It’s Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the United States and to celebrate we’re sharing some ways you can support Indigenous groups all over the world today and every day.
Colonialism and imperialism have done immeasurable harm to the world. Evident in the genocide committed and ongoing, destruction of Earth’s ecosystems; and the great economic and social inequality for people who were minding their business and flourishing in land that others wanted for themselves. The implementation of racist policies and laws that punish the practice of cultural signifiers like language, dress, religion and spirituality; forcing people from their land through violence and corruption of the land; bondage into chattel slavery; religious “missions” to “save” native populations and other horrors are a part of the ugly playbook. The damage is done and still occurring; but we can fight against it by listening directly to Indigenous groups about what they want and need, and support their communities as directly as possible.
Whose House Are You Living In?
Whether it is evident on the surface or not, colonialism is the disease that has affected every aspect of life in the world. For instance, because the suppression of accurate Indigenous history is the colonizer’s goal, you may not even think, especially in the Americas, about how you are likely living on land that once was occupied by whole other civilizations; many who are still here but forced to the margins of society. Offcultured headquarters occupies Chitimacha and Chahta Yakni (Choctaw) land; and is run by descendants of displaced Indigenous people removed (and bound in chattel slavery) from areas of West Africa.
You can learn which groups had ties to the land first in Australia, New Zealand (Aotearoa), the Arctic Circle including southern Greenland, North and South America, and parts of South America by visiting the map at Native Land Digital, a non-profit Canadian organization lead by Indigenous people that seeks “to encourage people — Native and non-Native — to remember that these were once a vast land of autonomous Native peoples, who called the land by many different names according to their languages and geography”. Tribal Nations Maps, a Native American owned business, can supply you with thoroughly researched and historically accurate maps of the Americas. They also offer a free .pdf of proposed pipelines that threaten harm to Native communities in North America.
Pay Your Rent
Now that you know where you live, you can pay your rent. If there isn’t a formal “Pay Your Rent” initiative like the Duwamish have created, there are many organizations you can give to that will directly support Indigenous people. From Taiwan to Russia, from Costa Rica to India, the problems are global.
If you don’t know where to start, here are a few that can point you in the right direction no matter where you live:
International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs
In their words: “IWGIA is a global human rights organization dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending Indigenous peoples’ rights.”
In their words: “Thousand Currents partners with grassroots groups and movements — led by women, youth, and Indigenous Peoples in the Global South — that are creating lasting solutions to our shared global challenges.”
The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization
In their words: “…is an international membership-based organization established to empower the voices of unrepresented and marginalized peoples worldwide and to protect their fundamental human rights.”
In their words: “From our humble beginnings to our most ambitious projects, culture has been front and center. As our organization has evolved, our mission has evolved. We have shared Indigenous culture with communities through events and media. However, the most fulfilling cultural activities have been exchanges between indigenous tribes. Our organization is committed to preserving Indigenous cultures and empowering Indigenous peoples by building bridges, or cooperation opportunities, that connect Indigenous communities around the world.”
Minority Rights Group International
In their words: “Minority Rights Group International campaigns worldwide with around 150 partners in over 50 countries to ensure that disadvantaged minorities and Indigenous peoples, often the poorest of the poor, can make their voices heard”. They have a searchable directory where you can learn about the history and the needs of specific groups from around the world.
In their words: “IFIP is led by donors and Indigenous leaders to advance a new movement in philanthropy that better values, supports and partners with Indigenous communities. Donors and Indigenous leaders are afforded unique opportunities to respectfully learn from one another at our regional meetings and international donor summits. This face-to-face engagement plants the seeds for trust and enduring collaborations. We build capacity for both Indigenous communities seeking support and donors interested in high impact philanthropy. Personalized encounters, buttressed by social media, case studies and original research on best practices, form the cornerstones of IFIP’s strategy.”
You can streamline your donations by using an app like Round Up App that will round up your purchases and donate the overage to a non-profit of your choice. If the organization you want to donate to is not included in the 1.5 million organizations affiliated with the app, you can request it be included.
Remember The Past and See The Present
Chances are your education about Indigenous people is flawed with one of the biggest misunderstandings that Indigenous people are people that only exist in the past. This is the ideal for the colonizer but it is not reality. The work to unlearn the harmful teaching should be ongoing.
A few things you can do to start:
1. Refrain from appropriating religious and spiritual practices
In the name of everything good, put down the white sage and stop calling anything that resonates with you your “spirit animal”. If it is not a part of your religious or spiritual tradition, you’re taking resources and language from people who actually hold these things sacred and know how to use them. It’s reprehensible and serves to support white supremacy by diluting the cultural meaning and removing the importance.
2. Support the removal of racist depictions of Indigenous people wherever it is found
Some professional sports team names in the United States come to mind. Change is afoot but there’s still so much work to do. You can read more about how to tackle this issue at Native Appropriations, “a forum for discussing representations of Native peoples, including stereotypes, cultural appropriation, news, activism, and more.”
3. Remove racist language from your vocabulary
Don’t say “Eskimo”, “squaw” to describe an Indigenous woman, “Pocahontas” as an adjective (she was a real person not an aesthetic or pejorative); tribal if can’t specify which tribe; “pow wow” to describe any meeting that is not an actual pow wow; which position you hold on an imaginary totem pole, etc. These are some examples but there are many more from around the world. Question the idioms you use if you aren’t sure of their etymology. And while you do that, support language reclamation initiatives like the Endangered Languages Project so that Indigenous languages can be preserved and protected now and for future generations.
4. Don’t use cultural dress for funsies
Not at Coachella, not for Halloween, not for your fake luau; if it’s not your culture, it’s not your costume. It bears repeating, it’s reprehensible and serves to support white supremacy by diluting the cultural meaning and removing the importance.
5. Indigenous identity is not a monolith
Indigenous is one way to describe people who first settled or originated in a land; and some do not like to refer to themselves that way. First Nation, Native, Aborigine, and others may be preferred when describing a group; but when possible when discussing a specific group, learn how they like to be called and call them that.
Knowledge Is Still Power
Even if you mean well, you will sometimes get it wrong; but learn as much as you can so that you can do the least amount of harm as possible. Resources abound if you go looking. You can’t know everything but you can make the consistent and sustained effort to do better. If you have benefited in any way from the resources and knowledge of Indigenous people (you have), then you owe at least that much.
Header: Johan Mouchet