I am an indigenous person from Canada. A horrific crime was committed against my people and we were forcibly exiled from our ancestral homeland. We never stopped fighting but we were treated like garbage and our history, although well known, is only ever told from the perspective of the colonizers who stole our land, forcefully converted us and forced us to speak an alien tongue.

Our sacred places are visible to us (but not accessible), we are pariahs in our own homeland and we are treated like our rights don’t matter. Even our story is often denied to us as it is told in a way that denies us not only self agency but our sense of self, our very identity.

Most decent and moral human beings acknowledge the rights of indigenous people, they understand that the old canard “might makes right” is in fact not true. That indigenous people often have much to contribute in the way of knowledge.

My people have been in exile since the late 1880’s, almost 200 years. Nobody would say that in those 200 years, the people who did these horrific crimes to us have suddenly supplanted us as indigenous. In fact most people recognize that our indigenous rights can never be stolen from us. It is considered common sense.

I am bemused that many of the people who claim to speak for indigenous rights and indigenous people are so willing to turn a blind eye to the facts, to the simple truth that there is an indigenous people who could literally say every single thing I just said and simply exchange the name, or tribe for their own. Those people underwent all the same things only at the hands of different colonizers. That people would be the Jewish people.

I know that deep down even the Jews worst enemies know and understand that the Jews are indigenous to Israel. You can tell even in the way their arguments have evolved. Where even 2 years ago they would have said “You cannot steal indigenous peoples lands” now they say “You have to respect land rights based on how long someone has been there.” While they once said “The Arabs are indigenous to Israel” they now say “The Jews are indigenous to Israel but the Jews there now, are not “real” Jews.” The change in their arguments shows that even they know that once they were called out, their original line of bullshit will no longer pass muster.

Siege_of_AmoriumSome of the Arabs didn’t get the memo. They still spout the “palestinians were here for 14,000 years” bullshit that only works if someone cannot read and has no access to Google. They still throw out lines like “The Arabs were in Israel long before the Jews,” ignoring the fact that their own sacred book says nothing of the sort and the vast majority of history and archaeology tells a much different story. They first tied their identity to the Philistines, which is funny because the Philistines actually were colonizer/conquerors from Mediterranean Europe, and their name Plishtim actually means INVADERS.

Once some of us very vocally challenged them on that, they changed gears, and now they claim that they are descended through Canaanites by way of force converted Jews, Jews who would have been force converted in the 7th century Arab conquest. The problem with this theory is that you cannot become indigenous THROUGH conquering indigenous people – indigenous status is not transmitted that way. The second major problem with this theory is simple – the vast majority of the Arab population came during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, with larger numbers coming during WW2 during the British push to build. This ignores that the land had a tiny population before the advent of modern political Zionism.

There are a lot of people who dislike the fact that Jews are indigenous people, mainly colonizers and colonized people with a colonized mindset. The colonizers don’t like the idea of any indigenous people regaining their ancestral lands or having cultural resurgence because it threatens their control and the cultural paradigm of assimilation. If indigenous people regain their languages, they will want to regain their traditions, if they regain their traditions they will want to regain their spirituality, and if that happens, they will regain their non assimilation identity. Think what that would mean for Europe? What it would mean for the Middle East? For Africa? Suddenly you would have massive minorities demanding equal rights. In the Middle East especially, where so many indigenous peoples are starting to remember who they are, wanting to connect with their identity as indigenous and not Arabized Muslims. Amazigh, Kurds, Yezidi, Copts, ethnic Persians, all beginning cultural resurgences.

The colonized people want to fit in, they want to be seen as “Western” and “just like everyone else.” They will often hide behind a mask of tradition but when you scratch it, it shows its true colors. They will argue that they are part of the mainstream, and that they want “equality.” When you ask them important questions about their true identity they get defensive instead of proud.

I cannot be more clear – a great crime was committed against the Jewish people – in fact many were – but I think the greatest crime was the most recent one, the attempt to steal and deny their history. That is something I cannot remain silent about. I will not and you shouldn’t either.

When I say to stand together in solidarity, I mean it. It means that we support your struggle and you support ours. What does that mean? It means attending events, it means understanding that we are not (the majority of Indians) asking to blow up Canada, we want equal and fair representation, we want the treaties to be respected and followed and we want to be able to live unmolested on our ancestral lands with access to our sacred sites. Period.

What can we do? We can talk openly and honestly about the indigenous rights of all peoples, we can speak about the importance of identity and cultural resurgence, we can encourage people to regain traditions language and spirituality, all of those things help the struggle. We can make sure people understand the importance of being moral and ethical, and basing our positions on rational examination of fact. We can help our friends understand what it means to see ourselves through the lens of indigenous people rather than the way colonizers see us, because that’s of primary importance. Once we understand who we are supposed to be, we can manifest that. NOBODY can take away your identity if you do not allow it. When you see someone spreading lies or nonsense, you should call it out. Don’t be silent, Don’t wait for someone else to do it. You can be the change we need, I believe that, or I would have stayed on the Rez in Paddle.


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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