Empowering Relations: An Indigenous Understanding of Allyship in North America

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Andrea Sullivan-Clarke


Colonization is still present in the lives of Indigenous people in North America, and the threats it underwrites—the possibility of losing federal recognition, the failure to investigate the cases of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, and the constant challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act (to name a few)—comprise the day-to-day demands in Indian Country. While allies in the fight against modern-day colonialism would be welcome, the previous failings and insincerities of putative allies and the existence of an ally industrial complex make it difficult to be a contemporary ally to Indigneous people. In this paper, I address the difficulties associated with allyship and discuss why being an active bystander is not sufficient for the needs of Indigenous people in North America. Taking the lessons learned from the actions of Veterans Stand for Standing Rock and Black Lives Matter during #NODAPL, I present some features of a decolonial ally. A decolonial ally is willing to stand in a relationship with Indigenous people, will seek out this relation while recognizing their privilege and affirming the sovereignty of those they seek to serve, and above all, will learn about the people independently, without imposing a burden on marginalized communities. Given that Indigenous people worldwide face similar colonial threats, I conclude by offering some points for future research regarding global Indigenous allyship.

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How to Cite
Sullivan-Clarke, A. (2020). Empowering Relations: An Indigenous Understanding of Allyship in North America. Journal of World Philosophies, 5(1), 30–42. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.iu.edu/iupjournals/index.php/jwp/article/view/3599
Author Biography

Andrea Sullivan-Clarke, University of Windsor

Andrea Sullivan-Clarke is a President’s Indigenous People Scholar at the University of Windsor, Canada. She is a member of the wind clan of the Muskogee Nation of Oklahoma. Her research interests include the use of metaphor and analogy in epistemic communities, as well as Indigenous issues—such as self-determination and membership.