So you have hired an Indian now what?
Well, I have written about my experiences living and working in a non-Aboriginal setting. What is a non-Aboriginal setting? I think describing this sort of setting has to do more with an organization’s overall goals and reason for operating on a daily basis. When I looked at various Aboriginal organizations or organizations with specific departments dedicated to Aboriginal relations “About” or background information sections I found some common themes:
– Working towards self-determination for Aboriginal people
– Increase awareness and understanding of Aboriginal issues
– Mutual respect/equal partnerships with Aboriginal communities and the organization
An organization or department that operates outside these common themes, to me, is a non-Aboriginal organization/setting.
When I was reading these various organizations/departments background information sections, I found that they all had goals. You know, sort of like a mission and vision statement. I thought that was a really good thing to have because I have worked for organizations who had no clear plan. They just hired an Aboriginal and hoped for the best or for even something magical to happen. For some people there seems to be this idea that all Aboriginals know everything about everything – everything being Aboriginal culture and traditions. We don’t. In fact, not all Aboriginal people’s traditions and beliefs are the same. Yeah, you read that right: we are not all the same. I think that is what is wrong with some organizations who do try to help Aboriginal people: they think we are all the same. An organization may even have good intentions in approaching Aboriginal issues but completely miss the target if they fail to understand this basic concept. What one community or group of Aboriginal need/want, may be completely different from what another community or group of Aboriginal need/want. That actually goes for any community…not just Aboriginal communities. Or an organization may recognize that we are not all the same but what they find in working with certain communities they think can be easily applied to the rest of the communities. It doesn’t work that way either.
So, you are an organization, either operating around those themes mentioned above to aid Aboriginal people/communities or not, but you have hired an Aboriginal…now what? Don’t expect anything magical to happen. That happens only in Hollywood where sometimes real Indians are not even used. Check out a documentary called Reel Injun to see what that statement is all about. Oh, try to remember we are not all the same. That means we have different beliefs, values, traditions, and even a different understanding or awareness of Aboriginal issues. Not every Aboriginal knows everything about everything. And please, if you hire an Aboriginal person, you don’t need to tell them you hired them because of their background/ancestry. They probably have a good understanding. Tell them you hired them because of their knowledge and experience. Keep it classy. Besides, you might make someone else a bit upset in the office. Not everyone can be Indian.
As I write this post, I think that what I really want to say and share is not going to be easily put in one post. So, here is the first of many to come.