A sign at Leech Lake in Minnesota, home to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Photo: Tom Kelly

Mike Myers: Don't try to 'help' indigenous peoples without first consulting them

Are you interested in "helping" indigenous communities and actually making a difference? Well then Mike Myers, a citizen of the Seneca Nation, has some advice for you:
A while back a friend of mine coined the phrase “disparity mining” to describe the on-going phenomenon of non-indigenous people and organizations continuing to go out and conduct fundraising for projects and ideas they’ve dreamed up for Indigenous Peoples, communities and nations without ever talking to us about their plans. Fundamentally this is no different than the governments and corporations doing the same thing but this is at the up close and local level.

It’s been going on for decades but I want to give my friend a shout out for naming it. By naming it we can define it, give it a framework of understanding and postulate our own solutions to this issue.

There are big corporate non-profit entities who have refined this form of rip off to a science and raise millions of dollars every year, especially around Christmas time purporting to take your money and do all this good for impoverished, helpless Indians. They always manage to put out a bunch of pictures of big eyed, somewhat sad looking indigenous children to tug at your heart strings and get you to cough up a few bucks.

What has been sort of invisible is how this occurs even closer to home. As we’ve gotten more adept at developing our own non-profits and gaining access to funding networks we’ve begun to see how some local entities have been doing for awhile as well.

Read More on the Story:
Mike Myers: Free, Prior and Informed Consent and Disparity Mining (Indian Country Media Network August 29, 2017)