Indigenous Perspectives Society

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What I learned in Cultural Perspectives Training

LocationEven though I thought I already had a good understanding of our collective history from university studies, Indigenous friends, living and working with First Nations, life experiences and relationships, my knowledge was assembled in pieces over time. Sitting down for a full day of in-class focused study in Cultural Perspectives Training (CPT) to review our history of colonization really synthesized that knowledge, filled in some important gaps, and deepened my emotional connection the importance of acknowledging our past and the need for each one of us to take action to reconcile.

Here are 3 valuable perspectives that I (re)learned in CPT:

1.   The importance of cultural location. Where we come from builds the foundation of who we are and how we think. By locating ourselves in relationship to one another, we can have a better understanding of what we bring our relationships. In many Indigenous cultures, introductions include family and geography. This is important because it links us to our place in our natural ecology. For example, here is my introduction, “My name is Alesha Doran. My mother is Aleta Leopas and my father is David Hayes. My parents settled in Canada in 1974, coming from Northern California. My ancestors are primarily from Scotland, Sweden, England, and Estonia.” Being open and honest about how you arrived where you are, not only helps others in relationship to you, it reminds you of your own perspective in relationship to those around you.

2.   The insidious nature of institutionalized racism, specifically the Indian Act. In Cultural Perspectives Training we study how Canadian legislation classifies Indigenous people and the impacts of that classification in community and family cultures. We also look at how the Indian Act, while a tool of segregation, is an acknowledgement of traditional claim to territory. To have it removed without replacement agreements in place threatens to remove legal land rights. This unfortunate circumstance is why many Indigenous communities are opposed to having it revoked, even though its enforcement has caused so much harm.

3.   The social consequences of intergenerational trauma. Intergenerational trauma is not exclusively an Indigenous issue, it is a consequence of multiple generations of poverty that occur in every community to some degree. Poverty is not restricted to finance, it includes economic, cultural, emotional and educational scarcity that can lead to various types of abuse and neglect. Because of the extreme actions taken against Indigenous populations during the colonization of Canada, the consequences of that trauma still deeply effects individuals and communities. Respect, support and understanding are imperative to practice as these are wounds we all share.

Cultural Perspectives Training Certificate - Alesha Doran-1These are only three of many perspectives that unfold during the day of Cultural Perspectives Training, with learning deepening as ideas are reinforced through discussion and practice during the following 8 hours of online study distributed over 4 weeks. Understanding where we come from, and our role in Canada’s colonization history, gives each of us powerful self-awareness tools that enable us to be truly present to one another.

Indigenous Perspectives Society will be offering another session of Cultural Perspectives Training on February 28, 2017. To register visit http://ipsociety.ca/cultural-competency-training/cptraining/

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

Reconciliation and the Solutions Economics of Social Enterprise

Social InnovationRecently I spent the afternoon at a wonderful event at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, Stories of Indigenous Social Innovation, where four speakers shared what they are doing to address social issues with new approaches for persistent problems including homelessness, unemployment, affordable housing and violence against women and children. The high percentage of Indigenous people dealing with these social issues is a stark statement about the consequences of colonialism and institutionalized racism.

Ron Rice, President of the Victoria Native Friendship Centre Board of Directors, shared about the Siem Lelum project providing a new model of urban housing focusing on building community, http://www.vnfc.ca/siem-lelum-respected-house, and the success of the Eagle Project, an extraordinary employment project that has an incredibly high rate of sustained success in the lives of participants,  http://www.vnfc.ca/programs-services/eagle-project. The Eagle Project is an example of the kind of work that would succeed in building capacity in communities throughout British Columbia.

Don Elliot, the Executive Director of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, spoke on the work they do and their partnership with the work of the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness, http://aboriginalhomelessness.ca/, an organization that grew out of their work in the community when different possibilities for support were identified. The Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness works helping reconnect dislocated people to their communities so they no longer suffer isolated and alone, and their community can help them find a home in the city or return to be supported in their home territory.

Shaun Loney, one of the founders of Aki Energy, http://www.akienergy.com/, talked about the extraordinary benefits of taking a social enterprise approach to business and social issues and his perspective and what he and his team have accomplished is powerfully inspiring. I highly recommend his book, An Army of Problem Solvers – Reconciliation and the Solutions Economy, http://www.armyofproblemsolvers.com/. I bought it and it is a book everyone needs to read.

Paul Lacerte, the founder of the Moose Hide Campaign – a grassroots movement of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Men who are standing up against violence towards women and children, http://moosehidecampaign.ca, shared a compelling story of how he came into awareness of the absence of men present in this important discussion. He talked about his personal resolve to bring men into the conversation and stand up for loving and caring men. When he looked around the room saying “Where are the men in this discussion?” it was interesting to observe that the audience in the room at this event was also 90% women.

It is great to see what is possible when people are not afraid to use their imagination and entrepreneurial spirit to take on important work for community well-being and sustainability. Collectively we need to look at ways to encourage programs and projects that are proven to work, and support Indigenous solutions, especially Indigenous solutions for Indigenous issues. In many cases, the ingenuity and proactive work being done in Indigenous communities demonstrates the deep work that needs to be done in all of our communities to heal, learn, and embrace our true potential. If something is effective, let’s do more of it.

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

Creating Family – Why Foster Caregiving Matters

Foster CaregiversIf it weren’t for my foster sisters I may not have been born. My parents moved to Canada with my older brother in 1974 and by 1975, they had settled in Kamloops. There were a lot of young families in their neighbourhood, and my mom was home a lot with my then three year old brother. Like it often is when you have been dealing with diapers for a few years, another child was not on her mind.

Among the neighbourhood children were two indigenous twin girls who loved to come and play with the dolls my mother sewed intricate costumes for. A historical costumer in the making, she sewed dresses held up with tiers of lace trimmed petticoats, made elaborate hats, and she even sewed the dolls name on the pockets of their pantaloons. The 9 year old girls delighted in her creations and my mother, 22 at the time, loved to have tea parties and appreciated the company while she was home with my baby brother. A year later I was born, and I was always told that their sweetness was the inspiration for my existence.

We moved away and lost touch with the girls and their family. Several years later, my father was working in a group home housing youth in transition, it was a place teenagers were sent to stay if they were in between more long-term or permanent homes. One of the girls arrived, broken and sad. They had been in a car accident with their mother and she had been killed. My parents found the other girl, and they came to live with us until they finished their education and could make it on their own. Those years were not easy and my parents were young, with young children too. Taking care of those girls was not even a choice for us. It was simply what we knew we must do.

There are many families who gladly take on caring for their community and the children they come to know and love. Indigenous children and youth need foster caregivers to support their journeys until they return to their families, extended families or communities. There is an urgent need for foster caregivers to support some of the most diverse populations of children in care. You do not have to be Indigenous/Aboriginal to be a foster caregiver; however, First Nation, Metis, Inuit Status and Non-Status Aboriginal foster caregivers are needed across BC.

To help teach foster caregivers in British Columbia the skills needed to succeed and support them through their journey, Indigenous Perspectives Society is pleased to offer its new services for foster caregivers, Indigenous Caregivers of BC. If you are interested in becoming a foster caregiver, contact www.fostercaregiversbc.ca and learn about the training, support line, and resources available to help grow healthy families and loved children.

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

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