Many people want to be an ally to the Indigenous community but often don’t know where to start. They may not know what the correct terminology is or what sorts of questions should be asked and avoided.

The SAGE Encyclopedia of Action Research describes non-Indigenous allies as people who, “Recognize the unearned privilege they receive from society’s patterns of injustice and take responsibility for changing these patterns.”

Eileen Clearsky works as a professor in education specializing in Indigenous Peoples at Mount Royal University (MRU). Clearsky, an Anishinaabe woman, helps future teachers to properly understand Indigenous perspectives before heading into the community.

She explains that building relationships with the Indigenous community doesn’t have to be complicated.

“It would be like you and I trying to create a relationship — what do we do first? We find out about ourselves, where we come from, who we’re related to and start to make connections that way.”

Identified as trusted allies at MRU, Francesca Simon and Kathy Offet-Gartner view themselves as guests within the Indigenous community.

Working in Wellness Services, Simon witnesses “racist structures” within the healthcare system and teaches future healthcare professionals how to better understand Indigenous Peoples and their experiences.

Offet-Gartner is a psychologist in MRU’s student counselling department and has extensive experience working with Indigenous people.

“We have to ask questions, we have to be humble, we have to come with a really good heart, and we have to be willing to be challenged,” Offet-Gartner says.

She and Simon say they both work to develop relationships through openness, vulnerability and facilitation.

“To get things moving without being at the forefront because it’s not my voice,” says Simon.

In partnership with the Iniskim Centre at Mount Royal University, the Calgary Journal presents ‘Raising Reconciliation’ — a series of podcasts and news stories focused on Indigenous voices in our community.

Editor: Matt Hull |

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