In a letter reflecting on the “level of damage a highly transient, mostly white population does to Nunavut,” Inutiq outlines the ways quallunaat – an Inuktitut word meaning non-Inuit – can become better allies to Inuit. The letter begins by noting that it is important to recognize that all non-Inuit are settlers and visitors on Inuit homelands and that non-Inuit are not, and cannot be, experts on Inuit or speak for Inuit.
In discussing employment opportunities in the North, Inutiq describes meritocracy as, “A system that assumes everyone is on a level playing field,” but notes inherent contradictions as Inuit face structural barriers in acquiring the same education, skills, and education as non-Inuit. Because of these structural barriers, Inuit are not awarded the same employment opportunities. Inutiq says that this idea of meritocracy rewards white people and that in order to really reflect merit it must also take the structural barriers Inuit face into consideration.
Inutiq notes, “if there are mainly Inuit or Inuit-spaces, allow that to be, either by excluding yourself or by listening and not talking.” This is really important. Part of being a good ally to Indigenous people is being self-reflective about your own privilege and critically thinking about how much space you take up. Attending events or gatherings will support learning and relationship building – this is something we recommend to anyone looking to increase their cultural confidence and to build meaningful relationships – however, it is also important that Indigenous people feel safe at the events and gatherings that are for them.
Inutiq also says, “Suicide, homelessness, hunger, mistreatment or discrimination in health or justice systems are not theories to us… Inuit are living with them or the effects of them.” Because non-Inuit are so removed from these realities, it becomes easy to talk about them as abstract things and forget that people experience and live these realities everyday.
Using our “how-to” framework for reconciliation, the Indigenous Circle Approach to Cultural Confidence™, we encourage people to confront and reflect on their power and privilege and be prepared to have uncomfortable conversations about racism and injustice in Canada. Inutiq says, “The failure, fear or apathy from having serious conversations about the impacts of colonization, assimilation and racism actually kill.” It may be uncomfortable to read Inutiq’s letter or to learn about the intergenerational impacts of residential schools, legacies of racist and assimilationist policies, or ongoing colonization, but that does not mean we ignore it. We need to be having these difficult conversations if meaningful change is going to happen in this country.