Society today undoubtedly remains a colonial system, which means Indigenous communities still face the hardships stemming from that very system’s goal of oppressing them.
Those challenges persist, but for the last 30 years, the Langford-based Indigenous Perspectives Society has been running a myriad of services and training programs as it tries to connect and educate people, bring about positive change in institutions that systemically disadvantage Indigenous people and push for communities to have more self-determination.
Rachelle Dallaire, the Indigenous Perspectives Society’s executive director, said people come to them as they start recognizing how the Canadian education system withheld truths about the country’s history. Their cultural perspectives training program teaches a range of groups – governments, businesses, individuals – from every corner of society.
“Most folks say ‘how could I never have known about residential schools,’ and that’s very jarring for them and I think sometimes there’s a lot of shame for not having known,” Dallaire said. “Folks are having these little moments of awareness, which is why they come to us.”
One of the society’s primary contracts provides cultural training for social workers.
“Child and family services has not been kind to Indigenous people because it’s a colonial system, because the intent has always been the colonial intent,” said Connie Martin, associate director.
The society’s programs help make space for communities to be empowered where historically they haven’t received that sort of agency. It moves away from the colonial system’s blanket approach that caused harm to one that finds what works best for each distinct community.
“It has to come from the communities themselves, they know what’s best for working with their children and families, so they facilitate that best,” Martin said. “We’re facilitating conversations about how can you do this best to suit your community so Indigenous perspectives come from the Indigenous people from every community around the province and across Canada.”
The organization is also excited about a major renovation of its building. The renovated site is going to be much more reflective of who the organization is and the work it does, Dallaire said.
“We used to exist in sort of like boxes, so we’ve created a space where we can come together and when we think of ceremony and circle, that’s an important part of how we do our work.”
Instead of having to operate from a rented hotel ballroom, they’ll have culturally appropriate and safe space to keep doing their work.
“Those elements that remind us of who we are, where we come from and who’s stood by us – I think it’s really important to show that,” Dallaire said.