It is not our job to educate

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

Looking ahead to the new year, I think it is important for all Indigenous people to remember one thing: it is not our job to educate white people. As truth and reconciliation continues to become more and more of a trend, there is more pressure to educate the public.

Not very long ago, I was sitting with a group of my friends after not seeing them for a long time. As we were chatting, one of my non-Indigenous friends spoke up and said she recently had people come into her place of work. While they were there she overheard them complain about recent Indigenous activism very vehemently. They were looking for a particular product, but her store did not have it, so she directed them elsewhere: a local Indigenous-owned and operated business. She asked me if it was the right thing to do, to which I replied that it could have put the workers and business in danger. After she finished defending her actions further, she suggested that we should all go down to the river while she and a couple others took magic mushrooms. There are ghost stories about some of the old buildings by the river, so she suggested that, while they were all under the influence, I should bring sage and smudge them to ease their fears.

If your nation smudges, you are going to see what is wrong with this story. This is one of those moments, with everyone’s eyes on me, that I decided to explain some of the protocol around smudging and why it and being on drugs does not mix. Looking back, however, I should not have explained. It was not my job to explain this part of my culture to a white person, friend or not.

That lack of responsibility is the same in every scenario.

If someone close to you approaches you and asks you to explain and justify the actions of activists or nations? Asks you to lend them an inside view of the traditions of your people? It is not your job. If you are not feeling up to the task you do not need to. The same goes for strangers.

If someone wants background and reasoning behind one of the more popular rights movements, like Wet’suwet’en, you need only tell them one thing: the internet exists. Google exists. Most of the time, those who are on the frontlines of those movements are constantly posting explanations and updates. There is no need for you to expend yourself trying to explain.

If it is a question about traditions of your nation, you do not need to share that information with anyone. Especially if it is closed. This may be obvious to some, but I too have cracked under the pressure, as with the details around substances and smudging.

This needs to be our policy for 2022 onwards. Though we are powerful and resilient peoples, we also struggle a great deal. We should not be spending what little energy we have trying to educate those who have not put in any effort themselves.

Focus on yourself and your own wellbeing when you can. Above all else, learn to say no when a white person comes for your time and your energy.