9 Ways to Appreciate: A Guide for Allyship

9 Ways to Appreciate: A Guide for Allyship

Cultural appropriation is harmful action in which elements of a minority culture are borrowed in a way that exploits and appropriates the minority group, rather than appreciating or preserving it. Because many cultures have limited access to power and resources, acts of cultural appropriation — particularly by members of another dominant culture — can reinforce systems of discrimination and power. Not only does appropriating elements from another culture disempower those who are trying to make an honest living, but it also affects how society views people of these ethnicities as well.

When it comes to Allyship, often we think of how we can create a safe and mindful space to co-create with Indigenous peoples and how we can better support communities. But how exactly can you start making those steps? Asha Frost talks about these baselines in her book “You are the medicine” by offering the foundational approaches:

1. Investigate and reflect on your motives

“What is your intention when you use drums, smudge, and feathers — is it in regard to your next hip social media post or a marketing ploy because it’s “trendy”? Do you have a relationship with these ceremonial, sacred medicine? Are you praying to them and honouring them daily or simply using them to look the “part?” - Asha Frost

Why it’s important to reflect: Indigenous medicine is medicines and using spiritual materialism for these medicines is a temporary source of use. Having to use these medicines is meaning to build a relationship with them and not just being used on time and hoping that it fixes all problems. This is not the case, same goes for using it as a marketing ploy and saying “Nameste” for the sake of being “hip”. Be intentional.

2. Know the history.

“The Indian Act, which was passed in 1875, explicitly banned and outlawed the practice of our Medicines until 1951, and it wasn't until 1996 (which is the year the last residential school was closed down) that it was agreed that the portion of the act was oppressive. We work so hard every day to reclaim what has been taken away from us. Hold these facts in your heart when engaging with Indigenous practices, root them down into the truth, and allow yourself to be guided from there. Acknowledge our protocols and values when being in the space of Indigenous knowledge holders and speakers.” - Asha Frost

Why it’s important to reflect: Gaslighting is a huge problem when it comes to sharing our experiences. There are many illusions that Canadians continue to hold when it comes to facts that are just not held and respected. Examples being “Indigenous people don’t pay taxes” and “It’s not my problem if my ancestors did it. Why should we continue honouring what they have to say?” “Why don’t they just get over it already, that was a long time ago?” simply are sweeping statements that counter exclude the living experience of Indigenous peoples.

3. Admire and celebrate authentically.

“Wear your moccasins, mukluks, and beaded earrings. Buy Indigenous artwork, carvings, creations, and Dreamcatchers. Our culture has so much magnificence to love. Support and buy from Indigenous people or companies. Ask them if they are willing to share teaching or story with you about their Medicine so that you can honour this daily.” - Asha Frost

Why it’s important to reflect: As stated at the beginning of this blog, brands are known to use Indigenous creation to profit off and most of these brands are known to be categorized as “boho” or “new age spiritualism”, remember that these essences are taken from Indigenous peoples and put into a “trendy” category. If you are looking for any of these creations, start by looking for authentic artists who are reputable in their identity and craft. This supports Indigenous creators to thrive in their craftsmanship. Avoid brands that are NOT Indigenous-based.

4. Acknowledge the present-day reality.

“Can you acknowledge and hold both the light and the dark of our country? If you are medicines to use for your own profit, are you acknowledging the effects that the lack of clean Water, the missing and murdered Indigenous and Two-Spirit folks, the generational trauma that residential schools caused and that attempted genocide has had on our people? Suicide, alcohol abuse, violent deaths, racism. It all exists here and now.” - Asha Frost

Why it’s important to reflect: When you’re sharing a space with an Indigenous person, it’s important to respect as we may not share the same privilege to “basic rights”. Research has shown that over one-quarter of Indigenous adults reported high or very high levels of psychological distress due to household and societal upbringing**. How you expect Indigenous people to show up in a workspace may increase stress as we are constantly fighting to uphold our own rights to live in our everyday lives as our lives are in a constant state of fight or flight. From fighting colonialism, to racism and trying to co-exist and abide by colonial constructs, Indigenous peoples barely get a chance to breathe. Be mindful that we may not show up the same as a non-indigenous colleague would.

5. Support Indigenous voices.

“Taking from an oppressed group without acknowledging what they go through to share their Medicines is not the right relation. Are you learning from Indigenous people? If so, how can you support their offerings, their words, their Medicine? Share their voice, amplify their words, and pay them for their labour. For so many years, the majority of authors and influencers in the “Spiritual” and “New Age” realm have been yt women. Many of them are profiting and making money off our teachings. Help us to rise, too! Envision a world where Indigenous Healers, Teachers, and Authors are invited equitably. How can you support this vision?” - Asha Frost

Why it’s important to reflect: Allowing space for Indigenous to share their stories gives them a safe space. How can we learn about decolonization without listening to those directly affected? Being intentional in reconciliation means listening and hearing what Indigenous people have been trying to share. It’s a great step to connecting with those whose values are based on connection, inclusiveness and community. If you would like to use your platform to talk about sustainability, allow for your platform to be a space for BIPOC folks to speak on the issues as they have lived experience in regards to these certain issues. 

6. Be respectful of the term “Spirit Animal”.

“It does not refer to your friend, a celebrity, or your favourite food. Animal Spirits are sacred to our people. They are our relatives, Ancestors, guardians, siblings, and friends. To house that term jokingly is harmful.” - Asha Frost

Why it’s important to reflect: This term was not part of our vocabulary, to begin with, and only became popular when pop culture introduced the buzzword as a joke. This term takes the concept of our sacred connection with nature and twists it into a catchphrase as a way to “connect” with Indigenous people. Since this term refers to animals, the term Animal Spirit is highly symbolic in itself with nature and the sacred messages they bring. The same goes for the word “Tribe” which is commonly used among yt wellness circles the same way they culturally appropriate yoga groups as being part of their “wellness tribe”. It also adds to the appreciation of the history built from colonial books of our nations. There are more than 500+ unique nations across Canada.

7. Never wear a Headdress.

“A headdress is a very sacred item and does not belong in your next photoshoot. A headdress is offered to someone in the community, usually a leader, as a gift. They must go through Ceremonies and protocols to receive one. There are responsibilities that go along with wearing a Headdress; it carries potent and sacred energy. Please don’t wear it to the next outdoor music festival you go to.” - Asha Frost

Why it’s important to reflect: Indigenous headdresses have a long sacred lineage and energies attached to them that transcends realms. It brings a lot of wisdom and ancestral knowledge along with it in order to make decisions in the community. Every feather and material created has teachings woven into them. Wearing these garments for the sake of being “trendy” takes away the sacred connection to our land and ancestors.

8. Research your own ancestry. 

“I guarantee that if you feel drawn to Indigenous teachings your ancestors most likely practiced beautiful Ceremonies and rituals. Research where your Ancestors are from and what Ceremonies and rituals they used. Open your heart, Spirit, and mind, and let your Ancestors teach you. There is so much remembering in your blood and bones waiting to be uncovered. Believe that we are all on a journey of reconnection and reclaiming.” - Asha Frost

Why it’s important to reflect: Every nation and culture is unique to their own teachings, find your lineage in reconnecting to your ancestors and tap into the teachings that offer a space of reclamation and identity. Often teachings are meshed and taken out of context with other nations’ teachings and may be confused for theirs. Not to say that it’s not okay to use others but it’s good to acknowledge where certain rituals and ceremonies come from.

9. Bring everything back to the sacred.

“This means something different to everyone. However, honouring the fullness of a Ceremony, an item, a Medicine tool, or anything else on your spiritual tool belt is an important practice. Find your way, listen to your heart, and let Spirit guide you to the next right step.” - Asha Frost

Why it’s important to reflect: What the word sacred means is building the relationship to what was once and is still an important connection to rituals and ceremonies, it’s building a relationship with genuine intentions for the spirit, mind, and body. Coming back to the law of nature and having respect for all life forms and each other, whether that’s relational or vibrational in the good of the heart of the collective.


Credit Source: “You are the Medicine” by Asha Frost.

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