Holding Indigenity: Creating inclusive spaces for Indigenous people
Admin | 11-08-2022
Things to be mindful of while working with people from indigenous communities -either at the workplace or movement place:
1. Try and understand our lived realities, the place we come from or the community we belong to might be very different from the mainstream idea of what a community or a collective is. This is how we were socialised. I know there are several criticisms of socialisation. Some of these rules might be archaic but we are trying hard to modernise ourselves according to your rules. You can also do a little bit of adjusting to our upbringing.
2. Don’t say,’ you speak English, how can you be indigenous’. Or ‘you don’t look indigenous’. We are not some tribal person who will look a certain way. Your Sanskritisation has reached out to us too. And some people would still love to be identified as indigenous. When I first came to Delhi, I was the first girl from my village to study outside. I did not have any local guardians. It took me ages to enter the women’s movement and queer spaces to make my voice heard. Respect that struggle.
3. Our food is not exotic. These are regular foods we eat. Try and have some sensitivity while talking about our food.
4. While talking about English, some of us come from villages and even though English was a medium of instruction, we still have the ‘accent’. One of my exes used to make fun of the way I used to pronounce ‘Ambassador’. Come on, in Assamese, that’s how we pronounce it. We can’t have the perfect vocabulary like yours. Respect where we come from.
5. We also have hopes and dreams of upward mobility. Our upward mobility was because you have always made us feel inferior about how we are and this assumption really does not take into consideration the struggles each of us have or are having in our day-to-day life. Respect and acknowledge that! We try to be modern, ‘happening’, because we wanted to fit in too! For homework, try to collect data about your organisation and see how many indigenous people have made it to the top management level, or don’t go too far, look at your inner circle, and how many indigenous people you know. Do you know their customs, their festivities, their small rituals which they have been socialised to? My dad, during Maagh Bihu (The one that is celebrated in January), made us tie small knots made of bamboo around trees just to ensure that we will protect these trees forever. Did you know about that? Your city life cannot even imagine a life beyond.
6. Make space for our festivals in your workspace. Do you even know how we celebrate our festivals? Try hearing us out.
7. Do not homogenise us or erase us. There have been many instances where activists have tried to question our authenticity by asking us several personal questions. We are as heterogenous as your mind can imagine We have multiple identities- queer, trans, GNC, PWD, people with mental health issues and we have our own lived realities. If you are not-indigenous, stop yourself from making assumptions about our lives.