Understanding Indigenous Allyship
Being an ally to oppressed groups seeking justice is a complicated process, fraught with the risk of
misunderstanding and inflicting more harm. It requires much humility, soul-searching, and reflection on
one’s motivation and long-term intention, and willingness to engage in a process of continuous learning.
With this in mind, a group is humbly gathering to explore allyship with Indigenous Americans and begin
a process of learning together as a grounding for our formation and growth as allies to our local
Although we desire, long-term, to create a dialogue or partnership with local native communities, we
understand that our first step is to educate ourselves about their history and realities and to begin to
practice the guiding principles of allyship, preparing ourselves for authentic engagement.
One of the materials that we are using to ground us is A Guide to Allyship.
It is our responsibility to educate ourselves, through reading books and narratives that indigenous
communities themselves embrace as true stories and authentic accounts, such as the Indigenous
People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, or Braiding Sweetgrass and Gathering
Moss, both by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
Our modest hope in this initial stage of our group is to educate ourselves and to appropriately share
what we learn to increase awareness in the broader community.
For example, a practice that is becoming more widespread within non-native groups is Land
Acknowledgment. While its purpose is to raise awareness, it is often marred by inaccuracy and
unintended disrespect for native people. We are learning that such acknowledgments must be offered
not in a casual or “performative” way, but with true knowledge of the local native people and followed
by action to engage more deeply on their behalf.
Here, we offer two articles about Land Acknowledgment and what is needed to make it meaningful,
respectful, accurate, and culturally sensitive.
Territory Acknowledgement - by Native Land Digital
A Guide to indigenous land and territorial acknowledgements for cultural institutions - by Felicia Garcia (Chumash), M.A. Museum Studies, New York University, 2018
If you are interested in learning more or joining this work group, please contact Sue Staropoli at