Indigenous communities must show support for Black- and POC-led movements without centering ourselves

News Unsettled Opinions

Movements and social media trends like “Indigenous Lives Matter” need to stop

News Unsettled Native Students Union column
Graphic provided by the Native Students Union.

In the past year, the Black Lives Matter movement has regained significant momentum and has been pushing for international change and the eradication of white supremacy. White supremacy is a system and a mindset that has infected the minds of many on Turtle Island and abroad.

Though some may not like to admit it, there are often examples of anti-Black racism and the pushing of the white supremacist agenda in Indigenous communities. One of the most recent examples of this has been during the Black Lives Matter movement. The burgeoning statement of ‘Indigenous Lives Matter’ is one example. 

This article is not attempting to say that Indigenous people do not suffer from police brutality or that there does not need to be a discussion on police brutality within Indigenous communities. What is being emphasized is that this needs to be done without placing ourselves in the centre of Black-led movements and discussions. 

There have been several large-scale Indigenous rights movements in the last decade, all of which Indigneous voices were front and centre and no one tried to take it away from us. 

The 2012 Idle No More movement sought to fight the introduction of Bill C-45. This movement garnered international attention and advocacy but not once did Black and other People of Colour use their voices to ask, ‘but what about us?’

In 2016, the Oglala Lakota people stood off against the Dakota Access Pipeline project. At the time, there were an estimated 3 000 to 4 000 people residing at the camp. Not only were there supporters from across Turtle Island and the south, but there were also non-Indigenous supporters. This is another movement that gained international support, that no non-Indigenous People of Colour used their voices to ask, “what about us?”

Most recently, in 2020, the Wet’suwet’en solidarity and Shut Down Canada movements sparked worldwide action. There were mass demonstrations all around the world to support the Wet’suwet’en facing forced dispossession from their territories. Here on W̱SÁNEĆ and Lək̓ʷəŋən lands, the occupation of the legislature had the support of many ⸺ Black, POC, and white allies alike. Again, not once did anyone take a megaphone and ask, “but what about us?”

In all these cases, Black and People of Colour stood in solidarity with Indigenous people. They showed support when we were struggling for our rights. So, why then are many Indigenous people not offering Black movements the same level of support and solidarity? Why do we have to make this movement about Black lives about us?

We need to stop this. We need to show support; the same support that we have been shown for the last decade. 

Doug Cuthand from the Saskatoon Star Phoenix wrote an article in July of 2020 titled, “Black and Indigenous lives matter.” There does not have to be a comparison made — there does not have to be an ‘and Indigenous’ in that statement. Indigenous people do not have to take the attention from Black-led movements, even if we are struggling with similar issues across Turtle Island.

This is not a new phenomenon either. There was a movement years ago that was named “Native Lives Matter,” directly taking from the Black Lives Matter movement.

To stop co-opting Black-led movements is the bare minimum. We need to show support and solidarity in any way that we can and any way that we are needed. We need to quash racism that is prevalent in Indigenous communities.

Again, we need to show our support for movements without centering ourselves. If we see a call out for supporters, we go. If we see a social media post that asks to be shared, we share it. If we see an event happening we show up and give our support. We must do all this without ever asking “what about us,” the exact same way other groups have shown support for us in the past.