For Agencies and Nonprofits

For Agencies and Nonprofits

Projects We’re Watching

Various bodies across Canada and beyond have launched a range of initiatives to identify, address and innovate around the unmet needs of Indigenous people with developmental disabilities. This section identifies and collects such projects across North America.


  • "Aging Matters: Indigenous Perspectives" was a three-part recorded webinar series presented by Surrey Place in 2022. Centering Indigenous voices and practitioners primarily from North Ontario, the series discussed the unique challenges that face aging Indigenous people who have developmental disabilities, as well as the best practices for engaging with this part of our population. All three webinars are preserved on Vimeo and an executive summary of the webinars is available for download (PDF).
  • IDC/BCANDS: November is Indigenous Disability Awareness Month. Indigenous Disability Canada / British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society launched Indigenous Disability Awareness Month, or IDAM, in 2014. The 9th IDAM will be in November 2023. The designation is recognized throughout Canada by Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations, including the province of Manitoba. IDAM celebrates the contributions that Indigenous people with disability make in our communities and draws attention to specific issues that the group faces.
  • Executive summary of 2023 Gathering on Indigeneity and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities. Hosted in September 2023 by Brock University, this event gathered Indigenous individuals with lived experience and professionals to discuss approaches to care. The executive summary offers seven strengths, eleven challenges, six points for a long-term vision of care, and three steps for the immediate future. The report calls for a national network to be established and formal calls to action be developed in concert with affected Indigenous peoples and their families.
  • CLBC commits to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Community Living BC, the crown corporation of BC, has made a commitment to prioritize advancing reconciliation within its activities. This article reviews a couple of actionable steps they will be taking throughout 2023 to facilitate better relations with Indigenous peoples in BC. This action follows a series of other actions meant to increase quality in services for Indigenous people who access them, including the implementing of the CLBC Anti-Racist Cultural Safety policy, which has a separate entry on this page under ‘Cultural Safety.’
  • Building Blocks to Inclusion by Métis Faamii Foundation Inc. MFF has partnered with Ready, Willing & Able as well as Preventative Measures to provide this culturally appropriate resource that will facilitate greater understanding of neurodiversity in Indigenous communities, as well as connect Indigenous neurodiverse individuals with work placements and cultural mentors.

United States

  • The Oyáte Circle. This is an Indigenous-lead program centre in the University of South Dakota’s Centre for Disabilities. They focus on raising awareness about IDD in Indigenous communities, and raising awareness about Indigeneity in IDD spaces.
  • Circle of Indigenous Empowerment. This is an initiative overseen by the Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities at the University of Arizona. Drawing from the Oyàte Circle’s model, the Circle of Indigenous Empowerment notably hosts a lunch webinar series that discusses the historical, cultural and challenging aspects of Indigenous and disabled intersectionality.
  • Native American Developmental Disabilities Needs Assessment (PDF). This forty-seven page report released by the aforementioned Circle of Indigenous Empowerment used survey data to identify gaps in how Indigenous people access IDD-specific services, noting systemic factors that make accessing IDD-specific services difficult, and makes specific recommendations that would alleviate some of these factors.

Cultural Safety

  • Community Living BC's Anti-Racist Cultural Safety Policy (PDF) is a policy that incorporates a wide variety of sources including international rights legislation, person-centred planning, decolonizing thinkers, and TRC Calls to Action to imagine the best way to administer care to Indigenous people who receive supports. Effective September 22 as a mandatory framework for CLBC-funded services, the policy appendix also includes references to a primer on relevant Indigenous terminology and to Indigenous peoples’ rights within international law. 
  • "Creating Cultural Safety." PDF Guide by Wabano. This twenty-three-page guide developed to introduce health care providers in Ontario to the concept of cultural safety is one of the first of its kind in Canada. It is slightly outdated, but a good introduction for beginners. The guide introduces concepts of cultural awareness, cultural sensitivity, cultural competency, and cultural safety as a graduated spectrum, and makes recommendations for a formal curriculum to be developed.
  • Indigenous Cultural Safety & Humility Resources Workbook. This workbook can be done self-directed and draws from video sources, articles, papers and reports to encourage a reflective approach to learning about cultural safety. There is a slight focus to the province of BC.
  • First Peoples, Second Class Treatment (PDF). This piece released by the Wellesley Institute of Urban Health in 2015 identifies alarming disparities in healthcare for Indigenous people reveals, articulates why such disparities exist, and identifies next steps. Cultural safety, alongside trauma-informed care and implicit bias interventions are seen as promising responses that should be pursued alongside heralding broader systemic change.
  • Cultural Safety and Humility Resources by First Nations Health Authority. The FNHA, a leading force in drafting cultural safety regulations, has assembled a resource portal that brings together a large body of their work around cultural safety and humility. Some helpful resources available on this page include lists where you can view the shifting standard across time, and a collection of archived webinars pertaining to various aspects of cultural safety. Some are specific to BC.

Equity/Diversity/Inclusion Training

Indigenous organizations offering EDI and Cultural Safety training are more than welcome to contact us, that we may include your service on this list.

  • The KAIROS Blanket Exercise. The exercise invites all manner of groups-- companies, schools, agencies, universities, volunteer groups-- to learn about colonialism in Canada in an embodied way. The workshop lasts about two and a half hours consisting of the exercise itself, and a sharing circle debrief. The blanket exercise is a highly effective teaching tool that teaches empathy and mutual respect in the context of a complicated and painful history.
  • San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Program. This initiative, first emerging out of BC, was meant to provide cultural competency training for health care providers. It has since revised that initial model, drawing on evidence-based anti-racist frameworks to provide cultural safety training. San’yas has partnered with the Manitoba Regional Health Authority to create a cultural safety program specific to our province. It is delivered virtually and is offered at two levels: Core and Advanced. While tailored to suit the responsibilities of health care professionals, members of all sectors benefit from San’yas training.
  • Indigenous Awareness Canada. This experienced group of Indigenous facilitators offers corporate training on the basics of Indigenous issues and reconciliation.
  • Renée McGurry Consulting. McGurry is an Anishinaabekwe from Pinaymootang. With a background in Indigenous education, McGurry has provided her services to the Treaty 2 Territory government and to the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba. Abilities Manitoba hosted her keynote at our Annual General Meeting in 2023 and we were blown away by the depth of her expertise. Members can view the slides from her presentation in the ‘Members Only’ section of our website.
  • The Manitoba Harm Reduction Network. The MHRN, while not an Indigenous organization themselves, is an organization that actively aligns themselves with Indigenous grassroots movements and makes Indigenous cultural safety a priority. Through learning about how the MHRN brings in decolonizing frameworks into their harm reduction work, participants learn as much about harm reduction as they do about how anti-racist and anti-oppressive frameworks can look like when deployed on an agency level.
  • Elder, Knowledge Keeper or Cultural Advisor Protocols (PDF)..

On ‘Land’ Acknowledgment

  • "Transformative Territory Acknowledgments." Webinar by Len Pierre Consulting. The facilitator provides a very comprehensive workshop on the basics of territory acknowledgment, differing three different levels of them: standard, reflective, and transformative. They also include various other tips, such as the idea that the person with the highest status in the organization should give the acknowledgment. This is an excellent starting point for beginners who are interested in taking this protocol a step further.
  • Your Land Acknowledgement is Not Enough.” Article by Joseph M. Pierce. Pierce, a citizen of the Cherokee nation, plots the shortcomings of most land acknowledgments as lying in a lack of any meaningful action accompanying that land acknowledgement. He asserts, “Land is not an object, not a thing. Land does not require recognition. It requires care. It requires presence.”
  • “Questions about ‘Home’.” Worksheet by CATALYST project.  This worksheet will walk you through 15 questions that ask you to interrogate your own, personal relationship to the land, colonization, treaties, genocide, and Indigenous peoples. You may not know all the answers, and you are encouraged to research the answers that you don’t immediately know. 
  • “Hayden King on writing Ryerson University’s territorial acknowledgment.” Article by CBC Radio (Unreserved). Prominent Anishinaabe scholar and educator, Hayden King, reflects on the superficiality and fetishization inherent within most land acknowledgments. He emphasizes that land acknowledgements are often used by settlers as an alibi that excuses them from learning about their Indigenous neighbours, and states that he wants all LA to include concrete commitments with reference to treaty obligations. 
  • “Beyond territorial acknowledgments.” Blog post by Chelsea Vowel. Métis writer and educator Chelsea Vowel recognizes that the effect of LA differs greatly depending on the location that they are deployed in. She proposes that they still may have radical potential in disrupting rural spaces. Her biggest emphasis is that LA have to be disruptive to those saying them and to those hearing them, lest they become another box-ticking motion on the checklist of inclusivity. Additionally, Vowel critiques the narrative that suggests LA can serve as extensions of Indigenous protocol, saying “such statements of thanks to hosts barely even scratch the surface of traditional protocols.” 
  • “Naming is a good start, but we need to do more for reconciliation.” Article by Susan Blight and Hayden King. These two Anishinaabe authors warn against the tokenism that can corrupt symbolic gestures such as LA and Indigenizing place names. They also suggest that good LA are exercises of self-awareness and every single word is selected carefully and understood. 
  • Land Acknowledgement Guide by Raven Trust. This guide quickly outlines five considerations to include in the drafting of your organization’s land acknowledgment. In considering how to ‘make it your own’, ask about the specific ways that your organization/sector has benefited from exploitative relationships with the land and Indigenous peoples, and brainstorm what concrete commitments are within your agency’s capacity. 
  • “Land acknowledgements can be used to erase Indigenous people's presence.” Article by CBC Radio (The Current). This is an excellent case study of what not to do when writing an LA. Your LA should not validate Canadian presence on Turtle Island, but question it. The article ends by reminding us that LA are a settler responsibility, not an Indigenous one. 

IDD and Indigeneity

This section houses material that deals specifically with the IDD-Indigenous intersection directed to a general audience. More rigorous materials can be found in our Academic Bibliography.

  • Podcast Interview with Rabang and Hiratsuka: Disability Decolonized.
  • Open letter from Remember Every Name re: unmarked graves at the Kamloops residential school. In this letter to Indigenous communities, members of Remember Every Name, a group for commemorating survivors of institutions for developmental disabilities, express solidarity as some members among their ranks are Indigenous people that ended up in such institutions and experienced loss of culture, abuse and torment, consistent with the residential school experience. The group, having familiarity the process of searching for unmarked graves, emphasizes that First Nations must retain absolute control over their ongoing searches for unmarked graves so as to not have their efforts forcibly cut short.
  • "Indigeneity and Disability in our schools." YouTube video by Inclusion BC. Although this video is directly addressed to educators, all of its conclusions are applicable to anyone who provides services to an Indigenous adult with developmental disabilities. Drawing from self-advocates and knowledge keepers, it strongly emphasizes the need for Indigenous worldviews to be incorporated into the model of care.
  • Joe Clayton's Testimony, video on Vimeo. This video was made for the “Truths of Institutionalization” website project. Clayton is an Algonquin man and a survivor of an institution for people with developmental disabilities. His case demonstrates that Indigenous people with developmental disabilities have also suffered state-sanctioned maltreatment, but perhaps not always in the form of Indian residential schools. As a content warning, this video contains graphic discussion of institutionalization, ableism, abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, drugging, and shocking.
  • Grant Bruno’s presentation on Indigenizing Autism. Grant Bruno is Nehiyawak (Plains Cree) working on his PhD out of Alberta, and is a father to two autistic children. Bruno’s presentation lays out how ableism and colonialism interact, presents an alternative framework for understanding autism through Cree frameworks and argues the absolute necessity for strength-based approaches when working with Indigenous people with autism. Bruno is also featured in a documentary, The Gift of Being Different (Video on Vimeo).