Amplifying Indigenous Voices: Exploring Allyship, Collaboration, and Opportunities in Canada’s Marketing Landscape

October 5th, 2023 | Raelyn Pearson, Public Relations Coordinator, Jelly Digital Marketing & PR

In a world where diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of societal progress, Indigenous History Month (IHM) stands as a beacon to honour the stories, achievements, and resilience of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

This annual observance, which has recently passed, is significant to Canada’s corporate landscape as it encourages recognition of Indigenous contributions, promotes cultural acknowledgement, and provides a platform for authentic engagement with Indigenous communities, aligning with the values of respect and inclusivity in business practices.

To dive deeper into how businesses can play a role in allyship, collaboration, and new opportunities, we wanted to get three different perspectives–Métis, First Nations, and Inuit.

Today we will hear from three insightful voices: Darian Kovacs (DK), Indigenous Business Leader in Marketing, Communications & PR; Ben Borne (BB), Canada’s first self-identified Indigenous certified Communication Management Professional; and Crystal Martin (CM), Facilitator and motivational speaker.

Follow along as these experts discuss the significance of Indigenous History Month, the impact of intentional brand campaigns and collaborations they’ve seen, and the opportunities for collaboration with Indigenous brands and creators year-round.

  1. For those that don’t know, can you share the significance of Indigenous History Month and why it matters/why we should care?
    • DK: As we continue on the long path of reconciliation, Indigenous History Month recognizes the historical contributions of Indigenous peoples from coast to coast to coast and those who are continuing to make history today. It also celebrates Indigenous cultures, prevents further loss of cultures and languages and educates non-Indigenous people accordingly.

      In a business context, it’s an opportunity to be intentional about working with Indigenous peoples, mindful about authentic representation and inclusion in marketing and advertising and endeavour towards economic reconciliation.

    • BB: I am a huge fan of June – it is an intersection of all my identities. It’s both Indigenous History Month and Pride Month. This month is deeply important to me because it stirs up a sense of pride in who I am, and I want to mark that with a celebration with my friends, family and community. It’s a time when I can feel safe to invite others onto the journey of learning, understanding and action toward inclusion. It matters for that reason – it’s a time to reflect, celebrate and honour the cultural mosaic across the land.
    • CM: Indigenous History Month is an important opportunity to learn about and celebrate the diverse cultures of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. It’s also a time to reflect on the legacy of colonialism and the ongoing struggles for justice and reconciliation. Indigenous History Month is also an opportunity to listen to and amplify Indigenous voices, support Indigenous-led initiatives and organizations, advocate for policy change, and educate ourselves and others about the history and ongoing impacts of colonization.
  2. During 2023’s Indigenous History Month what brands and/or campaigns would you say stood out for the right reasons?
    • DK: Several Indigenous brands have “joined forces” with IHM to support one another and expose each others’ brands to new audiences through a contest. While it’s not a specific ad campaign, this collaborative approach between larger, well-established brands like Cheekbone Beauty and Manitobah, alongside newer/lesser-known creators and smaller businesses, is giving them all increased exposure. I enjoy the spirit of collaboration!
    • BB: Along with my communications consulting work, I am one of four managing partners in Eagle Feather News – an Indigenous-owned news publication in Saskatchewan. I am always curious to see who will place an ad and what the message will say in the June edition. With no particular brand in mind, the ones that always stand out to me are the ones who step out of the way of their messaging. They do not promote themselves but rather focus their messaging on acknowledging, celebrating and standing with Indigenous communities across the province.
  3. How would you define a true ally to the Indigenous community? Examples of brands showing up in the right ways?
    • DK: Large brands like Sephora are making an effort to be diverse and inclusive with Indigenous peoples and other traditionally marginalized communities. Not only are they featuring Indigenous peoples in their advertising, but they are also highlighting Indigenous-owned brands and selling them.

      I like this because it’s not performative – they are “putting their money where their mouth is,” so to speak and giving Indigenous brands the chance to increase their sales significantly.

      Sephora is sending the message that Indigenous peoples are included, welcome and embraced and that they care about contributing to Indigenous economic resiliency.

    • BB: I appreciate how Federated Cooperatives Ltd. (FCL) shows up for the Indigenous communities here in Saskatchewan and across western Canada. They’ve put together an excellent opportunity through their Western Nations brand, which enables Indigenous communities to own and operate their locations, using the brand to attract customers and being supplied and supported by Co-op. This initiative also comes with community-building assistance programs and other benefits that support on-nation economic and community development. FCL recognizes that allyship isn’t just a one-month stint – rather, it’s developing long-term relationships with Indigenous communities toward building mutually beneficial outcomes.
    • CM: I agree with Darian that Sephora Canada has used their platform to highlight the voices and beauty of Indigenous Peoples through their “We Belong to Something Beautiful” brand. Inuit, not just in Canada but in the circumpolar region, have felt a strong representation of Inuit from Shina Novalinga, an Inuk from Nunavik (northern Quebec) being on the cover of their magazines. Inuit from all over can see themselves authentically and unashamedly with pride and beauty through this campaign. Any Inuk from a small community in the Arctic can be whatever they wish to be.
  4. Tell us about the untold/unknown opportunities that exist for working with Indigenous brands and creators all year round.
    • DK: Our constantly updated list of Indigenous creators and vendors – hire Indigenous people using this resource. Research various initiatives/grants for Indigenous peoples and employment.
    • BB: The biggest challenge that comes with working with Indigenous brands and creators is finding them. As Darian noted – there is a list of Indigenous creators and vendors out there that is updated frequently. That being said, I would be checking in with local Chambers of Commerce, the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, and even Tourism offices who will have ideas on how to do business in regions.
    • CM: The process of working with Inuit businesses is quite simple. All Inuit regional organizations (Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Nunavut Tunngavik IncMakivik Corporation, and Nunatsiavut Government) all have Inuit business registry databases that are readily accessible on their websites. Working with Inuit brands and creators is a bit more tricky in that not many are in this field, so being connected to the larger Inuit community becomes very important in identifying who those individuals are.
  5. What would you like to see most as it relates to collaboration and allyship between corporate Canada and the Indigenous community?
    • DK: Practical collaboration, not performative PR campaigns or endless talk. Discussion is important, but so is action.

      Corporations seeking meaningful opportunities to work with Indigenous organizations and communities who seek out Indigenous voices. Supporting social enterprise or investment opportunities that have a positive economic impact on Indigenous peoples.

    • BB: Building real, meaningful connections that lead to mutually beneficial outcomes for Canadian corporations and Indigenous-owned businesses. I would like Canadian corporations to think creatively about how to extend relationships beyond an exchange of service fee – and to co-create what allyship might look like.
    • CM: Many times, corporations misinterpret the difference between giving a hand-out and a hand-up. Corporate Canada has a lot to offer in shaping our economy, but that is not without free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous communities. Indigenous Peoples have always contributed to the economy in our ways. We are entrepreneurs by blood and know what works in our community; by understanding meaningful consultation processes, corporations will be on the road to being true allies and building brighter futures for all.

Indigenous History Month is a time for cultural celebration and recognition. As we look to the future, the call for practical action and authentic allyship is crucial to broaden mutually beneficial relationships between Indigenous brands and creators with Canadian corporations.



Raelyn Pearson is the Public Relations Coordinator at Jelly Digital Marketing & PR, where her passion for writing comes to life as she crafts compelling narratives and fosters strategic media communications. Her dynamic background embraces the industries of hospitality and events, sales, and marketing. She is local to the Lower Mainland of BC and loves to dance, go on nature walks, and binge-watch the latest Netflix series.