What it means to me to be an ally

Posted on October 2, 2016

For the past couple years I have been working more and more with Indigenous communities. Recently I became an ally member at the Indigenous Performing Arts Alliance (IPAA). Here’s a bit of what I wrote:

I am moved by stories. I know that story is the foundation of how we learn who we are and how to be in the world. In the past few years, I have had the honour of hearing more stories from the Indigenous populations of the land now called Canada on the continent Turtle Island. Through these stories I woke. I was called to listen to these stories and (with my many years experience in the arts and many privileges afforded to me by how I look and how I was raised) to ask how I can serve these stories. I am working on how to use my privilege, passing, and complicity in this place to shift understanding and negotiate barriers so that my peers see those who are excluded from the systems we so easily access and see the points of exclusion we are all complicit in creating.

It is a very interesting time for Indigenous artists. The public reaction to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, discussions in theatre about diversity and inclusion, dialogues and changes at the Canada Council for the Arts and the NAC’s recent announcement to launch Indigenous Theatre all signal a groundswell in interest in Indigenous art in Canada. As a settler, I am cautious about the idea of engaging with IPAA or the Indigenous artists within its Community of Artists [membership]. I want to engage with my settler peers, individuals and organizations, about how to be on this land and with the peoples we interact with. I want us to work together to be highly conscious of the exchanges we are having with Indigenous populations. As a community, I want us to be clear with ourselves about our interactions with Indigenous artists. Be aware of what we are receiving from these exchanges and be ever more aware of what we are giving. We, as settlers, have so much to gain from the knowledges of these Indigenous peoples. Knowledges the systems we benefit from have, and still, work actively to quell. We have so much to offer and to relinquish. I want to live in a land where all peoples have self-determination. I believe supporting that may require relinquishing power, influence and comfort. I am interested in the cracks, gaps and erosions, through those we connect everything, as there is enough.

Read more