Updated: Oct 2
~ blog by Judy Kiley and Sue Staropoli
The PARA Indigenous Peoples Allyship group began meeting by Zoom in the fall of 2020. We realized early on that it was important to start this indigenous allyship effort by educating ourselves about white supremacy and exploring how we as white people are part of a much bigger narrative of colonization and oppression. Part of our role was to share our learnings with the PARA and broader community through our newsletter and website. For the November 2020 issue of our newsletter, to celebrate Native American Heritage Month, we began compiling a list of resources about indigenous people and topics to expand and share our knowledge. We found that these resources, especially the authentic accounts by indigenous communities, enlightened us all and brought to light the oppression that we have been putting on native peoples for centuries.
As we began to explore possible actions that flowed from our learnings, we discovered that we had many and varied interests and opportunities, including working at the village level to adopt Land Acknowledgments in their meetings, working with the Indigenous Peoples' Day Committee to advocate for adoption of that permanent change in the City of Rochester, volunteering at Ganondagan, and so much more. It seemed that there was no one effort we felt called to do together, but rather used our monthly meeting time to share our individual activities, inform each other on allyship advocacy situations, and support one another with contacts, resources and encouraging words.
Through the years quite a few people have come into the group and contributed their interest and wisdom and have not been attending recently for a variety of reasons. This review and reflection is an opportunity to clarify who we are and what we hope to be as we grow in our commitment to being allies to our indigenous neighbors. The word “support group” emerged as we talked, since that includes shared passion for this cause, sharing resources as we each follow our unique path as allies, based on our circumstances and opportunities, and encouragement as we face challenges along the way.
At this point we have a core group of 5 members who attend regularly, and have just welcomed 3 new members to join us. Attendance is flexible, so sometimes we’re all present on the call and other times it’s just a few of us. There is no pressure to attend but a general intention that it be a priority in our schedules. And the conversations are always rich and heart-felt. Currently we meet on the 3rd Wednesday of the month from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Please contact Sue Staropoli (email@example.com) if you’re interested in joining this community of support in this important work.
Here are some words from one of our members about how this group has enriched her life and work in allyship:
"I have participated in the monthly meetings of Pachamama Alliance of the Rochester Area’s Indigenous Allyship Group and during these meetings I have learned of efforts to spread recognition of and support for Native Americans. In the Land Acknowledgements that precede our meetings, I have learned about the history of the land and the indigenous inhabitants who knew this area long before white Europeans arrived and ‘discovered’ it. I have also learned that there are more Native American groups across our States than have ever been taught in our schools.
As I learned more about this local history my support to make Indigenous People’s Day a NYS and National Holiday has grown. And, along with others I have promoted local gatherings, including recreational activities, music, and dance, to occur on the 2nd Monday of October. The knowledge and appreciation I have gained has also led me to support reparations including return of some land to Native Americans, as was promised in several treaties across the USA. And it has spurred my efforts to share information about Indigenous Peoples Day.
From members of PARA’s Indigenous Allyship Group, I heard about Death Cafes, which called me to an acknowledgement of the need to share and discuss topics that are often hidden. There is a tremendous need—in local as well as state schools—to encourage a full and complete education. We witness efforts to restrict what is taught to only those elements that keep certain people comfortable. But we also need to face hard truths, regardless of the discomfort. And we especially need to view all persons of every ancestry as valued and to ensure that all peoples are treated as equals.
Looking at the history of the indigenous peoples I have gained a deeper appreciation of ancestry as part of my being, who I am! This recognition, that we all belong to Earth in the great circle of being, including the sky, and even other planets. I can also see clearly, that If we hide the truth, if we avoid uncomfortable information, we are truly missing important elements of the circle of life, and of ourselves."