.ca

What if everything that was yours was taken from you?

orange shirt day

When I first heard of residential schools I thought they were like the boarding schools I had seen in movies, television shows, or had read about in books. I imagined that children went to these schools because their parents were not able to care for them while they worked long hours, or dreamed of offering them a better future. I imagined that some of these children came from single parent families, or were orphans, and that maybe being at a boarding school was safer than making their way on their own in the world. These beliefs were reinforced by friends I made growing up, whose experiences were not unlike what I had imagined, although, even their stories often had dark elements that were heartbreaking to hear.

I didn’t truly understand the differences of the residential school experience until love brought me into a family that had survived it. As we got to know each other during family dinners, holiday gatherings and coffee chats in the kitchen, stories were shared as a way for us to understand each other, to appreciate where we were on our paths, and feel pride over the obstacles we had overcome. My husband’s mother, her sister, and brothers had attended residential school along with many of their extended family. Fashionable and cool kids, the impact of having to wear uniforms that homogenized their identity left its imprint on their sense of self-worth. I was shocked to hear that the uniforms they were issued were not even theirs. On laundry day all the clothes were washed and then redistributed. You were lucky to get something that fit properly. Nothing was yours, not even your underwear.

I attended a catholic school from grade three through grade seven and I had to wear a uniform. My mom thought it was a great idea because we didn’t have much money and it saved her from having to buy very many clothes. I remember defiantly wearing red shoes and stacking Mexican silver bracelets my grandmother had sent me on my arms. I had that freedom.

Orange Shirt DayWhile I am not part of that family anymore, each one of them still lives in my heart, and I am forever changed in my understanding of what is means to be Canadian and the impact of how we arrived here.

Orange Shirt Day gives us the opportunity to learn about the legacy of our collective history and continue the discussion of what each of us needs to do to help reconciliation as we build our future together.

The Orange Shirt Day – Every Child Matters campaign grew out of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad’s story of having her shiny new orange shirt taken away on her first day of school at St. Joseph Mission residential school, you can read more about her story here http://www.orangeshirtday.org/phyllis-story.html

About the Author

Alesha Doran is the Business Development Coordinator for the Indigenous Perspectives Society –Creating Excellence through Training and Leadership. A non-indigenous ally, Alesha was born and raised in Secwepemc territory and now enjoys life in Lkwungen territory on southern Vancouver Island. For more information on Cultural Perspectives Training email her at aleshad@ipsociety.ca and visit www.ipsociety.ca