Why I Feel Kinship With Jews

metisI have people asking me about the commonalities between my people and the Jews as if that would be the only reason we should support the Jewish struggle for human rights.

It’s not, but when studying Jewish stuff in order to be more able to speak to it effectively, I noted some very deep and very abiding commonalities.

Metis history has always been driven by a small minority, while the majority has been content to simply go along to get along. A small minority of “radicals” has always fought to not only maintain our identity but to ensure that it gets passed on.

Metis people are known for being tough, for being strong-willed to the point of insanity. Our stubborn refusal to assimilate as a group combined with our openness to accepting others’ differences became the hallmark of our people. Even when it became detrimental to our own well-being.

We were not a warrior culture but we would fight defensive wars very effectively. We were not imperialistic nor concerned with wealth gathering. We were much more concerned with the prosperity of the community than the individual.

The Metis were often reviled among mainstream white society even while we were depended on to make the fur trade run. We were the economic engine that made development in Canada possible.

Some of us could “pass” as white and therefore ease the way for our more distinctive looking family, but when people found out we were “Indians” they often acted as though we were deceiving them.

Stupid myths about Metis people proliferated, and things that were demonstrably false and patently ridiculous were accepted as fact. For instance , because many Metis were tall and large-boned, it was said that physically we were not really human beings, but of a different race. We had extra muscles and thicker bones because of this perceived physical superiority. We were inferred to be mentally inferior – that way white people could maintain their perceived superiority. They would say that even though Metis people were physically strong, we were like children. Apparently very large, very strong, very entrepreneurial children. We were also supposedly wicked and corrupt because it was hard to reconcile our business success with idea that white people were mentally superior. Therefore it must have been due to us having some sort of “advantage.”

We were polite but firm about maintaining our culture and traditions. This frustrated white people who believed in the superiority of white culture. Our refusal to adopt it was taken as an affront. When we expressed a desire to create a native state, it was considered an attack.

Our identity was always viewed strictly through a white lens, with a refusal to consider it through our own. We were pariahs who as long as we were useful would be tolerated and periodically we would be seen as impediments and removed with no compunctions.

So you see, if you simply change a few of those words, you should be able to understand why I feel kinship with Jews. Everything I just said about my people could have been referring to Jewish people (except the height thing, because Jews tend to be short). When I look at Jews, I look through a Metis lens, not the white lens. I don’t view their history as tragedy after tragedy because that would be false. I view it as a combination of tragedy and triumphs and frankly the triumphs vastly outnumber the tragedies, for one simple reason.

They are still here, pissing off the white culture of acquisition, possession and dominance through their very existence. I mean come on, you want to talk about iconoclasts, these people have been going their own way for three thousand years, refusing to assimilate, never doing what they are told, fighting for what they believe is right even against odds that are beyond ridiculous. As long as they are doing that, I feel like my people are not alone. That someone else understands us. I have always gone my own way, done my own thing. I refuse to just accept majority opinions without thought. I feel like my moral code is strong, so how I could I not feel a kinship with a people who are often so much like me and mine?


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.