How to Honor Indigenous Peoples’ Day at Work

opinions expressed by entrepreneur Contributors are their own.

As we approach Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday 10th October, this is an opportune time for leaders to reflect on how they can advocate for inclusion and support Indigenous colleagues. In recent years, there has been increasing pressure on companies to drive change with their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. But often indigenous peoples are excluded from this conversation. Although other historically marginalized groups have made strides in our workplaces, indigenous peoples are still underrepresented.

According to the US Census Bureau, indigenous people make up 2% of the US population. And yet, according to a recent Great Place to Work survey, indigenous people make up just 0.45% of the workforce at US companies surveyed. Our workplaces still have work to do to ensure tribal peoples are included, seen, valued and included.

Here are five ways you, as a leader, can work to honor Indigenous Peoples Day.

1. Educate yourself

Growing up, I celebrated Columbus Day to commemorate the day Christopher Columbus landed in America. As a child I even learned the rhyme “In 1492 Columbus sailed across the blue sea” and left Spain with his three ships, the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa María. We celebrated him as a heroic discoverer of America.

Over the decades, this holiday has often come under scrutiny for celebrating a man who spearheaded violence and oppression against another group of people: indigenous peoples. In many cities and states, Columbus Day has been replaced by Indigenous Peoples Day. President Joe Biden last year recognized it as a day to “honor our diverse history and the indigenous peoples who help shape this nation.” It is an important day to honor the past and present of Indigenous peoples in the United States while recognizing the impact of colonialism.

2. Understand what the term indigenous people means

Let’s start by understanding what the term indigenous people means. According to the World Bank, “Indigenous peoples are distinct social and cultural groups that share collective ancestral ties to the lands and natural resources in which they live, occupy, or have been displaced.” Understanding and then using correct terminology can help to avoid stereotyping indigenous peoples.

In the United States, American Indian, Native American, or Native are acceptable and often used interchangeably, as noted by the National Museum of the American Indian. The museum further clarifies that the term Native American is often used “to describe indigenous peoples of the United States (Native Americans, Hawaiian Natives, Alaskan Natives), but it can also serve as a specific descriptor (e.g., Native Americans, Native American countries, Native American traditions). ).” Never make assumptions and always ask colleagues how they identify and what terms they prefer.

3. Avoid language that perpetuates stereotypes

Native American culture is often misunderstood and appropriated. Many of us unknowingly use hurtful terms that perpetuate stereotypes in our everyday language. When we say things like “low man on the totem pole,” “Indian princess,” or “Native American sitting,” the myth continues to be perpetuated that indigenous peoples are a monolithic culture. Indian giver is another offensive term I’ve heard a lot, along with a pow-wow instead of a meetup and the use of the term ‘spirit animal’ when wanting to say that you feel connected to someone.

So, start researching to understand the origin of these and other words that continue to stereotype indigenous peoples. While this may not be your intention, using these terms can cause injury and annoyance. Do the work to understand why this language is hurtful and don’t use terms you are unsure about.

See also: Health food business leverages its Native American roots

4. Understand the gender pay gap and how it affects Indigenous women

Much has been reported about the gender pay gap. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, women earn 82 cents for every dollar men earn. Unfortunately, this aggregate statistic obscures the significant impact that the gender pay gap has on women of color. It is having a particularly devastating impact on indigenous women.

In the US, Native American women are paid $0.60 for every dollar white men make. During the Covid-19 pandemic, three in ten Native American women worked on the frontlines as essential workers, helping our nation through this crisis. And yet, the huge pay gap can cost a Native American woman as much as $1 million over a 40-year career. As leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure that all of our employees are paid fairly and equitably, including Native American women who work for or with us.

5. Ask your Indigenous workers how you can support them

As leaders, we often live in problem-solving mode. We have been trained to solve any problem we see. Instead, let’s stop and listen to understand what the needs of our Indigenous workers are before we find solutions without their input. How do you feel about working here? What can you and your organization do to better support them? How can you help invest and advance in their careers?

“Unless you’re a member of the marginalized group, it’s almost impossible to know what it’s like to be in their world. Resist the temptation to fix things and listen to their stories instead,” explains Great Place to Work’s Tony Bond.

Remember that Indigenous Peoples’ Day is not a one-off day. Check the box to simply post to social media to celebrate the day. This day is an important reminder of the work we must continue to do to be more inclusive leaders. We must educate ourselves as allies and continue to support Indigenous colleagues in our workplaces.

Also See: Celebrate Native American Heritage Month By Meeting These 7 Awesome Female Business Leaders

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