Colonialism left a horrifying mark on Indigenous peoples, something we as a society have nowhere near rectified. Their vibrant tradition, wisdom, and community stands as a testament to their resilience in the face of external pressures and upheavals. At karmadharma, we are constantly recognizing the importance of understanding, respecting, and being empathetic toward the profound weight of this history. We’re committed to navigating today through the lens of lessons from the past while promoting initiatives that honour Indigenous communities.
September ends with the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a reminder that as we move forward, there’s a shared responsibility to both acknowledge the injustices of colonialism and to work together to rectify them.
Being Better: For Ourselves, Our Clients, and the Indigenous Community
As a creative agency, we’re always striving to improve while fostering genuine connections with our clients. Authenticity is at the core of everything we do, and this extends to our relationships with Indigenous communities.
So, how do we improve these relationships?
Educate and Advocate: It’s imperative to understand the history and traditions of the Indigenous people. We can’t move forward unless we know where we’ve been. Workshops with Indigenous educators enrich our perspective and enable us to be advocates in our professional and personal circles.
Hire and Mentor: The strongest team is a diverse team; we continually bring a wide array of perspectives to our projects. Additionally, mentoring programs can help create a brighter future for everyone.
Support Indigenous-Owned Businesses: As a business, we’re well aware that our purchasing power matters. By opting for products and services from Indigenous-owned businesses, we support the community economically while valuing their rich culture.
Engage in Open Dialogue: Open lines of communication ensure feedback is received and acted upon. It also creates trust, the foundation of any successful relationship.
The journey towards a harmonious future is an endless one. As we approach the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we at karmadharma are continuing to work towards a world that future generations can be proud of.
In recent research, we discovered ten expressions that should never be used and wanted to share the knowledge with you. Here’s to understanding, reconciliation, and a brighter future for all.
|Bottom of the totem pole||The person with the lowest ranking/least powerful person.||Totem poles are monumental carvings that are part of Indigenous traditions. The figures carved on them represent ancestors, lineage, historic events etc.|
|Divide and conquer||To make a group of people disagree and fight with one another so that they will not join together against one another.||In the early 1800s, President Andrew Jackson accorded individual land rights to Native Americans as a tactic to break up communal landholding and create discord by pitting individual indigenous landholders against non-landholders. The term ‘Divide and conquer’ refers to the act of dividing Indigenous peoples from the rest of society, conquering their land and eradicating them from history through colonization.|
|Powwow||Enormous celebrations celebrating Native heritage, art, and community.||
It has been reduced to a 10-minute conference call with a team member nowadays. In 1646, the Massachusetts General Court set forth a decree criminalizing the practice of Native American religion; ‘no Indian shall at any time pawpaw, or perform outward worship to their false gods, or to the devil.
|Savage||Not domesticated or under human control, untamed, fierce, ferocious, wild, uncultivated, malicious, lacking complex or advanced culture, uncivilized, primitive, brutal, to attack or treat brutally.||It was crucial for European colonialists to paint Natives as aggressors to justify their own violence against the original inhabitants of this land. While Natives fought against settlers, these battles were primarily in self-defence. The term ‘savage Indian’ was created to initiate war against the Indigenous Peoples, as using that vocabulary paints colonizers as the victims.|
For Indigenous communities, a spirit animal could mean different things to different people. Unlike the colonial meaning, spirit animals could be totems, messengers or multiple gods. These gods can be personified animals. Some tribes do not even have ‘spirit animals.’
|For Indigenous spirituality, this term misrepresents and misunderstands it and claims it as some sort of “universal” experience, ignoring the long history of preventing Indigenous Peoples from practicing their religious traditions for generations.|
|Tribe||A social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader.||The U.S. government treats all Native American groups as tribes because of the same outdated cultural evolutionary theories and colonial viewpoints that led European colonialists to treat all African groups as tribes. There’s no neutral way to use this word that’s divorced from its historical and present-day meaning.|
|Chief||A leader or ruler of a people or clan. Many Indigenous communities have chiefs, but calling everyone that term takes away its value and also allows us to forget that there is a person behind it.||For centuries, non-Natives have used ‘chief’ to refer to Native men, no matter the status in their tribe. The term also ignores women holding leadership roles in countless tribal nations. For non-Natives, using the word ‘Chief’ is almost like saying buddy, but it has much more cultural significance than that and should be a respected term.|
|Hold down the fort||The term describes the idea that non-Natives needed to protect and guard their ‘home’ from the Indigenous peoples.||
The idea is that the colonizers built these homes so that they could be separated from them and so that they could be ‘out of danger.’ They would ask other colonizers to protect their homes and take turns being on the lookout for each family.
|Vision quest||An attempt to achieve a vision of a future guardian spirit, traditionally undertaken at puberty by boys of Indigenous cultures, typically through fasting.||The vision quest is a rite of passage in some Indigenous cultures. Non-Natives use this term to explain their experience of ‘finding themselves,’ most notably on camping trips or partaking in drugs with friends, such as mushrooms or LSD. The way this term is used waters down the spiritual experiences of Indigenous peoples and shifts focus from their traditions to, yet again, non-Natives and colonizers.|
‘Shamanism’ has become a term for all religious leaders within Indigenous cultures” and is used to signify that someone is a spiritual practitioner who doesn’t come from a “socially stratified ‘advanced’ civilization.
|Hundreds of unique terms (along with religions) within different nations have been labelled under the word “shaman” by colonizers. It’s as if every single religious person who is committed to their faith is a ‘shaman’ nowadays. Many Indigenous languages and religious traditions were banned, which makes this term even more important to the communities.|