Each year in June, we celebrate National Indigenous History month — to honour their unique histories, sacrifices, cultures, contributions and strengths. Since the 17th century the Indigenous Peoples of Canada have suffered through harmful assimilation and segregation policies physically removing them from their lands, systematically dismantling their culture and separating them from their families. While most modern Canadians are trying to rebuild these relationships and celebrate the resiliency and strength of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada there is still a great deal of work ahead of us.
We’ve compiled three steps you can take to indigenize your business regardless of industry, skill set or location.
Before we begin we first need to understand what “indigenization” means. According to Queen’s University, “Indigenization can be seen as the re-doing or reaffirming of education to include Indigenous ways of knowing, thinking, feeling and being. It involves elevating the voices of Indigenous peoples, elevating traditional, and cultural knowledge, and intentional inclusion of Indigenous ways of teaching and learning to form and create [educational/teaching] approaches.”
Indigenization in the workplace can happen in many different ways. The most important takeaway when it comes to indigenizing your organization is a shift in perspective. “Indigenization does not mean changing something Western into something Indigenous,” shares the authors of Pulling Together: A Guide for Curriculum Developers. “Rather, indigenization can be understood as weaving or braiding together… it refers to a deliberate coming together of these two ways of knowing.”
The Indigenization of your business or place of employment means more than land recognition signage or celebrating Indigenous History Month. While these are great starts for any organization, Indigenization means a more immersive approach and a shift in both perspective and potentially how you do business.
1. Get uncomfortable and re-evaluate biases around experience
Despite gains in educational attainment, and although the Indigenous population of Canada has grown quickly over the last decade highlighting a rising supply and potential demand for Indigenous workers — Indigenous Peoples are still vastly underrepresented in Canada’s labour market.
According to an article from 2018 in the Canadian HR Reporter, a panel of Indigenous experts pointed to the indigenization of workplaces as a major component of the reconciliation journey. Tracey King, a member of the panel and an Indigenous HR consultant at Toronto Metropolitan University says, “There’s still far too few Indigenous people working in mainstream places. If Indigenous Persons are to be acknowledged and recognized, we have to be able to understand and make positive steps.”
King suggests looking beyond narrow job classification systems in order to transfer Indigenous experiences into organizations in lieu of formal credentials. By getting uncomfortable and re-evaluating our specific biases around experience we not only grow our talent pool, but also strengthen our relationships with current employees. It shows understanding of your employees’ roles and contributions to your business beyond checking boxes on a spreadsheet.
2. Take the time to understand why indigenization in the workplace is important
If you don’t understand the importance of why you’re doing something, you will never succeed at it. This is especially true for equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives. Businesses that just try to check the boxes without putting in meaningful work won’t be able to find the benefit of the diversity of thought because they never believed or understood it in the first place. Meanwhile, businesses embracing these initiatives are seeing increased revenue, productivity and retention.
One indigenization solution that’s been picking up steam in recent years is the concept of “two-eyed seeing.” Introduced by Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall from Eskasoni First Nation, “Two-Eyed Seeing” or “Etuaptmumk” in Mi’kmaw refers to “learning to see with one eye the strengths of Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing, and with the other eye the strengths of western knowledges and ways of knowing, and to learn to use both eyes together.” Or more simply put — better outcomes are born through a collaboration of two or more unique perspectives.
3. Partner with Canadian Indigenous owned/operated businesses
In order to understand why indigenization in the workplace is important and how you can indigenize your workplace in a way that will lead to success, your business needs to put in the time and energy to educate your teams. There are many organizations across the country, such as Indigenous Awareness Canada and Indigenous Corporate Training Inc., who host a variety of courses.
Working with indigenous vendors doesn’t need to stop at education though. The Canadian Council of Aboriginal Businesses (CCAB) certifies Indigenous-owned businesses across the country and hosts a directory of these businesses as well as a variety of special events throughout the year to facilitate engagement between both Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses.
At Agilus, we believe that diversity, inclusion, and equity are integral to our success and our clients’ success. With a goal to secure long-term sustainable employment, partnerships for Indigenous people and businesses, and community investment — we are now the operating partner of Stream Source. Stream Source is an Indigenous-owned provider of recruitment and contractor management.
We recognize the value a diversified workforce brings to our organization and our clients. Through our partnership with Stream Source, we recognize the need to better understand the history of Indigenous people and their inclusion in resource and energy developments, since much of the development happens in and around these communities. With this knowledge, strong community relationships, and a solid infrastructure, Stream Source is setting new benchmarks and best practice standards across the scope of Indigenous employment and engagement.
At this time Stream Source operates exclusively in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. If you’re interested in working with Stream Source or want to ensure diversity, inclusion and equity in your hiring contact us today.
If you would like to learn more about Indigenization check out our recent blog on the Indigenization of Engineering.