Originally published: October 2023
September 30 marks the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. As this date draws near, teens in classrooms across Alberta are taking part in rich conversations about the lasting impacts of residential schools. They’re reflecting on how they can honour survivors and their families, repair relationships, and work toward reconciliation.
As a parent or caregiver, you can support these important conversations by talking with your teen about Indigenous allyship. Allies are settlers (non-Indigenous people) who help others understand the harms of colonization and its effects on Indigenous communities. Allies challenge and breakdown systems that limit opportunities for Indigenous peoples.
As you dig into this conversation with your teen, know that a critical part of allyship is listening to the voices of Indigenous peoples. It’s essential to ask how 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 her tips for talking with teens about Indigenous allyship.
Reflect together on what an ally is (and what it isn't)
Have honest talks with your teen about their intentions as an ally. Encourage them to think critically about what an ally is and isn’t. 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 for the long-term. 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.
If you’re concerned that your teen is acting in their own self-interest, tell them what you think. Help them reflect on actions that are respectful, meaningful, and likely to deepen their relationships with Indigenous peoples.
Learn and share about truth and reconciliation
Ask your teen what they’ve been learning about truth and reconciliation, and what else they’d like to know. Remind them that it can be exhausting and emotional for Indigenous peoples to take on the task of educating settlers. As an ally, they can seek out opportunities to connect with Indigenous history and culture, and take an active role in teaching others about the lasting impacts of colonialism.
These sources can help:
- Beyond 94 is an interactive website teens can use to monitor progress on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.
- Indigenous myths and misconceptions is a series of fact sheets that can help teens bust myths about Indigenous peoples and foster understanding and compassion.
- Indigenous peoples and cultures is a collection of resources teens can use to explore Indigenous histories, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs.
Teach your teen to stand up to injustice
Acknowledge that still today, Indigenous people face racism, discrimination, and historical trauma. Talk with them about how all people in Canada deserve to be treated with fairness, justice, and kindness.
Encourage teens to take a stand against unfair or unjust treatment of Indigenous peoples and communities. Help them brainstorm ways they can offer support.
For example, they can:
- Listen to guidance from Indigenous peers, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers
- Participate in conversations on tough topics, like racism and discrimination
- Stand in solidarity with Indigenous peoples at marches, rallies, or other events
- Hold back from taking an opportunity (like school or volunteer experience) so that young Indigenous persons can take part instead.
For more ideas on how your teen can support Indigenous allyship, go to:
- How to be an ally to Indigenous Peoples in Canada, a short youth-led video with insights from Indigenous leaders and activists
- The Experiences Canada allyship podcast series, a student engagement and advocacy project featuring the ideas and perspectives of more than 50 youth age 14-18 from across Canada.
Indigenous allyship is a long journey. Reach out for help if you need it:
- AHS Mental Health Help Line: 1-877-303-2642 (Available 24/7 to all people in Alberta)
- Hope for Wellness Help Line: 1-855-242-3310 (Available to all Indigenous people across Canada)
- Kids Help Phone: Young people can text 686868 for free, confidential support 24/7
Photo: AHS Cultural Helper Noella Cardinal and her daughter Lesanna Hayden Dennehy, Juli Harmon and her mother AHS Health Promotion Facilitator Jamie Harmon, and AHS Inuit Helper Atsinak Bishop (left to right)