Cultivating Strong Indigenous & Intersectional Workplace Connections

2023-09-20 Share story


At Animikii we often reflect on how reimagining traditional legal frameworks, colonial structures, and ideologies is daunting but it is essential for the deep work of Truth and Reconciliation.

This article helps outline some of the steps organizations can take in strengthening relationships with Indigenous Peoples within workspaces and developing deep and respectful relationships Indigenous Peoples and communities outside your organization.

For leaders, the journey involves unlearning what is accepted as 'normal', while leaning into innovative, inclusive, and progressive ideas.

Recognizing Indigenous Land Relations

One pivotal aspect of modernizing organizations involves acknowledging and respecting Indigenous land rights. It is vital to understand and integrate the implications of Indigenous laws and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into policies. An emphasis on building relationships, shedding assumptions, and establishing reciprocity paves the way for meaningful connections.

Here are some questions you can ask within your organization: 

  • Whose land are you on? What does that mean to you beyond a land acknowledgment? 

  • How might we create a future where our organization is compliant with Indigenous law,  just as we are to other laws? How might we know we’re compliant, and to which Nations laws?

  • What actions do we need to take to embrace UNDRIP, and take meaningful action to ensure our actions are in compliance with; and in support of UNDRIP? 

  • How might we not make assumptions, and instead build relationships? How might we view reciprocity as a prerequisite for relationships?

Decentering Western Ways of Working

A transformative approach towards policy-making involves moving beyond the confines of Western White ways of working. The need to recognize trauma and exhibit sensitivity towards it is paramount. Policies must strive to avoid pathologizing or medicalizing experiences, which can inadvertently uphold oppressive systems.

Here are some questions you can ask within your organization: 

  • How might we create an organization where we do not default to Western White male cisgender heteronormative ways of working, knowing and being?

  • How might we think past false binaries and embrace new ways of knowing and being?

  • What actions might we need to take to be trauma-informed in our work and working relationships?

  • How might policies be viewed as medicalizing or pathologizing? Further, how might policy or the absence of policy enforce systems of oppression? 

  • How might I reframe so-called “stakeholders” as rightsholders?

Rethinking Time and Cultural Leave Policies

A new understanding of time needs to be embraced for a healthy work environment. Acknowledging emotional overtime, providing flexibility for temporary leaves catering to family care, cultural activities, or community demands, can contribute to an improved work-life balance. 

Here are some questions you can ask within your organization: 

  • How might we embrace a new understanding of time? How can we enable healthier working habits and healthy ways of working?

  • How might we acknowledge and compensate for emotional overtime?

  • How might people step away temporarily for family leave, healing journeys, planting seasons, or community demands? How might pathways to temporary and semi-permanent part time work support your team?

  • Could job sharing and formal cooperative agreements help more people enter your workspace on their terms?

  • What steps can you take to allow more choice and flexibility related to Statutory holidays? What internal actions can we take to ensure we are now asking all people to celebrate the same national holidays, on a predominantly Christian calendar?

You can take a look at our policy on Substituting Statutory Holidays here; and our Love Days program here


Compassionate Bereavement Policies

Redefining bereavement policies to display understanding and empathy is another significant step. Such policies should exhibit flexibility and acknowledge 'chosen' families, accommodating the emerging needs of individuals facing long Covid and other unprecedented scenarios.

Here are some questions you can ask within your organization: 

  • What steps do we need to take to center love and healing through grief? 

  • How might a bereavement policy leave team members in choice about who is family, and who is not?

  • How can this policy be expanded to embrace choosing family? How might we draft a policy not to make assumptions based on heteronormativity? 

  • What considerations does long Covid and the so-called new normal mean for grief in the workplace?

  • How flexible is the policy? How might we ensure people in grief have the support, time away and flexibility to be able to commence a healing journey?

  • How might we ensure people who have been exposed to trauma or vicarious trauma are not stigmatized or denied advancement based on their experience?

We updated our Bereavement Leave policy a few years ago, and it can now be found at our Open Source policy page here


Welcoming Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ workers 

The language used within the organization needs to be non-heteronormative, and policies should be designed to be trans-inclusive. Beyond recognizing Pride month, embracing Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ individuals and ensuring pay equity across sexual orientations should become integral elements of the organization's culture.

Here are some questions you can ask within your organization: 

  • Is the language you are using heteronormative? Does it embrace many ways of identifying yourself?

  • Are healthcare policies trans inclusive?

  • How might your organization embrace 2SLGBTQ people in the workplace outside of Pride month? 

  • Does your pay equity program ensure queer people are paid equally to each other and straight people?



Strengthening Indigenous and intersectional relationships in organizations invites profound transformation. We are called to embrace diversity, challenge existing norms, and uphold principles of empathy and Indigenous law. Each stride we take builds a more inclusive and equitable world. Together, let's navigate this change, one step at a time.