Originally published: October 2023

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September 30 is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This date is about recognizing the devastating effects of Canada’s residential school system. It’s a day to honour survivors and their families, repair relationships, and work toward reconciliation.

This is an important time to talk with your child about what it means to be an Indigenous ally. An ally is a settler (non-Indigenous person) who helps others understand the harms of colonization and its impacts on Indigenous communities. Allies challenge systems that limit opportunities for Indigenous peoples.

It's not easy to talk about allyship. You might struggle to find the right words, or worry about saying the wrong thing. Know that a key part of allyship is listening to the voices of Indigenous peoples. It’s essential to ask what you can do to be an ally, and support actions Indigenous communities are comfortable with.

In this edition, we’ll learn from Joanna Gladue, Senior Advisor with Alberta Health Services’ Indigenous Wellness Core. She reminds us that the term “ally” isn’t meant to be a label or a recognition we give ourselves. Allies are humble and always learning.

With that in mind, let’s explore Joanna’s tips for teaching kids about Indigenous allyship.

Help your child understand what an ally is (and what it isn't)

Talk with your child about the characteristics of Indigenous allies. Try these talking points:

  • Allies respect that Indigenous peoples are the experts on their own realities. Allies never assume. They don’t insert their own opinions or values.
  • Allies are committed. They do more than charitable efforts or one-time activities.
  • Allies support action because it’s the right thing to do. Allies don’t look for rewards or recognition.
  • Allies are aware of the space they take up, and they pass their power to Indigenous peoples. Allies don’t take the lead or steal the show.

Have honest talks with your child about their intentions for being an Indigenous ally. Help them reflect on whether their actions are respectful and meaningful.

Learn and share about truth and reconciliation

Have family conversations about truth and reconciliation. It can be exhausting and difficult for Indigenous peoples to take on the task of educating settlers. Help your child brainstorm what they’d like to learn about Indigenous history and culture, and how they’ll share their learning with peers. Remind them that an important role for allies is to share what they’re learning with others.

These kid-friendly sources can help:

  • Phyllis’ Orange Shirt is a true story that helps kids understand the impact of residential schools. It has inspired people across the country to wear orange as a symbol that Every Child Matters.
  • Indigenous myths and misconceptions is a series of fact sheets to help bust myths about Indigenous peoples, and foster understanding and compassion.
  • Indigenous events is a directory of special days, weeks, and events in Alberta to celebrate Indigenous culture. Watch for local celebrations so that you and your child can learn from Elders and Knowledge Keepers in your area.

Teach your child to speak out against injustice

Help your child learn and practice the rules of the road. For example:

Remind your child that still today, Indigenous peoples experience racism and discrimination. Reassure them that all people in Canada deserve to be treated with fairness, justice, and kindness.

Encourage your child to speak up when they notice unfair treatment of Indigenous peoples or communities. Together, watch How to be an ally to Indigenous Peoples in Canada, a brief video with practical tips on what you, your child, and family can do.

Indigenous allyship is a long journey. Reach out for help if you need it:


Photo: Traditional Indigenous dancers from Maskwacis celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day at Ponoka Elementary School June 21. Everyone was encouraged to join in. Photo by Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News. Used with permission. 

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