This is “being invited to the dance”; the first step, the low hanging fruit to starting your authentic Indigenous engagement journey.
Examples of this are land acknowledgements, visiting Indigenous held events, communicating with Indigenous communities, acknowledging these nations exist and start building relations.
This is “being asked to dance”; deepening the relationship with the individual or First Nation and setting early foundations for long term things you’d like to implement into your organization.
It’s crucial to build this foundation so when an opportunity does arise in your organization, the Indigenous individuals or community will feel more comfortable and included in the processes and can genuinely interact with your organization’s culture
Examples of this are Indigenous awareness training, hiring indigenous talent, community investment, and early-stage procurement.
Build a deeper understanding of who these individuals and communities around you are by asking questions about the history or the context of the relations that have occurred in the community.
This is “taking the dance lead”; creating Indigenous policy, building a formal Indigenous engagement plan, strategic investment in the needs of the Indigenous community, strategic Indigenous partnerships, and supporting Indigenous talent. It’s important to not only hire, but retain and promote Indigenous talent into executive roles. This requires investment, time, and mentoring—Indigenous talent often hit glass ceilings despite their best efforts, and therefore tend to move to an Indigenous-run organization.
The inclusion step requires being a bit more vulnerable. It’s important to have Indigenous participation in the process of creating Indigenous-specific policies (procurement from Indigenous run companies, engagements, investment in the community), to ensure they align with the needs of the community—there’s no use investing in something that is not helpful. Ask a Nation partner or individual to take the lead here, respect their time but request their feedback and insight—having an Indigenous voice behind your efforts allows for more authenticity.
This step will help you feel more equipped and comfortable in implementing deeper and more involved Indigenous engagement.
This is “owning the dance together”; having Indigenous ownership in your business or projects, making space for Indigenous people on the board, setting benchmarks and goals with Indigenous people/opinion/feedback involved, and working together to accomplish goals.
This is the biggest and most vulnerable step.
It involves Indigenous partners having an ownership stake in your business strategy, planning, etc. and providing input into the greater impact you want to create in your community. They have true structure to the role they play and know that their voice is valued.
It’s about creating a sense of belonging, so everyone owns the strategy together.