Becoming an ally to Indigenous people

Niiwin Wendaanimak garden at Parkdale Queen West Health CentreI want to learn more. Where do I start?

We’re often asked by non-Indigenous colleagues who want to become better allies where they can start. Here are a few suggestions and a resource list.

1. Start with your own research.

When we say research, we're talking less about becoming knowledgeable and more about approaching relationship-building with a good mindset. It can help you understand your unconscious biases and cultivate the openness and humility so that you can act respectfully. See our resource list below to get started.

2. Develop a “learning attitude”

Get ready to listen and reflect! Be prepared to hear difficult truths about other people’s experiences and yourself. Be aware of your own reaction to what you’re hearing and learn how to respond constructively. Are you feeling defensive or personally attacked? Understand that this is not easy work. 

3. Go to Indigenous events

Rather than inviting Indigenous people to come to your events or partner on your projects, you can learn by going out to hear speakers, attend demonstrations, visit pow wows and explore the work of  Indigenous artists.

A few things to keep in mind when attending events:

  • Some events or spaces may only be for Indigenous people. Often promotional materials will specify this, but if you’re in doubt, asking is better than assuming.
  • Ask before taking photos or videos. Taking pictures of sacred items and ceremonies is generally considered disrespectful. The same is true for touching any regalia or ceremonial items.
  • Learn about Indigenous protocols, such as working with elders and offering tobacco.

Questions and concepts to take on the path

  • What is my motivation for doing this? Who benefits?
  • How does my social location (race, gender, economic status, age, physical and mental health) affect how I see any given situation? How might that situation look different from another perspective?
  • It's okay to make mistakes, it's part of learning something new
  • Indigenous nations and individuals are diverse, not everyone will follow the same protocols, use the same language or have the same opinions.
  • Don't assume you know. Ask.
  • Nothing for us, without us


BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour)

Sometimes the focus of antiracist work is on Black and Indigenous people as opposed to other racialized groups. Racism is not monolithic and people of different identities will experience racism differently. Research has shown that Black and Indigenous people tend to be the racialized groups most impacted by food insecurity, poverty and police violence.


Settlers/guests who are not from European backgrounds may have a different relationship to Indigenous people than White Europeans and a different analysis of Canada's colonial history and current situation. They may also come from painful colonial and racist contexts, but continue to be guests on these lands.   




If you’re not sure where to start, begin with some of the resources on decolonizing. They will help you approach and process what you find in the other links.

For a list of Indigenous gardens and organizations, see

Becoming an Ally/ Decolonizing - practical tips and ways to think about allyship - how to be an ally in land reclamation 

Unsettling the Settler Within Paulette Regan  - some common tactics that non-Indigenous people use to maintain the status quo and deny privilege

Whitewashed Hope - a comparison of Indigenous world views to regenerative agriculture and permaculture list of readings and videos

The RÉSEAU de la communauté autochtone à Montréal/Montreal Indigenous Community Network has an ally toolkit and a pathway to learning document with links to educational resources. 

In the spirit of needing to heal ourselves before becoming good allies or accomplices:

For more examples of challenging White supremacy, privilege and fragility, see



Land and water - Land Back report on how Canada dispossesses Indigenous people from the land and what communities are doing to get it back - settler/ally UofT research group on water – research, building alliances and promoting strategies to protect water Indigenous environmental history of Toronto by Jon Johnson

Land as pedagogy: Nishnaabeg intelligence and rebellious transformation by

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson - fire ecology - Queer the Land is a Seattle-based collaborative project grounded in the self-determination of queer, trans, and two spirit Black/indigenous/people of color (QT2BIPOC) and the vision of collectively owning land and labor.

Indigenous food sovereignty

Dawn Morrison defines Indigenous Food Sovereignty

Food Secure Canada discussion paper on Indigenous food sovereignty & Joseph Pitawanakwat shares teachings about plants, place and health through blog postings and videos


Treaties, territories and self-determination international map with territories, languages, treaties

A Treaty Guide for Torontonians - multimedia exploration by the Toronto Treaty Collective articles on current legal initiatives defending and advancing Indigenous peoples' Aboriginal title, rights and Treaty rights exploring the Indigenous history of Toronto  - Government of Canada database of treaties searchable by keyword, location or postal code. - address by Jody Wilson-Raybould, MP on steps needed for true reconciliation Canadian Geographic Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada is available at the Toronto Public Library

Land Acknowledgements

Key Documents


Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) exhibits, links to reports, teaching resources

TRC Calls to Action - author Lee Maracle’s reflection on the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirit people - final report and calls to action, plus stories, art and video submissions from contributors

The Canadian government knew about the conditions in residential schools as early as 1907 with the  Bryce Report

Canadian Human Rights Tribunal finds Canadian government discriminates against Indigenous children

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) - text available in multiple languages.

Language pronunciation of Anishnaabowin teaching and learning Anishnaabowin The Ogimaa Mikana Project is an effort to restore Anishinaabemowin place-names to the streets, avenues, roads, paths, and trails of Gichi Kiiwenging (Toronto) - transforming a landscape that often obscures or makes invisible the presence of Indigenous peoples.   Ciimaan/Kahuwe’yá/Qajaq language initiative - Indigenous languages across Canada

Protocols - attending powwows - working with elders

Sema (tobacco): and

Two Spirited People

In the news

Wet’suwet’en land defence

A transcript of Audrey Huntley’s talk at a demonstration in Toronto on February 22, 2020 explains the importance of defending land and makes links to violence against women, children, trans and 2 spirited people.

Remains of children in residential schools - Save the Evidence campaign - an essay on the Mohawk Institute and reclaiming food traditions, with facilitating questions

Multimedia - multimedia education site with an abundance of links, art and discussion questions

Canadian Geographic Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada has short essays from Indigenous contributors of many nations on a wide range of topics. Some content is online The full volumes complete with maps can be taken out from Toronto Public Library branches - multimedia art by artist Jaime Black highlighting murdered and missing Indigenous women political satire

Earth to Tables Legacies videos, photo essays and facilitation guides documenting intergenerational and intercultural exchanges between farmers, food activists and academics in Mexico, Six Nations and Canada. - promotes public awareness of significant cultural historical sites and the ancestral presence of First Nations, Metis and Indigenous Communities. posters - videos 10 books to read from Edmonton Public Library



Just a few artists: Leonard Sumner * The Halluci Nation (formerly A Tribe Called Red) * Snotty Nose Rez Kids * Leanne Betasamosake Simpson * Supaman * Iskwe * Kelly Fraser * Buffy Sainte Marie * Jeremy Dutcher * Tanya Tagaq for more ideas

Page updated on 2023-11-09 09:20:29