Judaism: Indigenous Mode Of Spirituality, Identity, Ethnicity And Nationhood

being indigenous with Ryan BeleroseI am going to go on a rant.

When I started talking about indigenous status for Jews, it wasn’t so some asshats who don’t even understand the basics about what that means could use it as an excuse to be asshats. It was to help Jewish people advocate for their indigenous rights and stand in solidarity with other indigenous peoples struggling for recognition and human rights.

It was to help Jews understand that their identity no longer has to be viewed through a white European colonialized lens, that their so called religion is not a religion but an indigenous mode of spirituality that is intertwined with their identity, ethnicity and nationhood. It was to help them take back what is theirs, their identity.

It’s really simple: for two thousand years Jews have resisted assimilation. They NEED to understand what got them through was their identity, their connection with their identity which was forged in the Levant, Israel and beyond. Its not simply the religion – religion is a white European concept. Judaism – Jewishness is bigger than that.

So listening to people who do not get that being indigenous is a responsibility as much as a benefit, is annoying to me. If you do not want to be seen as white, privileged, entitled asshats then you have to stop acting like that. You will have to understand that YOU have to get involved.

You want to be taken seriously as indigenous people by indigenous people? You have to do more than say “Hey guys, I’m indigenous too”. You will have to get off your ass and go to events, you will have to build bridges, you will have to be visible and vocal, you will have to actually stand in solidarity with indigenous people.

There are Jews in my community who do it, and I see more and more doing it as well, but that’s the only way. You already are indigenous to Israel, this is not a debate, but you don’t need to debate, you need to change the perception of your people. You need to change an entire paradigm and merely talking, just saying the words, is not going to do that.

You want to be Jewish? Learn what that means. It’s not just about wearing a kipah and doing Shabbat once in a while; it’s not saying a few prayers sometimes; it’s a way of being, a totality of belief, action and life. You are not white Europeans, you have to stop thinking like them let alone acting like them. You even have a blueprint for it: it’s called the Torah.

Even if you aren’t religious, you don’t need to be, you just need to start being Jewish. The longer I am in Israel the more I am seeing the effects of resisting assimilation on your people. The more I see how important UNDERSTANDING what being indigenous really is.

It’s not easy; in fact it’s gonna be damn hard, believe me. But it is worth it. Your identity is the only thing nobody can ever take – it’s yours and only yours.


Ryan Bellerose

A member of the indigenous Metis people, Ryan grew up in the far north of Alberta, Canada with no power nor running water. In his free time, Ryan plays Canadian Rules Football, reads books, does advocacy work for indigenous people and does not live in an Igloo.

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