Allyship & Solidarity Guidelines
- All people not indigenous to North America who are living on this continent are settlers on stolen land. We acknowledge that Canada, the United States of America, Mexico, and Central & South America were founded through genocide and colonization of indigenous peoples–which continues today and from which settlers directly benefit.
- All settlers do not benefit equally from the settler-colonial state, nor did all settlers emigrate here of their own free will. Specifically, we see slavery, hetero-patriarchy, white supremacy, market imperialism, and capitalist class structures as among the primary tools of colonization. These tools divide communities and determine peoples’ relative access to power. Therefore, anti-oppression solidarity between settler communities is necessary for decolonization. We work to build anti-colonial movements that actively combat all forms of oppression.
- We acknowledge that settlers are not entitled to live on this land. We accept that decolonization means the revitalization of indigenous sovereignty, and an end to settler domination of life, lands, and peoples in all territories of the so-called “Americas.” All decisions regarding human interaction with this land base, including who lives on it, are rightfully those of the indigenous nations.
- As settlers and non-native people (by which we mean non-indigenous to this hemisphere) acting in solidarity, it is our responsibility to proactively challenge and dismantle colonialist thought and behavior in the communities we identify ourselves to be part of. As people within communities that maintain and benefit from colonization, we are intimately positioned to do this work.
- We understand that allies cannot be self-defined; they must be claimed by the people they seek to ally with. We organize our solidarity efforts around direct communication, responsiveness, and accountability to indigenous people fighting for decolonization and liberation.
- We are committed to dismantling all systems of oppression, whether they are found in institutional power structures, interpersonal relationships, or within ourselves. Individually and as a collective, we work compassionately to support each other through these processes. Participation in struggle requires each of us to engage in both solidarity and our own liberation: to be accountable for all privileges carried, while also struggling for liberation from internalized and/or experienced oppression. We seek to build a healthy culture of resistance, accountability, and sustenance.
(Adapted from Unsettling MN‘s Points of Unity)
The ally industrial complex has been established by activists who’s careers depend on the “issues” they work to address. These nonprofit capitalists advance their careers off the struggles they ostensibly support. They often work in the guise of “grassroots” or “community-based” and are not necessarily tied to any organization.
They build organizational or individual capacity and power, establishing themselves comfortably among the top ranks in their hierarchy of oppression as they strive to become the ally “champions” of the most oppressed. While the exploitation of solidarity and support is nothing new, the commodification and exploitation of allyship is a growing trend in the activism industry.
Every single time we speak publicly, or put ourselves out there we are always asked by other Indigenous Nations, settlers, and settlers of color: what can we do. We then go on to outline all the ways those who want to be potential allies can help us out in a tangible way, in a targeted way, and in a general way. Everyone takes notes, asks more questions, and seems really earnest. Then inevitably soon after something happens that we need to utilize these tools and reach out to our settler allies, guess what happens?! Not much. More understandably our indigenous friends and relatives who are resisting the forces of industrial occupation cannot usually leave their fight to join ours unless the situation is very dire. Yet settlers also seem to have problems with moving beyond the round dance rhetoric of the protest industry and organizing outside of that box.
It’s important that members of settler culture ally themselves with indigenous communities fighting for their rights and survival, but there are right and wrong ways to express solidarity. The following guidelines have been put together by Deep Green Resistance* members with the help of indigenous activists. They aren’t a complete how-to guide – every community and every situation is different – but they can hopefully point you in a good direction for acting effectively and with respect.
Deep Green Resistance Indigenous Solidarity Guidelines:
1. First and foremost we must recognize that non-indigenous people are occupying stolen land in an ongoing genocide that has lasted for centuries. We must affirm our responsibility to stand with indigenous communities who want support and give everything we can to protect their land and culture from further devastation; they have been on the frontlines of biocide and genocide for centuries, and as allies, we need to step up and join them.
2. You are doing Indigenous solidarity work not out of guilt, but out of a fierce desire to confront oppressive colonial systems of power.
3. You are not helping Indigenous people, you are there to: join with, struggle with, and fight with indigenous peoples against these systems of power. You must be willing to put your body on the line.
4. Recognize your privilege as a member of settler culture.
5. You are not here to engage in any type of cultural, spiritual or religious needs you think you might have, you are here to engage in political action. Also, remember your political message is secondary to the cause at hand.
6. Never use drugs or alcohol when engaging in Indigenous solidarity work. Never.
7. Do more listening than talking, you will be surprised what you can learn.
8. Recognize that there will be Indigenous people that will not want you to participate in ceremonies. Humbly refrain from participating in ceremonies.
9. Recognize that you and your Indigenous allies may be in the minority on a cause that is worth fighting for.
10. Work with integrity and respect, be trustworthy and do what you say you are going to do.
*Unsettling America Editor’s Note: While we understand and certainly agree that DGR is highly problematic, we are not seeking to promote their brand name. Rather, it is our understanding that these guidelines were developed with the guidance and help of indigenous allies of the Great Plains chapter, which did some pretty outstanding indigenous solidarity work, and also dissolved as a DGR chapter due to internal movement racism and colonial attitudes within the DGR ideological leadership and central cadre, only to reform as a POC radical environmental group, Deep Roots United Front. We understand that DGR now carries these guidelines as movement policy, but their origins are will folks who have left DGR (they were crafted by ex-DGRGP member and DRUF co-founder T.R. McKenzie along with Olowan Martinez and Waziyatawin). As guidelines, we feel that they’re relatively solid and stand on their own merit, but of course we’d be interested in adapting/expanding them and taking DGR’s name off of them, regarding which we are currently in communication with DRUF. While we have featured content from the likes of Derrick Jensen, we are highly concerned with and critical of DGR’s hierarchical authoritarianism, TERFism, and general colonial attitude towards indigenous and POC folks.
A Responsible Ally:
1. Does not act out of guilt, but rather out of a genuine interest in challenging the larger oppressive power structures;
2. Understands that they are secondary to the Indigenous people that they are working for and that they seek to serve. They and their needs must take a back seat, and listen more than speak;
We have also adopted Setting The Record Straight’s Points of Unity:
The Points of Unity are the values and ideas in which all members of the collective agree upon. To be a member of this collective, you must agree on the following five points of unity. This is our foundation, the place in which we find common ground. If you are considering working with our group, or wish to get involved, please review these points.
- We recognize that “race” is a false construct, arbitrarily created by Europeans to establish and maintain privilege and power. “Whiteness” was invented for similar reasons and serves as “North” on the illegitimate “compass” of race by creating hierarchies of language, skin tone, religious practice, and culture. We seek to deconstruct these oppressive paradigms and take part in the effort already established to build and resurrect models of human interaction based on cooperation and the value inherent in our various traditions and cultures.
- We recognize and respect the inherent autonomy and self-determination of indigenous groups. We define autonomy as the capacity of communities to survive and thrive without interference or threat of violence from outside forces. We see self-determination as the power of a community to define its own fate and course of action.
- We seek an immediate end to all genocidal policies and activities. We oppose the full range of genocidal actions, including things like cultural appropriation, which are often mistakenly thought of as non-genocidal because they don’t necessarily entail direct physical violence.
- We seek to help create relationships of true and lasting justice between indigenous and non-indigenous communities. We believe that those who benefit from the occupation of indigenous territories have a responsibility to put effort into helping build these fundamentally just relationships. If necessary, non-indigenous communities should make themselves available to indigenous groups as a source of aid and support. Because everyone ultimately stands to gain from this process, we promote mutual empowerment, not charity.
- We support and respect a diversity of tactics and efforts made by colonized groups to resist oppression and/or reclaim complete autonomy. However, we may not condone all methods used, or choose to utilize certain methods ourselves.
- We will actively fight all oppression in ourselves, our collective and events, in liberatory movements, and outside the movement. We hold that all systems of oppression are linked, and that no movement for liberation can succeed while replicating/maintaining any oppression. We will not tolerate any form of oppression. Some systemic oppressions include racism, sexism, transphobia, and ablism.
Points to Remember for Indigenous Solidarity Activists
- The movement for Indigenous liberation is a radical political struggle
- Being an ally does not mean signing up for Indigenous spirituality
- We need strong, solid individuals who are not floundering with their own spiritual struggles
- This is not a struggle for those people who believe it’s trendy to support Indigenous causes—we are in it for the long haul
- You can find Indigenous individuals who will support any position you want them to support—that is a direct result of the colonial experience
- Those indigenous individuals who encourage non-Indigenous participation in ceremonies are often (not always) those who are attempting to curry favor with white women, or white people for their own purposes
- Because this is a political struggle, it is essential to work in solidarity with critically minded and politically engaged Indigenous individuals
- Remember that decolonization is a process for both the colonizer and the colonized.
MORE TIPS FOR EFFECTIVE SOLIDARITY WORK
RECOGNIZE – If you are non-Native, recognize your place as a settler on occupied Indigenous lands that are still under active and ongoing resistance.
SOBER – Respect the destructive influences of alcohol and drugs on Indigenous communities. Always work sober within Indigenous spaces and projects. NEVER bring drugs or alcohol into Indigenous spaces. LSP is a sober project and any person under the influence will be asked to leave.
CULTURAL RESPECT – Working as an ally to Indigenous people does not entitle you to their spirituality. Leave your own cultural and spiritual baggage at the door. Cultural appropriation destroys opportunities for Indigenous solidarity.
ELDERS – NEVER speak over an Elder who is talking. Be patient during pauses in their speech. Make sure they are fed first. Assist them when they ask. Defend them from harm.
CEREMONY – Only participate in Indigenous ceremony if you are specifically invited. It is not traditional to participate in another Nation’s ceremony unless it is intended to be open.
PROTOCOL – DO NOT take pictures or video of Indigenous ceremonies unless given the approval to do so. NEVER photograph or video sacred objects like pipes, medicine bags, masks, totems, etc. If in doubt, ask! If there is no one to ask, don’t do it!
LEADERSHIP – Defer to Indigenous leadership, decision-making and priorities. Follow their lead.
MAKE SPACE – Suppress enthusiasm for your own ideologies, beliefs, ideas and solutions to further empower problem solving and decision making among Indigenous people. You are not here to “save” Indigenous people but to be allies in a struggle for survival.
PATIENCE – Work patiently at the speed of Indigenous leadership, reflection and decision-making. Deadlines are usually less important than acting in the most thoughtful (effective) way.
INTEGRITY – Always do what you say you are going to do. Always. Work with integrity. When given a task, do it to the best of your ability. When you mess up, apologize earnestly.
ACCOUNTABILITY – Be accountable to the communities you serve, including traditional Elders and warriors who are the customary leaders or defenders of their people.
COMMUNICATION – Expand opportunities for Indigenous people to speak for themselves.
PREPARE – Emotionally prepare yourself for solidarity work including the ability to deal with criticism. Solidarity work is a chance to learn and grow new skills and perspectives.
DECOLONIZE – Decolonization repatriates Indigenous lands and lifeway for both the colonizer and the colonized. Decolonization is the key to effective long-term solidarity.
The Two Row Campaign and Syracuse Cultural Workers have just published a beautiful new poster titled “How to be an Ally to Indigenous Peoples.” The full color poster features an Onondaga Gustoweh (headgear) by Onondaga artist Josephine M. Cook. The wording has been developed over many months by the Two Row Campaign in conjunction with our friends at Syracuse Cultural Workers.
The poster features important information to be shared far and wide. It’s a great addition to classrooms, community centers, schools and other venues, and makes for a great gift. The 12″ x 36″ poster is available for $15, and bookmarks and postcards are $1 each or 12 for $10. They will be available for sale at Two Row events or you can purchase them online or via phone, 800.949.5139, from Syracuse Cultural Workers.