How do you avoid offending Indigenous people?
Learning about another culture can be challenging. No matter how good your intentions are, sometimes you can still offend people by not having enough knowledge or awareness of that person's culture.
That’s why the best thing you can do is make sure you are as informed, aware, and open-minded as you can possibly be.
How you cultivate your own understanding is the first step toward avoiding potentially awkward or offensive interactions.
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Avoiding offensive interactions or encounters is really all about education and awareness. The more informed you are, the less likely you are to offend anyone!
These SEVEN WAYS to avoid offending Indigenous people will ask you to identify some of your own intentions or prejudices, learn about new topics, and explore the history of Indigenous people in Canada and around the world.
The more intentionally you engage with these suggestions, the more successful you will be!
The First way to avoid offending Indigenous people is to learn the truth behind indigenous history in Canada
It is important to acknowledge that what you’ve been taught about Indigenous people in Canada might not be true.
Indigenous people have had a long, complicated, and sometimes dark history in Canada that not everyone is informed about. It is important to learn about that history and discover the truth of Indigenous people in Canada.
If you want a good place to start, check out this article where I discuss some of Canada’s true history with Indigenous people.
The second way to avoid offending Indigenous people is to learn about the diverse backgrounds of indigenous tribes, communities, and cultures
Did you know not all Indigenous communities, tribes and cultures are the same?
It’s important to acknowledge that there are differences between Indigenous peoples. You never know who you are talking to and you don’t want to offend them by assuming they have the same culture or beliefs as another Indigenous person!
Teachings, beliefs, values, and traditions differ from culture to culture – no two Indigenous people are truly the same!
You can avoid offending an Indigenous person by acknowledging and even learning about all the different Indigenous backgrounds, communities, and cultures that exist!
Want to know more about the Indigenous people of Canada? Check out this article!
The third way to avoid offending indigenous people is to acknowledge any of your assumptive stereotypes, judgments, or prejudices
When you assume all Indigenous people are the same or have the same beliefs, it’s also easy to adopt certain stereotypes or prejudices. We all do this – but the important thing is learning to undo any of those learned stereotypes.
Consider how you’ve been taught to think about or treat Indigenous people. How have your experiences shaped your opinion? Now, how can you shift that perspective so that you don’t place unnecessary judgments or stereotypes on others?
You can avoid an offensive encounter with an Indigenous person by not making assumptions, judgements, or letting yourself fall into the trap of believing in stereotypes.
If you want to avoid offending Indigenous people, learning more about their backgrounds is the very first step and our article about How to Be An Indigenous Ally will help you!
The fourth way to avoid offending Indigenous people is to develop basic awareness of Indigenous culture
You don’t have to be an expert, but learning even the basics of Indigenous culture will help you better understand and communicate with Indigenous people.
You can start simple: with basic teachings, traditions, and values. You don’t have to practice Indigenous culture yourself to have a general awareness of it!
Get started with this simple article that gives you 4 ways to learn Indigenous culture.
Once you’ve cultivated a general understanding of Indigenous culture and history, it’s time to put your knowledge to practice!
The fifth way to avoid offending Indigenous people is to learn how to communicate effectively with Indigenous people
The next thing you want to do is learn how to effectively communicate with Indigenous people. This means ensuring you are respectful, kind, empathetic, and an active listener.
Keep in mind that you might not know everything about Indigenous culture so be open to new ideas and concepts. Acknowledge that the person you’re speaking with might have something to teach you!
Open, honest, and empathetic communication is important and will prevent you both from offending each other!
The sixth way to avoid offending Indigenous people is to be aware of potentially harmful questions
Don’t forget that Indigenous history can be tricky, dark, and even traumatic.
Some people might not feel comfortable discussing certain topics or answering certain questions. And that’s OK!
Be aware that any person has the right to say they don’t want to answer your questions about their culture; it’s not that person’s responsibility to teach you.
Open and honest conversations are amazing – but just be aware that there might be some questions that feel hurtful or “off limits” for Indigenous people.
Want a quick peek on the Indigenous History? Check out this article about Truth and Reconciliation!
The seventh way to avoid offending Indigenous people is to be aware of your intentions when trying to connect with the Indigenous community
Finally, try to identify your intentions when you’re attempting to connect with the Indigenous community. Intention means identifying WHY you want to learn more about Indigenous culture and WHY you want to connect with the culture or Indigenous people. Make sure you’re connecting for the right reasons.
Your intentions should come from a place of empathy, understanding, and, most importantly, a place of wanting to strengthen connections in the Indigenous community and spread the truth behind Indigenous culture.
These 7 tips should help you avoid offending Indigenous people.
But, as a BONUS TIP, keep in mind you cannot completely avoid offending everyone! There’s always the chance that you and another person simply might not connect. The important thing is to just practice kindness in all interactions.
If you want to learn more about indigenous people, cultures, practices, and beliefs, visit our website, Tribal Trade Co., for tons of resources at your fingertips.