SEPTEMBER 26, 2022
Contributed by: Leah Malone, Senior Financial Advisor. This September, we are lifting up the voices and mission of our Indigenous Employee Network here at First West.
“I feel encouraged and empowered, not only as an Indigenous person, but as a female Indigenous person. Here at First West, my leaders and colleagues are interested in my experience, and I appreciate their questions and desire to learn about my culture.”
My experience with the Indigenous Employee Network Group at First West began close to day one. The group called to me because, as an Indigenous person, I feel that it’s my duty to serve when I have the chance. And, I like to discover what my colleagues are wondering and thinking about when it comes to Indigenous culture and experiences. But joining the Indigenous Employee Network Group was a first for me, and I didn’t know what to expect.
I’d never been part of such a group with any other organization that I’ve worked for. I didn’t know what we would be doing, but I had a lot of excitement! I think my colleagues in the group felt the same. I could tell that we were excited to create our own path—and that is what we’ve focused on while getting started.
The first step was to organize ourselves and set some plans, which was great for me to contribute ideas to. We also spend lots of time getting comfortable sharing our thoughts with each other and brainstorming our mission. Early on, we decided that the best way for the Indigenous Employee Network to make a difference at First West is:
In compassionate, intentional, and authentic ways, The Indigenous Employee Network prioritizes and raises Indigenous voices and perspectives and creates a sustainable community across First West that advances Indigenous thought leadership. The group includes members who believe in growth and strive for change. They invite thought-provoking dialogue and insights on topics and in conversations that respectfully explore controversial subjects with courage and open-minds. Their approach is not based on pan-Indigenous identities, but focuses on highlighting and understanding the many varied experiences of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people in the country we now call Canada.
Now, our group is busy creating awareness for the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. Our wish is for people to engage more in the activities observing September 30—both at First West seminars, in local Indigenous communities, and through personal reflection.
One thing stands out for me as a member of the Indigenous Employee Network. That is creating a workplace culture that welcomes who I am and where I come from. I’ve experienced feeling like a minority at workplaces in the past, and now to be seen for who I am changes everything. When you take the cultural piece out of who you are, that essentially is not who you are. Being connected to people who are open to listening, learning more about my culture and asking questions makes it easier for us all to grow our understanding in a safe space.
For the Indigenous Employee Network, there’s a long road ahead of us and I’m proud that we’re on our way. We have some big goals in mind and we’re taking baby steps toward opportunities such as cultural safety, collaboration with local Indigenous communities, and other education seminars that we can bring to our colleagues.
I want people to know that there’s no wrong way to become more involved with or educated about Indigenous experiences and culture. We’re all in this together. Just be curious and open-minded when you ask questions, take time to do research, and welcome a range of perspectives.