Are you appropriating Native culture?
To help you do this, let’s first start by defining cultural appropriation. We love author Maisha Johnson’s definition: “a particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.” Cultural appropriation involves profit, too. Members of the dominant culture almost always have the ability to profit off of what they’ve stolen, providing no compensation to those from oppressed cultures.
Now that you know what cultural appropriation means, examine your activities and choices. Don’t know where to start? We’ve created a handy guide for learning more about how cultural appropriation specifically appears in the wellness space, for example. And, see the resources section at the bottom of this article for additional ways to learn more.
Are you hiring Native artists and entrepreneurs?
If your contractor list is predominantly white, it’s time to reset your course. Diversity in design benefits everyone. And, by hiring Native artists and entrepreneurs, you not only direct your dollars to Indian Country, but you also help combat Native invisibility and contribute toward the narrative change movement.
Are you voting against Indian Country?
Ignoring a lawmaker’s voting record on Indian Country can cause harm to Native nations in your area and around the country. Before you head to the polls, do some basic research. What issues are important to the Native nations near you? Does your candidate have a platform on Indigenous issues? Can you identify any news articles mentioning that person’s interaction with Native nations? If you can’t find that information, ask them! And, for lawmakers already in office, check their voting record. How does their voting record align with Native nations’ priorities?
Are you putting Native communities at risk while on vacation?
Nick Martin, the author of a piece on road trips and their impacts on Indigenous communities during COVID-19, advises, “The absolute least any colonizer can do is go out of their way to ensure that they don’t put the people, whose traditional homelands will be just another page in their scrapbook, at further risk.”
If you absolutely must route near or through a Native nation, respect all travel-related guidelines, such as Tribal checkpoints. (Learn about how Native nations have used their sovereignty to create Tribal checkpoints here.) When purchasing groceries and supplies, wear an effective mask and avoid stopping in towns that border Native nations, if possible. When planning your trip, ask yourself if your route or any of your planned activities could result in you potentially spreading COVID-19 to Native communities.
Are you adventuring responsibly?
Educate yourself about any rules that may be in place, and do not, under any circumstances, disrespect Native nations’ directives. They’ve put these guidelines in place for a reason: it’s usually because they want to protect fragile ecosystems and/or ensure that their members have access to sacred sites. Sadly, time and time again, outdoor adventurers knowingly break the rules and harm Native nations.
For colleges and universities:
Colleges and universities should take a hard look at how they’ve interacted with Indigenous communities and people in the past. The University of Minnesota recently launched a new three-year initiative to investigate its history with Native nations and educate the general public on racial justice. They plan to partner with local Native nations to create an archival report detailing past wrongs. This is a great first step toward taking action to meaningfully support Indian Country. Any effort should also include a detailed plan for making reparations moving forward.