I spent some time at an exhibition this evening called “Dispossessed But Defiant. ” It is yet another attempt to conflate indigenous struggles with the struggles of a colonizer people who are no longer ascendant and losing the land they stole from indigenous people.
I sat through some really bad speeches. One woman continuously used the term “Indigenous palestinians” even though she was supposedly speaking about colonization around the world. A “security guard” grabbed my iPad and said I had to give it to him. I responded that if he touched my property again we would have problems. I may have loomed a bit when I said this. He then grabbed my shoulder at which point I told him if he touched me again I would knock him the F^%$ out and that he better keep his hands to himself. I informed him we were at a public event and I had every right to film. Oddly enough, he left me alone after that small lesson in physics and humility. Some asshat in a keffiyeh came and stood beside me, but he wouldn’t look me in the eye. I did try several times to get him to do so, but then, even coyotes know better than piss off a bear.
Now back to the gong show. For shits and giggles, they threw in a small exhibit about South African apartheid to go along with a few pictures of Indians and a bunch of really ridiculously worded posters inciting hatred against Jews, but more on the exhibits later. First, I have to talk about one of the most ridiculously one-sided debates I have ever had. It was actually sort of embarrassing. One of the “speakers” is a professor of political science at the University of Calgary. After the speeches had finished, I walked over to speak with him. I asked him a pretty simple question: “So what exactly makes the palestinians an indigenous people? I’m curious” He asked me who I was and I said I’m just a Metis guy from Paddle, but I heard you saying that the Arabs were indigenous and since you are a university professor, I figured I would come and ask you directly because I don’t know if you understand that when you do that, you are attacking my peoples rights.”
He then went on one of the most ridiculous and just plain stupid lectures I have ever heard. I will try to quote verbatim as I havent uploaded the video yet but basically he said “They lived there a really long time.” Now think about it. This is a man who has letters after his name, a well-known professor of Political Science, but he didn’t quote the UNDRIP or the work of Martines Cobo to justify the use of the word indigenous when describing palestinians! He said “They lived there a really long time.” I am just an Indian from Paddle. I don’t have a pile of letters beside my name. I just self-educate and pay attention, but all my airtight arguments based on the UNDRIP, and the checklist developed by Martines Cobo were being countered by a guy saying “They lived there a really long time.”
I responded that “Longstanding presence is only one small component of indigenous status.” I then asked him what qualifications he had to speak about indigenous status and he smirked and recited the litany of his academic achievements. It was quote long, and then he asked me “What are your qualifications?” I said “I am just a guy from Paddle.” He smirked but then I said “So why does a guy from Paddle know more about this stuff than you do?” and the smirk rapidly disappeared. That’s when the light switched on in his head and he said “I know who you are, you are Ryan Bellerose.” I laughed because I never hide who I am; besides when you are 6 foot 4 and 300 pounds, you tend to stand out in a crowd. He said “Are you a Zionist? You are a Zionist” and I said “Absolutely I am a Zionist! I believe in the rights of indigenous people to return to their lands.” He then pushed past me as I laughed. Another gentleman engaged me in conversation and we spoke about the pathology of conflict in regards to human beings. He gave me his card and asked if I would sit with him and chat. We set a date for a later conversation.
I couldn’t help but notice a few things. On, there were four Indians in the room and I brought two of them. One of the Indians claims to be an Idle No More Organizer, but I have never seen her at any of the meetings I was at and I was at a lot of them. I have seen her volunteer, but she is not a “community leader” like she was introduced. In fact, she is sort of a joke among Indians – a terrible public speaker who cannot even pronounce the names of the nations on whose land she stands to speak, and, worse yet complains about how she has to communicate in the “settlers'” language English, when she doesn’t even speak her own language. I have spoken to her about the history of the Middle East and even though she has about a third grade level of knowledge, she insists on talking about it.
Two, the organizer were an Arab Muslim who has written poems glorifying suicide bombers, and the woman who laughed after my friends were attacked by a mob at a riot that she organised. Somehow they are conning people into believing that they just want peace when their actions display anything but.
Some people said some really offensive things to my Indian friend whom I brought. She is a well known activist who has done much for her people, and someone I respect because her activism is based on love for people and she doesn’t just talk the talk. She is from Siksika, the nation on whose land this event took place, but the people organizing this crap couldn’t get anyone from her nation to speak, and they probably don’t want them to because Siksika people don’t like liars. Instead she was told “Your people are colonized” when in fact the Blackfoot people are damaged but no more than any other indigenous people. They actually maintain their language and are trying to have a cultural resurgence.
I could write for hours about the hypocrisy I saw tonight: CJPME begging for money, talking about how the exhibition cost 72 thousand dollars then asking for donations, talking about how the exhibit is all about colonization and the effects of colonialism around the world and then every speaker but the “Indian” spoke at length about “Palestine.” The horrible and hate-filled language on the palestinian exhibit, the invalid comparisons between the situation of North American Indians and Arab colonizers, the list goes on. That 72 thousand dollars could have bought a lot of hungry people food; we just fed 30 families this Christmas in Siksika with less than 3 thousand dollars donated mainly by Jewish people in Calgary. But then they couldn’t spin that to get some street cred or play oppression Olympics.
I have decided that I am not going to remain silent about this ever again. I refuse to sit and listen while these people attack my peoples rights by pretending that a colonizer people are JUST LIKE MY PEOPLE. I will stand up and I will fight them, even if it takes a really long time.