1. Be an inclusive space
Local businesses, organizations, and their employees can pledge to be more welcoming to indigenous youth, and work to increase awareness and understanding of Indigenous people, culture and history. If Indigenous youth tell you something is happening to them, please listen and address their concerns. Be compassionate to the challenges they are facing. Help them in any way that you can, and/or provide them resources where they can seek the professional help if required.
2. Use respectful language
Language can connect people, and can show openness and willingness to understand. For example, instead of referring to indigenous people as “Indians” or other disrespectful terms, rather, ask how an Indigenous person/people would like to be referred to. This may include, but is not limited to: ‘First Nations,’ ‘Metis,’ or ‘Inuit’ and perhaps their traditional individual name from their home community.
3. Increase Awareness
Make an individual effort to increase your understanding and awareness of Indigenous cultures, and the challenges indigenous youth face on a daily basis. There are plenty of Indigenous events happening around the city throughout the year. Consider attending one or more of these events.
4. Acknowledge in a positive way
Do not profile the youth. The students at Dennis Franklin Cromarty School report every year in an annual school survey that they experience being followed by staff members in local shops because the workers think they might steal. Acknowledge Indigenous youth in a positive and meaningful way, regardless of the color of their skin, looks, or clothing. Interact with them in a positive and meaningful way.
5. Speak up
“In the words of Martin Luther King, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty endured in the hands of the few, but the silence of the many. We encourage you to speak up and address racism or oppression if you witness it, and talk to your friends, coworkers, and family members. Let’s contribute to positive change in Thunder Bay by speaking up. Be a leader to the rest of Thunder Bay by contributing to co-creating an inclusive community.
6. Be welcoming
Let’s make an inclusive community together. Often the shyness by Indigenous youth has been mistaken for rudeness. Indigenous youth can be very shy and often need time to warm up, feel safe, and some prompting to talk. It is surprising how far a “Hi! How is your day going?” can go to make these students feel more welcome. These students can react very well to humor, food, and a quiet and calm voice. Social settings that are common in the city, can sometimes be overwhelming for them. It may take a few attempts, but they are open to connecting with people that put in the effort. Be friendly, open-minded, open-hearted and treat everyone with respect.