Allies must allow Indigenous peoples to speak for themselves

My legal name is Ashley Rose Cummings. My traditional names are prominently Rose and Komangaapik. In the traditional naming system, a name is given to you based on who passes away around the time you’re born. I’m very proud to have these names. They have caused me to symbolically be these people, because Inuit naming allows me to take on the role of a sister, mother, grandmother and so on. It’s an important part of my culture that I appreciate and am surrounded with in my daily life.

In my daily life here at Mount Allison, I’m also surrounded by discussions on reconciliation. Being Inuit, I know Canada needs this and I have a pretty firm opinion on how it should happen. However, that’s not something I’m going to focus on. The University has begun doing more for their Indigenous students and I feel that they are trying. When I speak to upper-year students or alumni on this topic, they talk about how far this university has come, and it makes me appreciate how reconciliation and Indigenization are happening, as well as understand the pace of the process.We have a lot to do for reconciliation and Indigenization. We’ve come far, but we have a lot further to go. In saying that, whenever something does happen, regardless of if it’s positive or negative, non-Indigenous people come to me in outrage over how whatever just happened isn’t enough and it’s bad and things are awful. I get it. Indigenous people are exceedingly oppressed in Canada and elsewhere. I know this; other Indigenous people know this, too, because we all face it. But my advice to anyone reading this is not to get angry without knowing how the demographic is feeling.

Indigenous people can speak for themselves and be pissed off for themselves. We all have our voice and most of us use it. If we don’t use it, we learn our own ways to express ourselves and our pain as we deal with centuries of oppression. We appreciate the non-Indigenous allyship and support, but we can speak for ourselves. Please don’t hesitate to ask for our opinions. Please ask me your most uncomfortable questions regarding Indigenous people. I love them. I love correcting ignorance and I understand. I understand that our previous curriculums, institutions and systems have favoured non-Indigenous knowledge and tried hard to stop others from learning about the cultural genocide, colonization and intergenerational trauma subsequent to these racist acts. Sharing knowledge is integral to Indigenous groups and I love doing my small part to support this.

All efforts of Indigenization are appreciated because it’s better than what was previously, which was nothing. We love seeing more and more aspects of Indigenous culture included on campus, in our events and in our classes. It’s starting the long process of reconciliation, for which we have so much to do. We appreciate the baby steps. If you’re non-Indigenous and feel pissed off about something regarding Indigenization, reconsider if it’s your place to be pissed off. You can do this by seeing how Indigenous people feel about it. If your anger truly is founded in the experience of Indigenous people, you’d have consulted us before getting angry on our behalf. Honest allyship happens with knowledge and communication between people.        wela’lin, thank you.

Ashley Cummings