How Brands Can Support Indigenous Communities on Social—the Right Way

There’s a rising curiosity amongst companies, massive and small, so as to add their voices to the nationwide acknowledgment of the trauma inflicted upon Indigenous kids at Canada’s Indian Residential Colleges.

This was amplified in 2021 with the placement of nearly a thousand unmarked graves at websites of the now-shuttered establishments—and we all know hundreds extra have but to be found.

On Nationwide Day for Reality and Reconciliation, it’s essential for Indigenous folks (and, frankly, for non-Indigenous folks) to see companies and types honour those that misplaced their lives via the 165-year program of assimilation.

It’s additionally essential for us as Indigenous folks to see them pay tribute to those that survived their years on the infamous colleges.

However deploying the hashtag #TruthAndReconciliation or #EveryChildMatters generally is a dangerous enterprise. There are a lot of methods to make a well-meaning blunder that may immediate eye rolls all through Indigenous Canada or, worse, to by accident publish one thing that’s outright offensive.

That’s why I wrote this weblog publish. I’m a Métis girl and lawyer who has been the CEO of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC), the biggest group representing Indigenous girls in Canada, since 2017.

I, and different Indigenous girls who observe social media, brace ourselves as September 30 rolls round, ready for the inevitable ham-fisted try by non-Indigenous actors to be a part of the commemoration.

Please don’t misunderstand. We need you to be there with us as we grieve and as we keep in mind and as we honour. We simply need you to take action respectfully. So listed here are some tips.

What’s the Nationwide Day for Reality and Reconciliation? How is it completely different from Orange Shirt Day? And what ought to we name it on social media?

The Nationwide Day for Reality and Reconciliation was declared by the Canadian authorities in 2021, after the graves had been discovered at Indian Residential Colleges.

(Please word: “Indian Residential Colleges” is the official title for the colleges and a assemble of the colonial mindset of 19th Century Canada. In every other context, the phrase Indian is extraordinarily offensive when used to discuss with the Indigenous folks of Turtle Island.)

Nationwide Day for Reality and Reconciliation is a day for honouring the victims and celebrating the survivors of the colleges. And it’s a federal statutory vacation, so it applies to all federally regulated workplaces. But it surely’s been left to provinces and territories to decide on whether or not it’s marked inside their very own jurisdictions.

We word that it took Canada’s federal Liberal authorities (which got here to energy in 2015 promising to behave on all 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission) almost seven years to satisfy the comparatively easy Name Quantity 80. It urged the creation of the vacation “to make sure that public commemoration of the historical past and legacy of residential colleges stays a significant element of the reconciliation course of.”

There isn’t any doubt that the invention of the graves—which the Reality and Reconciliation report stated could be discovered if an effort was made to search for them—bolstered public help for such a day.

September 30 ought to be regarded as our Remembrance Day, and it ought to be referred to by its official title: the Nationwide Day for Reality and Reconciliation. Another title fails to speak the sombreness of the event, simply because it minimizes Remembrance Day to name it Poppy Day.

September 30 can also be Orange Shirt Day, reminding us of the day in 1973 when six-year-old Phyllis Webstad from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation arrived on the St. Joseph Mission Residential College, simply outdoors Williams Lake, B.C.

She was carrying a vibrant orange shirt her grandmother purchased her to match her pleasure for her first day of college. However the shirt was instantly taken from her by college authorities and by no means returned—an occasion that marked the start of the yr of atrocities and torment she skilled on the establishment.

We put on orange shirts on September 30 as a reminder of the traumas inflicted by residential colleges. If you happen to’re particularly referring to Phyllis’ story on social media, then it’s acceptable to name it Orange Shirt Day.

However the vacation is the Nationwide Day for Reality and Reconciliation, and ought to be known as such.

What phrases must you use while you discuss with Indigenous folks? (Terminology 101)

Talking of terminology, when is it acceptable to discuss with somebody as First Nations, Métis, or Inuit, and when is it acceptable to discuss with somebody as Indigenous?

First up, right here’s what these completely different phrases really imply:

  • First Nations: The biggest Indigenous group in Canada, these are members of the 634 First Nations unfold throughout the nation
  • Métis: A definite group of people that have an ancestral connection to a gaggle of French Canadian merchants and Indigenous girls who settled within the Pink River Valley of Manitoba and the Prairies
  • Inuit: The Indigenous folks of the Arctic and sub-Arctic areas
  • Indigenous: The First Peoples of North America whose ancestors had been right here earlier than the arrival of the Europeans

Subsequent, the place to make use of them: It’s at all times finest to be as particular as you presumably can when describing us on social media.

Right here’s a fast reference on the easiest way to discuss with Indigenous people:

  1. Reference the individual’s particular first nation and its location
  2. Reference the individual’s nation and ethno-cultural group
  3. Reference their ethno-cultural group
  4. Confer with them as First Nations, Mètis, or Inuit
  5. Confer with the individual as Indigenous

So, if somebody is a Cree from the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi, say that. Second finest could be to name them a Waswanipi Cree. Third finest could be to name them a Cree. Fourth finest could be to name them a First Nations member.

And fifth finest could be to name them Indigenous, which is a catch-all phrase that features all First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. But it surely additionally consists of all Indigenous folks around the globe. The Māori of New Zealand are Indigenous.

Saying somebody is Indigenous is like calling a Chinese language individual Asian. It’s true. But it surely misses a whole lot of element.

If you happen to don’t know the way finest to explain somebody, ask us. Preferences range from particular person to particular person.

However please, even supposing my group is named the Native Girls’s Affiliation of Canada, which is a holdover from a a lot earlier time (NWAC was shaped in 1974), please don’t name Indigenous folks ‘native.’

What position ought to manufacturers play on social media on September 30?

At NWAC, our hashtag for the Nationwide Day for Reality and Reconciliation is #RememberHonourAct. We expect these are good tips for everybody—people and companies alike—on September 30 and, certainly, year-round.

Keep in mind the survivors of the residential colleges, honour them, and act to strengthen the connection between Indigenous and non-Indigenous folks.

If yours is a neighborhood enterprise, pay tribute to the Indigenous folks in your space. Acknowledge their conventional territory. Acknowledge that your operations are happening on the land that they’ve shared with you, and that you simply and your staff are benefitting from that.

If you’re a nationwide model, flip the highlight again on the First Nations communities. Spotlight the achievements and the contributions that First Nations folks have made to Canadian prosperity.

Sure, September 30 is a sombre day of remembrance. However we don’t need pity. We would like acknowledgments of previous wrongs and guarantees that they won’t be repeated, however we additionally wish to embrace the promise of a greater future through which Indigenous folks can take pleasure in affluent and comfortable lives freed from historic trauma.

Are there different notable days for manufacturers to remember for Indigenous folks?


There are different sombre days.

Lower than every week after the Nationwide Day for Reality and Reconciliation, Indigenous girls throughout Canada will collect at Sisters in Spirit Vigils to honour the ladies, ladies, and gender-diverse individuals who have misplaced their lives within the ongoing genocide that targets us for violence. That is an annual occasion created to provide help and luxury to the households and buddies who’ve been left to mourn their family members.

On February 14, Valentine’s Day, annual Women’s Memorial Marches are held in cities and cities throughout Canada and america. They too are supposed to honour Indigenous girls and ladies who’ve been murdered or who’ve gone lacking.

And on Could 5, we mark Red Dress Day, a day on which purple attire are hung in home windows and in public areas round Canada, once more to honour the lacking and murdered Indigenous girls and ladies.

However there are additionally joyous events.

Though there may be not a selected date put aside, summer time is the time for gathering. It’s powwow season. Fall is the time that we historically rejoice within the bounty of the hunt.

On June 21, the Summer season Solstice, we have fun National Indigenous Peoples Day. This can be a day for rejoicing in our heritage, our various cultures, and the contributions that Indigenous individuals are making to the complicated material of Canadian life.

What social media errors do manufacturers make on September 30?

Probably the most egregious examples of name behaviour across the Nationwide Day for Reality and Reconciliation are makes an attempt to monetize our ache for monetary achieve.

If you happen to personal a clothes firm, please don’t print a batch of orange shirts and promote them for revenue. And don’t promote the gross sales of your shirts on social media. This occurs yearly and it’s offensive within the excessive.

Alternatively, printing and promoting orange shirts after which turning the income over to Indigenous causes is a superb gesture of help.

And it’s not simply the small manufacturers which can be doing this. Walmart, as an illustration, guarantees to donate 100% of the income from its Every Child Matters t-shirts, which have been designed by an Indigenous artist, to the Orange Shirt Society.

Be the model that does one thing like that.

In all your social media posts, be aware that that is our historical past. Each Indigenous individual in Canada has been touched by the residential college expertise, whether or not or not we or our ancestors attended one of many establishments. Be aware of the traumas that may be delivered to the fore with a inconsiderate twist of phrases.

And once more, Indigenous individuals are at a spot the place we don’t want or need pity. We’d like folks to have fun our accomplishments. We have to really feel a part of a society that’s keen to incorporate us.

What alternatives are there for intersections between Indigenous folks and different social actions?

In a easy phrase: tons.

If there’s a social justice problem being championed—whether or not that’s Delight within the gender-diverse group, or local weather justice, or prisoners’ rights, or racial equality—you’ll discover Indigenous folks on the forefront.

My group is an instance of that. We now have entire models of workers working on all of these issues.

Attain out to us, or different nationwide Indigenous organizations (we record a number of later on), to ask about methods you may get concerned, tasks you possibly can promote, and causes you possibly can stand behind.

This can be a prime alternative to collaborate with Indigenous creators who’re passionate concerning the bigger social problem at hand.

How can manufacturers work with Indigenous content material creators?

Discover them and ask them. There are a lot on the market. Any search engine will shortly flip up a whole lot of names of Indigenous content material creators and influencers, and plenty of might be desirous to collaborate with you.

Listed here are some examples of locations to look:

What Indigenous organizations can manufacturers help or accomplice with?

A lot of the Nationwide Indigenous Organizations are in search of companions. We, at NWAC, have terrific partnerships with manufacturers like Sephora, Hootsuite, and TikTok.


Purposes for the TikTok Accelerator for Indigenous Creators at the moment are open! Indigenous creators, apply by September 15 💫

♬ original sound – TikTok Canada

However there are additionally smaller teams on the market who could be delighted to listen to from you.

One instance that instantly springs to thoughts is Project Forest in Alberta which is working in partnership with Indigenous communities to revive sacred lands in order that medicinal vegetation and native species will thrive once more in First Nations communities.

There may be additionally a variety of organizations which can be working tirelessly to enhance the lives of the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit.

I’d level to the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, Susan Aglukark’s Arctic Rose Foundation, The Martin Family Initiative, or the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.

These are only a few. And naturally, there may be NWAC—we work tirelessly for the well-being of Indigenous girls, ladies, Two-Spirit and gender-diverse folks.

What are some examples of manufacturers which can be supporting and/or highlighting Indigenous communities the suitable approach?

Many manufacturers are doing issues proper. I’ll once more point out magnificence firm Sephora partnered with the NWAC to run a roundtable on Indigenous magnificence to search out out the place they may enhance. They usually’ve acted on their learnings.

TikTok, likewise, has taken the time to achieve out to us to ask for steerage on get engaged with Indigenous folks and communities. And, over the previous few years, we’ve got labored intently with Hootsuite, offering recommendation and data.

However others are additionally making nice strides.

I’d level to the Nationwide Hockey League which has been unreservedly vocal in denouncing the racism directed at Indigenous hockey gamers. The Calgary Flames opened their season with a land acknowledgement.

This may not have occurred 10, or perhaps even 5, years in the past. However society is altering, company behaviour is altering, the world is altering. And social media has had, and may have, a lot to do with that.

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