The summer solstice is the longest day of the year and is spiritually significant to many Indigenous communities. That's why June 21 was named National Indigenous Peoples Day. It marks a time to acknowledge the history, heritage, resilience and diversity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples across Canada.
Beyond the celebrations, it's a time to acknowledge the impacts that some past industrial projects have had on Indigenous communities and their ancestral lands and to implement work practices that foster sustainable and authentic partnerships.
“Every story begins with a human relationship. And let me tell you, the best time to build relationships is when you don’t need anything from the other person. You need to take one step at a time, be genuinely interested in the people you meet and listen to them. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach; every nation has different needs and realities,” explains Arthur Cunningham, consultant in Indigenous community relations.
For industrial companies, building lasting and authentic partnerships includes:
- Establishing engagement activities with communities before a project is even considered.
- Clearly understanding the impacts and benefits a project will have on a community.
- Actively involving Indigenous leaders in decision-making processes.
- Ensuring equal access to opportunities for qualified Indigenous professionals.
- Maintaining lasting relationships.
And to actively support their Indigenous partners in reclaiming the business relationships that take place on their land, industry can:
- Understand their values in terms of the land and its resources.
- Ensure their employees are aware of Indigenous realities.
- Help those involved to understand how projects influence the cultural, environmental and socio-economic values of communities and their ancestral lands.
- Demonstrate humility, be prepared to learn and challenge yourself.
These partnerships provide a wealth of learning, but their common thread is that they remind us of how important it is to listen; listen to the land, listen to history, but most of all, listen to others. It’s the first step toward a sincere commitment to a mutually beneficial business relationship.