Creating content for or about Indigenous Peoples

The language we use is important. It can create a sense of empowerment, identity and pride, but it can also do the opposite. It can continue outdated narratives and cause harm to both individuals and communities.

This guide will help you choose culturally appropriate language. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it and apologize. Learning is guided by an open heart and humility.

Continuous learning

This guide reflects a moment in time of Indigenous public servants on their own learning journeys. If the Nation tells you there’s different protocol in their culture(s), that protocol supersedes this guide. Culture is not static and responds to current times.

This is an evolving guide which will be regularly reviewed and updated. If you have feedback or questions, please send them to the Content Design Advisory and Writing Group.

Nothing about us, without us

Engage with the Indigenous Peoples you’re writing about from the start of your project. Indigenous knowledge may be sacred and require certain protocols be followed. Indigenous Peoples are the primary guardians and interpreters of their cultures. All communications with and about Indigenous Peoples must have their input, review and consent. This supports the principle ‘Nothing about us, without us.’

Indigenous writers

In alignment with the UN Declaration, it is wise practice for the writer of Indigenous content to be an Indigenous person. There is no amount of training or formal education that can replace lived experience.

Collaboration with Indigenous Peoples

Ensure that Indigenous Peoples are involved from the beginning to the end of the work. Building trust-based relationships with Indigenous Peoples is part of the work of true and lasting reconciliation.

Collaboration with Indigenous Peoples requires a foundation of trust that takes time and effort to build. To be thorough, consult with a wide circle of Indigenous Peoples, especially Elders.

It’s important to build reciprocity in to your practice as part of true and lasting reconciliation. Indigenous People’s time and knowledge are valuable and their gift of sharing enables everyone to learn, grow and do better.

Editing or publishing Indigenous knowledge

You must get approval from the original Indigenous source of information before publishing content that includes any aspect of Indigenous knowledge, especially Oral Tradition. You must acknowledge who taught you and the permission that you have been given to share.  This may involve:

  • Relationship building with Knowledge Keepers
  • Creating a data sharing partnership
  • Discussion with the branch that stores data
  • Gaining consent from the knowledge source as to how they’re credited and how the information is used

For further guidance, review the Environmental Assessment Office’s Guide to Indigenous Knowledge in Environmental Assessment.

Using images and graphic designs

Involve Indigenous people when developing or choosing graphics. See the Visual Design Guide for more information.