Lynn Gehl: It's time to decolonize indigenous fundraising efforts

Lynn Gehl

Anishinaabe activist Lynn Gehl calls for a more indigenous view of fundraising:
It is well known that Indigenous people are wonderfully talented and skilled crafters and artists. It is also well known that today handmade Indigenous items are in many situations the only source of a person’s or a community’s economy. There is the need to value and respect these local Indigenous economies in concrete ways in that through processes of colonization our traditional land based economies have been dismantled, destroyed, where most of our land has been taken away from us and given to settler people, industries, and corporations. The point I am stressing is that settler people need to value the economy that emerges through our craft and art works such as photographs, earrings, necklaces, and beaded items and place it at the centre of all fundraising efforts.

Fortunately Indigenous advocates and thinkers have been busy doing our work. There are now in the literature many articles intended to guide and help settler people in their process of serving as better allies to Indigenous people. Indigenous thinkers are asking that settler people place the needs of Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous people first and foremost; that settler people stand behind Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous efforts; and that settler people value the need to maximize all potential outcomes in the favour for Indigenous people. This call for informed and ethical alliance building must extend to fundraising projects in terms of the artists relied upon such as photographers, and also in terms of purchasing items and the parts for items relied upon to generate the economy needed.

In sum, just as education and research is on the road of being decolonized, the same applies to fundraising efforts. The economy generated through fundraising must remain as much as possible in the hands of Indigenous people. Settler fundraisers need to maximize the benefit of the work they do for Indigenous people and Indigenous land and waterscapes. Clearly, as we move forward, there is the need to stand behind Indigenous people in all aspects of fundraising, not just in terms of the end goal. Fundraising efforts should not reproduce the very thing being challenged: an economy that lacks a moral and ethical code.

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Lynn Gehl: Decolonize Fundraising! (Indian Country Today 8/9)

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