Ask First! A Better Practices Guide for Indigenous Engagement

Sneak peak with context and description by Dixie Pauline:
This Better Practices Guide is a collaborative effort between event producers, community organizers, and Indigenous leaders. It’s still in DRAFT form and only a portion of it is presented here so be sure to keep an eye out for the document in full released this December.
Gatherings * Festivals * Conferences * Action Camps * Ancestral Arts * Protests * Ceremony * Water & Land Protection/Defense * Climate & Environmental Justice * Antiracism * Human Rights * Sacred Sites * Permaculture
Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are always in relationship with Indigenous peoples by living in and producing events on their ancestral homelands. Regardless if tribes have recognition status, or if particular sites fall under tribal jurisdiction or band council, the entirety of North America (Turtle Island) is made up of distinct and overlapping Indigenous territories. There are hundreds of tribes working to reaffirm their sovereignty and protect their cultural practices, traditional lands, waters, and natural resources. Each decision we make, each action we take, affects Indigenous peoples. Whether you’re an event producer, organizer, participant or attendee, here’s just a few questions to Ask First! for building stronger movements & community at events:
  • Which Indigenous Nations or communities’ territory is an event held on?
  • Is there ::local:: Indigenous representation and at least good efforts made to reach out to reps elected by Indigenous communities of that region?
  • Did an organization ask Indigenous peoples with whom they should consult?
  • What is the history and geography of a place, especially from Indigenous perspectives?
  • Are there local Indigenous liberation struggles for community, land, or water in the local or neighboring territories? Are there land, water, and/or sacred sites near an event site that Indigenous People are protecting or defending? How might an event intersect with these? How can organizations and attendees alike protect the integrity of these places during their events?
  • What protocols may event staff and attendees need to know?
  • What constitutes a meaningful acknowledgement & consultaiton of the local Indigenous Peoples and territory? Are local Indigenous communities invited to participate in and being consulted with about an event beyond an opening blessing or skillshare?
  • What happens if there is art, a performance piece, wardrobe choices or sampling of music that is negatively impacting Indigenous Peoples? To the event organizer or attendee: Are you willing and prepared to deal with cultural appropriation and the harm it causes?
  • How do we develop practices that are more cross-culturally inclusive for a wide diversity of groups?
This resource is a blueprint to assist event producers in developing partnerships and cultural awareness with Indigenous communities, particularly those whose territories where events are held. Event attendees it’s also for you. ‘Ask First!’ emerged out of a growing awareness of our responsibility as guests and as people who have settled* on Indigenous lands that have been confiscated, occupied, exploited, and desecrated without their free, prior, and informed consent. Understanding the history and geography of a place is crucial, because planning and development decisions can and have unwittingly impacted Indigenous peoples, their homelands, and sacred places.
These guidelines are by no means comprehensive; they offer basic foundational principles for engagement that have arisen from a long-term process of collective observation and dialogue within the festival community, which centers inclusion as a primary tenet of its culture. These issues are not exclusive to festivals. They are embedded within the entire historical and present-day relationship between the United States, Canada, and sovereign Indigenous Nations. As we engage with Indigenous Peoples, and especially communities local to their territories where events are held, we have an opportunity to initiate an important step in the process of repair by shifting how we relate to the land and its original inhabitants…..
These are general guidelines; protocols may differ from territory to territory, and do not reflect the opinions of all Indigenous peoples and communities across Turtle Island, hence, ‘Ask First!’ We hope that Indigenous people will find the guide, in conjunction with their own protocols for consultation, useful when engaging with events that are held in their territory or which may impact them in ways that non-Native people may have not taken into account. We try to provide vetted practices and principles grounded in respect, collaboration, and accountability. The content and concepts presented here are part of an ongoing process, requiring relationship-tending, learning, and unlearning — not a simple checklist of tasks to “take care of” and move on.
….Please be aware that all non-Native organizers bear a responsibility to educate themselves on the specific ways Indigenous people have been marginalized, even within social justice movements and events on their territories. Those with good intentions can still replicate harmful behaviors if they do not understand the layers of intersecting privileges that exist in settler colonial society. We must acknowledge this and take steps to change these dynamics before we can approach any meaningful alliance.
Contents:
  • Introductory letter
  • Basics 101:
  • Getting Started
  • Identifying Ancestral Territory
  • Community Consultation
  • Identifying Local & Regional Indigenous Reps
  • Cultural Humility
  • Considering Protocols
  • Building Relations
  • Cultural Appropriation
  • Privilege
  • Some examples for practical application
  • What Not To Do
  • Encouragement & Action
  • Resources
  • Definitions
  • A Work In Progress. Contact Info
This is a collaborative effort and Indigenous consultants are providing direction and shape to it. It couldn’t have been possible without the critical input and valuable contributions from mentors, friends, comrades and sponsors. Gratitude to all who are contributing to this project Juliana K’abal Xok Angela Mooney D’Arcy Lianne Payne Dixie Pauline Zara Maria Zimbardo others TBA!
We are crowd-sourcing review on it, so questions, comments, & concerns are welcome. Know that this work is an intellectual collaboration in progress between a group of individuals. Please do not use the text of this document without permission or attribution – however please share! askfirstguide@gmail(dot)com

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