Reflections on Allyship, Truth-telling, and Healing

Reflections on Allyship, Truth-telling, and Healing

Gina Jackson, Program Director, Native Americans in Philanthropy

April 2019

A few weeks ago I attended the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) Annual Conference 2019 in Detroit. ABFE is a national membership organization, much like Native Americans in Philanthropy, that promotes effective and responsive philanthropy in Black communities. I went this year, at the request of ABFE leadership, to provide a special session to The Blanket Exercise, a powerful experiential learning exercise that brings people through high-level learning of the Native American experience in the U.S., which is core to the Truth and Healing Movement. For this session, I partnered with colleague/allies/now friends from Equity in the Center who joined us in the KAIROS Facilitators training we hosted a few months ago.


We know that not all of the real American history has been told; that we have learned in school is a one-sided glossed over version of history. Of course the majority of the American public doesn’t know this. This is all part of the “Colonizer’s Playbook”, a key part of which is preventing most Americans from understanding how they are complicit in the diminishment of Native people and the relegation of populations to invisibility, all the while benefiting from their exploitation.

Every time I facilitate The Blanket Exercise, I am moved and learn something new. The participants, while reflecting during the Healing Circle portion of the session, share their experiences and history. At ABFE I learned that lynching of Black people was happening across the south, mostly, at the same time Native people were being hunted and killed for reward during the California Gold Rush. While the information shared may be familiar to those of us working within Truth and Healing, it remains powerful to have someone say it out loud. It needs to be acknowledged.

In this session, it was also moving to see the moment when the executives and other leaders from the philanthropic space began to connect the mass suicides among the Arawak people on the Caribbean Islands, due to the treachery of Christopher Columbus and his sailors, to the crisis levels of suicide among our Native youth today.


These past few years there have been outrageous things that have begun to emerge in our nation as the revelation of the heart of our nation does not support the values of freedom, justice, and equality for ALL. We have held these values to define and aspire to as our American identity. It is paramount that we hold steadfast to these values in order to reconcile our hearts to the values we hold.


I have hope. Healing happens when allyship begins. I have hope when allies stand with us, both the expected and unexpected allies. Those who can reach those who we will never reach. When allyship is strengthened, when people say “we got you.” We are inspired when new collaborations are forged, when people say, “what can we do to support you in this healing work?” At ABFE, this happened.

I have hope in the moments when people begin to realize that Hitler was studying the U.S. approach to extinguishing Native people, to include the practices of mass removals from traditional homelands into prisons/reservations, as well as family separation – forcibly taking Native children from their families and placing them in institutions where they experienced great atrocities. I have hope that such a realization will encourage people to demand a stop to the family separations presently happening at the U.S. and Mexico border.

I have hope when I get to see allies and communities begin to realize that Columbus in wrote about the sex-slave trade of young Native girls, “…those nine to ten are now in demand.” I have hope that those realizations will enlist people to step up and say “NO MORE!” to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, which is a crisis of epic proportions in our country.

I have hope when I see people grasp the magnitude of the genocide of Indigenous people right here in the U.S., on the land upon which we stand. Understanding the magnitude will drive people to begin including Native people in all historical narratives, in their data, in their work, in their leadership, their staff, and in the seeking of solutions…and ultimately healing the heart of our nation.

Foundations who are interested in doing more learning, introspection, and ultimately taking actions to bring Truth and Healing, Native Americans in Philanthropy has developed a Self-Assessment for Philanthropy for Working with Native Communities. Please contact me for more information at [email protected]