Tag Archives: allyship

White Allies, Let’s Be Honest About Decolonization

How can settler allies move beyond being sympathetic beneficiaries of colonialism? What approach is legitimately decolonizing? (Photo by Josué Rivas.)

How can settler allies move beyond being sympathetic beneficiaries of colonialism? What approach is legitimately decolonizing? (Photo by Josué Rivas.)

I want to experience the solidarity of allied actions that refuse fantastical narratives of commonality and hope.

By , Yes! Magazine

Indigenous environmental movements in North America are among the oldest and most provocative—from the Dish With One Spoon Treaty between Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples to the Mni Wiconi (“Water Is Life”) movement of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. As a Potawatomi environmental justice advocate, I often get asked by other environmentalists in the U.S. to share my views on what they can do to be good allies to Indigenous peoples. Those who ask usually identify themselves as being non-Indigenous, white, and privileged. They are U.S. settlers: people who have privileges that arise from the historic and ongoing oppression of Indigenous peoples.

Whether one participates in settler colonialism is not entirely a matter of when or how one’s ancestors came to the U.S. Having settler privilege means that some combination of one’s economic security, U.S. citizenship, sense of relationship to the land, mental and physical health, cultural integrity, family values, career aspirations, and spiritual lives are not possible—literally!—without the territorial dispossession of Indigenous peoples.

How then can settler allies move beyond being sympathetic beneficiaries of colonialism? What approach is legitimately decolonizing?

Click here to read the full article…

Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex

An Indigenous perspective & provocation.

pdf-128Printable version available here (PDF | 3.3MB)
(Backup PDF available via Warrior Publications & Unsettling America)

(Now translated into Québécois French!)

This provocation is intended to intervene in some of the current tensions around solidarity/support work as the current trajectories are counter-liberatory from my perspective. Special thanks to DS in Phoenix for convos that lead to this ‘zine and all those who provided comments/questions/disagreements. Don’t construe this as being for “white young middle class allies”, just for paid activists, non-profits, or as a friend said, “downwardly-mobile anarchists or students.” There are many so-called “allies” in the migrant rights struggle who support “comprehensive immigration reform” which furthers militarization of Indigenous lands.

abolish-ally-industrial-complexThe ally industrial complex has been established by activists who’s careers depend on the “issues” they work to address. These nonprofit capitalists advance their careers off  the struggles they ostensibly support. They often work in the guise of “grassroots” or “community-based” and are not necessarily tied to any organization.

They build organizational or individual capacity and power, establishing themselves comfortably among the top ranks in their hierarchy of oppression as they strive to become the ally “champions” of the most oppressed. While the exploitation of solidarity and support is nothing new, the commodification and exploitation of allyship is a growing trend in the activism industry.

Anyone who concerns themselves with anti-oppression struggles and collective liberation has at some point either participated in workshops, read ‘zines, or been parts of deep discussions on how to be a “good” ally. You can now pay hundreds of dollars to go to esoteric institutes for an allyship certificate in anti-oppression. You can go through workshops and receive an allyship badge.

In order to commodify struggle it must first be objectified. This is exhibited in how “issues” are “framed” & “branded.” Where struggle is commodity, allyship is currency.

Ally has also become an identity, disembodied from any real mutual understanding of support.

The term ally has been rendered ineffective and meaningless.

Accomplices not allies.

ac·com·plice
noun: accomplice; plural noun: accomplices
a person who helps another commit a crime.

There exists a fiercely unrelenting desire to achieve total liberation, with the land and, together.

At some point there is a “we”, and we most likely will have to work together. This means, at the least, formulating mutual understandings that are not entirely antagonistic, otherwise we may find ourselves, our desires, and our struggles, to be incompatible.

There are certain understandings that may not be negotiable. There are contradictions that we must come to terms with and certainly we will do this on our own terms.

But we need to know who has our backs, or more appropriately: who is with us, at our sides?

The risks of an ally who provides support or solidarity (usually on a temporary basis) in a fight are much different than that of an accomplice. When we fight back or forward, together, becoming complicit in a struggle towards liberation, we are accomplices. Abolishing allyship can occur through the criminalization of support and solidarity.

While the strategies and tactics of asserting (or abolishing depending on your view) social power and political power may be diverse, there are some hard lessons that could bear not replicating.

Consider the following to be a guide for identifying points of intervention against the ally industrial complex.

Click here to read the full article from Indigenous Action Media

Mirror/backup:
Click here to read the full article from Warrior Publications

A Colonized Ally Meets a Decolonized Ally: This is What They Learn

From Lynn Gehl:

1. A colonized ally stands in the front.  A decolonized ally stands behind.

2. A colonized ally stands behind an oppressive patriarchy.  A decolonized ally stands behind women and children.

3. A colonized ally makes assumptions about the process.  A decolonized ally values there may be principles in the process they are not aware of.

4. A colonized ally wants knowledge now!  A decolonized ally values their own relationship to the knowledge.

5. A colonized ally finds an Indigenous token.  A decolonized ally is more objective in the process.

6. A colonized ally equates their money and hard work on the land as meaning land ownership.  A decolonized ally knows that land ownership is more about social hierarchy and privilege.

7. A colonized ally projects guilt.  A decolonized ally knows it is their work to do.

8. A colonized ally projects emotions.  A decolonized ally knows Indigenous people have too much to deal with already.

9. A colonized ally has no respect for Indigenous intellectuals.  A decolonized ally knows Indigenous people have their own intellectuals.

10. A colonized ally has no idea they need to decolonize.  A decolonized ally understands they have to continually decolonize.

11. A colonized ally has no idea of the concomitant realities of Indigenous oppression.  A decolonized ally understands the many, layered, and intersectional oppressions Indigenous people live under.

12. A colonized ally speaks for Indigenous people.  A decolonized ally listens.

13. A colonized ally takes on work an Indigenous person can do and is doing. A decolonized ally takes on other work that needs to be done.

14. A colonized ally makes things worse.  A decolonized ally understands.

15. A colonized ally says, “It is time to get over it.”  A decolonized ally realizes one’s relationship to the harm is subjective.

16. A colonized ally appropriates another nation’s Indigenous knowledge.  A decolonized ally does the hard work to uncover their own Indigenous knowledge.

17. A colonized ally will loath this truth offered.  A decolonized ally will recognize the hard work telling this truth is.

Additional ally resources are available here and on Unsettling America here.


Picture Lynn Gehl is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe from the Ottawa River Valley.  She has a section 15 Charter challenge regarding the continued sex discrimination in The Indian Act, and is an outspoken critic of the Ontario Algonquin land claims and self-government process. She recently published a book entitled Anishinaabeg Stories: Featuring Petroglyphs, Petrographs, and Wampum Belts, and her second book, The Truth that Wampum Tells: My Debwewin of the Algonquin Land Claims Process, will be published in March 2014.  You can reach her at lynngehl@gmail.com and see more of her work at www.lynngehl.com.

Everyone Calls Themselves An Ally Until It Is Time To Do Some Real Ally Shit

EVERYONE CALLS THEMSELVES AN ALLY UNTIL IT IS TIME TO DO SOME REAL ALLY SHITBy Xhopakelxhit, Ancestral Pride [PDF]:

Every single time we speak publicly, or put ourselves out there we are always asked by other Indigenous Nations, settlers, and settlers of color: what can we do. We then go on to outline all the ways those who want to be potential allies can help us out in a tangible way, in a targeted way, and in a general way. Everyone takes notes, asks more questions, and seems really earnest. Then inevitably soon after something happens that we need to utilize these tools and reach out to our settler allies, guess what happens?! Not much. More understandably our indigenous friends and relatives who are resisting the forces of industrial occupation cannot usually leave their fight to join ours unless the situation is very dire. Yet settlers also seem to have problems with moving beyond the round dance rhetoric of the protest industry and organizing outside of that box.

This is when the reality of doing something other than agreeing with us, reveals the struggle that settlers face when it comes to actually being an active ally; the word ally evokes images of rallies or marchers and bullhorns and social media call outs complete with said ally in the pic standing next to indigenous whoever with fists raised! It is colonized, pretty, and almost as hard to swallow as not having allies at all.

Ally is a verb it implies action, there are more ways that settler allies or hopefuls can participate and help in the indigenous struggle for liberation from the colonial genocidal regime than marching. Our freedom as humans rely on this relationship but it has to be looked at a different way and our life long learned behaviours have to be shed.

Lets forget for a moment all the new mythology of canada and what it presents as the relationship it has with the indigenous people here on this continent called north america. Strike from your memory the silver screen shaman and the great joining of the rainbow warriors. Forget the lie that this is an awesome country founded expressly for your people and remember that is in fact a country that was born on top of our nations and the birth was a bloody abortion of humanity. Now that we have effectively tried to eradicate the lifetime of untruths we have learned in schools and through media, and society, we can come to a place where we can work together but there is more for settlers to know. A great unlearning is happening at a fast rate right now because of the status of the human race and the plight of the planet. We have come to the end of the era of the power and consumption phase, civilization always collapses and we are here to help it! This ending is bringing many new people to the battle that we are waging against the state, but many of our own people are happy with the colonial status quo and only want to secure their rights as far as they can still shop at star bucks and use power. Many settlers do not even care or can fathom giving up their privilege on this continent. It is our job to leave them behind and be the van guard of a new way of being that is based on how our governance systems worked here for millennia.

There has always been a great many of us who are not OK with being assimilated. Last year we seen many indigenous citizens of canada get upset and staged massive protests (INM) from ocean to ocean to prevent something that happened despite the mass mobilization, in the end the omnibus bill was passed. This exercise however was useful in weeding out those who were only in it for the short term or weren’t invested. It also helped to point out those who are really trying to shed the colonial system from themselves, their families, and their lands and for us to connect with each other. It also was a massive waste of momentum and people power!

So now we are here, the dawn of a new winter and more threats against Mother Earth and our very beings.

A few things to remember: Indigenous activists are not super human mythical indigenous beings who are all knowing and all wise. We have problems, we are easily triggered, can be dysfunctional, some are addicted to sex, drugs, alcohol, and ego. We are the perpetrators of lateral violence as we denounce it. We pay rent, work for the man, go shopping and partake in mainstream culture more then we should. We beat our wives and husbands and ourselves there is much we have suffered in our generation and this cannot be undone. We want change, we aspire to change, and we are the change but we are inherently flawed. There is nothing wrong with that, it is a human condition and we are products of our enforced enslavement and colonization but we have to acknowledge these things in ourselves and you do in us as well so we can really do what has to be done. It does no one any greater disservice then to put them on pedestals and many a good movement has been waylaid because we are all too human and the mutual disappointments have caused things to slow to a trickle.

Once we are in the place where we have left our egos and acknowledged our short comings as indigenous now we can touch on the great failings of the settler nation. Many have read the awesome and plentiful articles on settler colonialism, and have gained some insight and now use terms like: unceded coast salish, (insert whatever Nations name whose land you are occupying with privilege) territories, or maybe you dumpster dive and hate consumerism, maybe you have a rosy idea of what indigenous governance means and that you will be welcomed here with open arms and be part of the rainbow tribe. These are the newest forms of mythology that are coming up and into existence because the settler nation no matter how many indigenous you know, how enlightened, and down to earth you are, in your world view there is no future here on turtle island that you are not here. We need to fix this mythology and live the reality of our task.

Think of how 500 years of genocide, colonization, residential school, forced assimilation, cultural appropriation, and land theft and destruction would affect you. Think of the break down of our houses, our families, and ourselves, and how you would deal with that. PTSD is a reality, suicide affects us all daily, violence against our women, human trafficking of our children, alcoholism, drug abuse, and murder are our daily battles, add to that trying to survive everyday and the state of being on our own homelands, poverty stricken, oppressed, and marginalized people that are considered wards of a colonial crown. Supporting indigenous causes isn’t pretty or something to add to the activism resume, it often means accepting fierce strong humans at face value, saying you are in solidarity with indigenous people and sovereignty means you accept our laws and reject the illegal laws of the military state that is actively occupying our lands. If being disciplined or dealing with warrior justice scares or offends you then you are NOT ready to be an ally or to smash the system.

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Settler Ally vs. Settler Brother/Sister

ACTION is a union of Sovereign Anishinabe individuals, communities and allies of other Nations who are restoring our Anishinabek Institutions in assertion of our Sovereignty on our collective territories.By Giibwanisi, Anishinabek Confederacy to Invoke Our Nationhood

I’ve been struggling over this term “ally” for a long time now. Many “light skinned” people have approached me, wondering how to improve relations with me, and my Nation, and other possible other Onkwehon:we Nations. On the ACTION website, we have a little heading titled “Settler Allyship”. We didn’t write any of the material in the heading, it was completely borrowed from other people/organizations that have written about this term “allyship”. I initially put that heading up, to give some people guidelines to follow, because many people began asking me about this term “ally”. I’ve given this several months of thought, and I’ve finally derived an answer. Allow me to begin by quoting the 4th Fire Prophecy as described in Eddie Benton Banai’s The Mishomis Book:

The Fourth Fire was originally given to the people by two prophets. They come as one. They told of the coming of the light skinned race.

One of the prophets said, “You will know the future of out people by the face of the light skinned race wears. If they come wearing the face of brotherhood then there will come a time of wonderful change for generations to come. They will bring new knowledge and articles that can be joined with the knowledge of this country. In this way, two nations will join to make a mighty nation. This new nation will be joined by two more so that four will for the mightiest nation of all. You will know the face of the brotherhood if the light skinned race comes carrying no weapons, if they come bearing only their knowledge and a hand shake.”

The other prophet said, “Beware if the light skinned race comes wearing the face of death. You must be careful because the face of brotherhood and the face of death look very much alike. If they come carrying a weapon … beware. If they come in suffering … They could fool you. Their hearts may be filled with greed for the riches of this land. If they are indeed your brothers, let them prove it. Do not accept then in total trust. You shall know that the face they wear is one of death if the rivers run with poison and fish become unfit to eat. You shall know them by these many things.”

When this prophecy was given the word used to describe the “Light Skinned” race/nation was “Brother”. They didn’t not have a concept for “ally” back then. Which brings me to my thinking of the present. If I/we are truly going to live this Biskaabiiyang, or “decolonization”, then I/we must begin reviving the context in who we really are.

The term ally, in a literal term means friend. It is a word with huge inter-relational barriers. Who came up with term anyhow? Ally in its origins comes from the french word “alien”. History as proven that the “Light Skinned” race came bearing the face of death. And now we find ourselves in the disastrous times of the 7th Fire. This era of the 7th Fire is a battle ground, and many conflicts are occurring and will continue to occur.

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New Poster: How to be An Ally to Indigenous Peoples

The Two Row Campaign and Syracuse Cultural Workers have just published a beautiful new poster titled “How to be an Ally to Indigenous Peoples.” The full color poster features an Onondaga Gustoweh (headgear) by Onondaga artist Josephine M. Cook. The wording has been developed over many months by the Two Row Campaign in conjunction with our friends at Syracuse Cultural Workers.

The poster features important information to be shared far and wide. It’s a great addition to classrooms, community centers, schools and other venues, and makes for a great gift. The 12″ x 36″ poster is available for $15, and bookmarks and postcards are $1 each or 12 for $10. They will be available for sale at Two Row events or you can purchase them online or via phone, 800.949.5139, from Syracuse Cultural Workers.

Please mention “Two Row” and nearly half of your purchase price will support the Two Row Campaign!

Settler Roles in Indigenous Resurgence

Idle No More livestream from Shq’apthut, Nanaimo, British Columbia

Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, 5:00 – 7:30 pm PST

Click here to view livestream.

Click here for facebook event listing.

Audio of the panelists is now available.

Idle No More is the current manifestation of widespread Indigenous resurgence. Historically, alongside Indigenous resistance and resurgence efforts against colonialism, imperialism, and genocide, there has always been support from some Settler peoples who recognize the immorality of the situation facing Indigenous peoples. This is most true today as millions of Settler peoples are stepping up alongside of Indigenous peoples in the Idle No More movement but there have been questions arising from how to be a good ally in this movement and friction has resulted.

Many Settler peoples are wanting to help and to learn more about why we are in this situation and what is an ethical way of engagement with these issues, and with the INM movement itself.

Panelists Robyn Heaslip, Ian Ki’laas Caplette, John Swift, and Natasha Bob will be engaging this question in a livestream panel addressing these areas of contention in the hopes of bringing further awareness to the ethical engagement of Settler peoples in the INM movement and in Indigenous resurgence.

**NOTE: The term “Settler” does not desrcibe a particular “race” of people and is meant to describe those peoples who are not Indigneous peoples to the lands they live in.

Understanding Colonizer Status

By Waziyatawin, Unsettling Ourselves

“Colonial relations do not stem from individual good will or actions; they exist before his arrival or his birth, and whether he accepts or rejects them matters little.” -Albert Memmi

Colonization v. Oppression

Many oppressed people around the world identify with the oppression experienced by colonized people. Often, if they live in a colonized society, the poor, oppressed, disenfranchised, and marginalized individuals or classes have difficulty identifying with the colonizers and thus seek to identify with the colonized. Because they live in a society in which colonization is ongoing, they begin to see themselves as colonized.

This discussion is designed to help differentiate between oppression and colonization, and to clearly demarcate colonization as a distinct historical, political, social, and economic relationship between the colonizer and the colonized. In our volume For Indigenous Eyes Only: A Decolonization Handbook (Santa Fe: School of Advanced Research Press, 2005), Michael Yellow Bird and I offered this definition:

Colonization refers to both the formal and informal methods (behaviors, ideologies, institutions, policies, and economies) that maintain the subjugation or exploitation of Indigenous Peoples, lands and resources.

In the context of the United States, everyone is part of this colonial society. By definition, however, Indigenous Peoples are the only people identifiable as colonized. Because every bit of land and every natural resource claimed by the United States was taken at Indigenous expense, anyone who occupies that land and benefits from our resources is experiencing colonial privilege. Every non-Indigenous person in the country continues to benefit from Indigenous loss. In Minnesota, for example, all Minnesotans continue to benefit from the genocide perpetrated against Dakota people and the ethnic cleansing of our people. Occupation of Dakota homeland, especially while the vast majority of Dakota people still live in exile, places all occupants in the colonizer class. No matter the extent of oppression faced by various settler groups, being a settler means belonging to the class of colonizers.

It may be helpful to develop your own definition of oppression and clearly distinguish how that definition differs from your understanding of colonization.

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