Leadership 2020 Newsletter: Leadership & Cultural Understanding

Over the past few years, much of my work has been informed by conversations with Wedlidi Speck a broad array of wise advisors about the concepts of cultural awareness, understanding, humility, agility and safety—trying to figure out ways to foster conditions that enhance cultural safety for Indigenous staff and clients in the social care sector.

Through this work, I’ve come to a deeper understanding of what cultural safety is and what the journey towards culturally safe workplaces and services entails. And four special issues of the Leadership 2020 Newsletter are focusing on four key concepts related to this work.

The conditions for culturally safe workplaces and services evolve over time with attention and intention to continuously learn, develop and practice with cultural humility. And this journey most often starts first with building cultural awareness and then understanding.

1. Cultural Awareness
2. Cultural Understanding
Cultural Humility
4. Cultural Agility and Safety

This newsletter, the second of four, will share information, resources, and approaches related to cultural understanding. This is a shift from ‘head-‘ to ‘heart-based’ work and learning—experiencing and understanding the impacts of colonization at an emotional level and exploring the contemporary challenges and resilience of Indigenous peoples. Below are some resources to draw upon.

1. Experiential Workshops and Training Activities

Experiences and activities such as the Building Bridges to Understanding the Village training have been offered by the Federation and many Federation agencies over the past years. These experiential workshops are one way to better understand and address the trauma and impact that settlement has had on Canada’s First Nations.

The Kairos Blanket Exercise (which has also been offered at past Federation conferences) is another teaching tool—one that shares the historic and contemporary relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. Keep an eye out for future learning events like these in your communities. (Or contact us about hosting one yourself!)

2. Indigenous Community Events and Actions

Attending community events led by Indigenous organizations and communities is another simple way to begin building awareness and understanding. They also offer entry points for those wanting to engage in meaningful action.

Many Federation members visited with Witness Blanket as is toured the country late last year. (It will be coming back to BC in 2019.) You could also consider getting involved in local events connected to National Day of Indigenous Peoples on June 21st or attending other local events such as the Women’s Memorial or the annual Stolen Sisters march.

3. Listen to MMIWG Inquiry Testimonies

Watching the recordings of family members telling their truths at the hearings held by National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls provides a different way of understanding the experiences of Canada’s Indigenous people (and, often, at a much deeper level).

You can also access the Inquiry’s Interim Report from 2017 which offers other important lessons about cultural understanding—different definitions of violence and trauma, alternate perspectives of colonialism, distinctions about Indigenous Nations, an explanation of the Sixties Scoop, and more.

Jennifer Charlesworth
Leadership 2020 Hosting Team