I 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.ipsociety.ca
To 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 Hayes 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 email@example.com and visit www.ipsociety.ca
A new group of participants take the journey through Indigenous Perspectives Society’s Cultural Perspectives Training today to learn about the legacy of colonization, residential schools, and effects of inter-generational trauma, privilege, and racism.
Out of the learning and discussion in the IPS training seminars developed out of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations, training participants will be creating Calls to Action response plans to turn their ideas into meaningful actions in their organizations.
“It is powerful to see a dialogue about the legacy of colonization and residential schools in the media as the stories of Chanie Wenjack (Secret Path) and Phyllis (Jack) Webstad (Orange Shirt Day) have brought into awareness the need for education and healing in our country,” said Linda Lucas, Indigenous Perspective Society’s Executive Director. “I think we are at a place now where everyone understands the value in strengthening our collaborative relationships. We have many challenges to overcome because it takes time to heal generations of people, which is why we must do it together with a shared common intention.”
To support working professionals, Indigenous Perspectives Society’s Cultural Perspectives Training (CPT) offers a blended learning model that balances in-class sharing, learning, and collaboration with self-guided online resources, research and off-site action-taking. CPT consists of 7 hours of in-person training and 8 hours of online training. CPT is offered either at our in-house training centre, or IPS can come into your organization for a private training for your staff.
A non-profit society with a mission to strengthen the lives of indigenous people, the Indigenous Perspectives Society (IPS) has built its expertise in education and social work with two decades of service supporting the health of indigenous children and families. IPS currently has a 3 year CARF accreditation for delivery of the Aboriginal Social Work Training Program. IPS provides training, research, and policy support to Delegated Aboriginal Agencies and both the Provincial and Federal Governments.
In 2015, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released 94 Calls to Action whereby Government, organizations, and individuals can act to “redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation” (Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 2015).
To learn more about Indigenous Perspectives Society visit https://ipsociety.ca/
Linda Lucas, Executive Director, 250 391 0007
Alesha Doran, Business Development Coordinator, 250 857 4962
The October 2016 IN Perspective features the following articles:
- BLOOMM Update
- Cultural Perspectives Training
- Delegated Aboriginal Social Worker Program at IPS
- Welcome to our new staff
- Ending Violence: Passing the Torch
- Community Gathering Sessions
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We 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:
- Set conditions by building common intent.
- Structure the issue or design question with data from collective sensing, research, and results.
- Generate ideas with proposals and idea generation sessions, giving space for new ideas to emerge from the process.
- Test ideas with prototypes, experiments, workshops, and pilot programs.
- 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.
- 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 Hayes 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.ipsociety.ca