This Is an Interesting Time to Be Indigenous

Ryan Bellerose

It’s an interesting time to be indigenous.

Not because we don’t still have coloniser oppressors intent upon continuing to dominate the discourse; not because we have challenged the narratives; but because we are winning. I do not say this lightly, but we are winning because we have the just cause, the moral cause, and we are in the right. Whether you believe in God, the creator, karma, or good luck is irrelevant. We are winning because when the truth is on your side, people intuitively understand that. More and more people are not only speaking up for indigenous rights, but also trying to understand them.

To rephrase it, indigenous people are winning, not because we suddenly have all regained our ancestral lands and removed the colonising occupying forces, but rather, because we are able to openly speak and teach people the truth without repercussions. Even 30 years ago this was impossible. For some of us it’s never been about “getting rid of white people” but has only ever been about protecting the things we hold sacred and inviolate, protecting our lands and waters for the future instead of raping them for quick cash.The fact that we are alive, that we and our cultures are still here, is a win; and the fact that we are starting to get the word out, that’s a win, too.

It’s an interesting time, because for the first time, people are able to read and learn things about the world for themselves and no longer have to take someone else’s word or accept someone else’s interpretation. For instance, for more than 67 years the indigenous nature of the world’s first example of an indigenous people retaking their ancestral lands was recast (by colonialists) as a colonialist experiment. They denied the history, the anthropology, and the genetics that showed they were lying; but because the average person had limited access to knowledge, they managed to convince many that Israel was created by white Europeans who stole “Arab land.” However, like any other lie created in darkness and ignorance, it simply doesn’t hold up when brought into the light of day. I believe the reason they have done this is that they didn’t want other indigenous peoples seeing the possibilities before them, because once the precedent is set, it becomes a possibility instead of a pipe dream. Now that the indigenous nature of Israel is better – if still incompletely – understood, the colonialists are changing their tune. Now we hear, “But if it wasn’t for the colonialists, Israel wouldn’t exist.” Still, we see efforts to delegitimise what the indigenous Jewish people managed to accomplish with very little assistance. If you belong to an indigenous people, you understand what a huge deal it is for a displaced people to return and retake control of their sacred sites and ancestral lands; I have always believed that in some form or another it should be every indigenous people’s goal.

This is also an interesting time because now, in addition to Israel, other indigenous peoples have been successful at promoting their struggles – and some have even managed to start turning the tide. North Americans speak up and speak out against the desecration of our sacred sites and burial grounds, and the destruction of our lands and waters; and while there were always a few who spoke up, their voices were until now drowned out and marginalized. Today, I see non-Native people pick up the banner and walk beside us; and while we obviously have a long way to go, the fact that it’s even in the public discourse shows real movement.

It’s interesting, because in Mexico the Zapatistas have been defeated militarily; however, they achieved control over their education and have moved forward at an astonishing rate and are closer now to a state with self-determination than they have ever been before. They have come to understand that violence in today’s world cannot achieve the same things that education and intelligence can.

It’s interesting, because in the past few years in the Middle East we have seen polarisation and the rise of extremism, while at the same time we see fights for independence and freedom. While many people felt that radical Islam was ascendant, I watched the rise of the Kurdish people with quiet optimism. You see, the Kurds in the majority are fairly moderate Muslims. I believe this may be in part because they were forcefully converted, but also because they are an indigenous people who has never quite forgotten their indigenous history. They did not fall completely for “Arabisation” and have attempted to maintain their traditions as best they could as a marginalised minority within the Arab world. Because they hold their indigenous status to be so important and do not want to simply be a part of the majority, the Kurds are a bastion against Pan Arabism and the potential for a caliphate that would destabilise the entire Middle East.

Now, with the Arab winter upon us, with Syria descended into a civil war in which neither side is really “the good guy;” where Iraq seems a lost cause with its recent precipitous fall to ISIS; and where Afghanistan is about to become another lost cause; we can add Pakistan, an enemy who pretends to be a friend to that equation. We see that instead of propping up tyrannical regimes, we should instead support the moderates who want to build better lives for their people and not just fatten their wallets. Egypt is at a crossroads, and Jordan is about to reap the seeds of the oppression of the Palestinians who should have been allowed to move there and become citizens, but who instead were used to fight a war with Israel by proxy. Iran has internal trouble because its own people are fed up with a foreign religion telling them that their history is moot. Islam in its current form is inimical to the Iranian mindset; it can be difficult to remember that this is a country that wrote the first human rights based constitution. By showing such disrespect to the history and culture of the Iranian people, they lost much popular support; that miscalculation led to the start of the Arab winter, because “one person, one vote” democracy is alien to Islamic countries and in fact runs counter to Islam, which teaches that Muslims must always be in charge.

But what’s really fascinating about all of this is that the many indigenous peoples who were subsumed by the rise of Islam have begun to realise what they have lost, and they want it back. Perhaps right now it’s just the Kurds, but what happens when other peoples who still exist as fractured groups suddenly become unified? What happens when the Balochis, the Amazigh, the Berbers, the Druze, the Assyrians and Copts all begin to realise that lines on a map mean nothing, and that it is bloodlines and culture that matter?

Yes, this is an interesting time to be indigenous.

Ryan Bellerose is a Metis from Paddle Prairie Alberta. He founded Canadians for Accountability, a Native rights advocacy group, and is an Idle No More movement organizer. As an indigenous rights activist, He is also a founding member in the Calgary United with Israel (CUWI) organization and is a self-proclaimed Zionist."


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Sammy7's picture
I'm confused Ryan. How can you be Metis and yet a self-proclaimed Zionist? Zionism is about taking land from the Palestinians, themselves a Native People to the land. Being Traditional, I have never been able to find a way to merge either Christianity or Judaism with our Traditional beliefs. I do respect other peoples chosen path but find no pathway to merge the two. To me, if one is either Christian or Jew, that is what you are. One might claim First Peoples blood or heritage, but I fail to see how one can claim to be of the First Peoples and believe in the Traditional culture of our Ancestors, and claim to be a Christian or Jew too. If it is possible would someone please clearly explain your thinking. Wado!
averagejoebodybuilder's picture
The shill on the zionist payroll is barking again. White stole land from the indigenous in the western hemisphere. khazars stole land from the indigenous PALESTINIANS. there is no way around it.
DZS's picture
Thank you for a good article. At last, a sane voice is heared.
DZS's picture
To Sammy7. "...the Palestinians, themselves a Native People to the land." You are probably confusing the Palestinians, who are Arabs, with the ancient Philistines (the Sea People) who are mentioned in the Old Testament and who had five state-cities (Gaza, Askelon, Ashdod, Gat and Ekron) along the southern coast plane of what was called Canaan, or Land of Israel, or Palestine (by ancient Greeks) and today belongs to Israel and Gaza strip. Arabs are natives to Arabian peninsula. They occupied the Middle East in the 7th century. The entire territory of what is today Israel, Palestinian autonomy and Gaza was sparsely occupied during the Middle Ages. At the beginning of the 19th century there were about 340,000 arabs, at 1914 - 740,000 and to-day over 5 millions. Majority of the Arab population also moved into the area during 19th -20th centures. Besides Jews, there is another ethnic group native to this land - Samaritans. This community is very small - about 800 people - and they live in peace with both Jews and Araba.
Sammy7's picture
This is not a rebuttal to dinasonk. I respect his/her views as his/hers. My thinking is to expand my thoughts regarding the influence of Jewish People on our lives today. First, both The First Peoples and the Jewish People have suffered great genocides in modern times. As First Peoples we see ourselves as survivors. The Jewish People, in my opinion, see themselves as victims and perpetuate that victimization via a holocaust industry designed to maximize their victimization for profit. The Jewish People in America represent perhaps 3% to 4% of the American People. The influence of the Jewish People in America is excessive well beyond their numbers. I will cite two examples: First, Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago designed an extremist economic theory called Neoliberal Economics. Neoliberal economics is a fundamentalist economic belief system that places Capitalism absent governmental regulation as the greatest good. Neoliberalism seems to be dominating American political and economic choices in Washington. Deregulation led to banking policies that stressed extremely risky investments (greed) that led to the banking collapse of 2008. The big banks too are mostly headed by Jewish People. The Federal Reserve too is mostly headed by Jewish People. So is it fair to say that extremist Jewish economic beliefs led to the banking collapse? Would one be hard pressed to say otherwise? Second, American Foreign Policy in recent years has been described as Neocon. The persons described as the originators of the Neocon foreign policy are mostly Jewish. The Neocon foreign policy lays out the plan to destabilize Middle Eastern Countries for the purpose of toppling them and reforming the greater Middle East. The plan known as PNAC , The Plan for a New American Century, can be found on the internet for those interested. We have done so in Iraq, Lybia, and have attempted to do so in Syria, and have pushed to destabilize Iran. How has that worked out for the United States? Some responsible estimates place the total cost of the Iraq War ultimately at six trillion dollars. Afghanistan has it's own costs, as does Lybia and Syria. The lives lost in these conflicts is estimated to be a million or more. From my perspective, AIPAC, the Jewish American Conservative Lobby supports these policies. These policies are designed to generate profits for business and the military industrial complex of corporations for the benefit of wealthy interests at the expense of the people. The belief in destabilizing Middle Eastern Countries benefits Israel too. The idea being a destabilized Middle Eastern Country cannot effectively threaten Israel. It seems to me that American Jews are more interested in the interests of Israel than they are in the interests of the People of America. Witness Rahm Emanual (a Jew) and others serving in the Israeli Army but not the American Army. I have read that Jewish culture historically stresses money and wealth far more than do the American People, especially Traditional First Peoples. Jews attempt to commodify things that can make a profit. Cultural theft seems to mean little to Jews, witness the making of the television film Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, a cultural fairy tale for profit. To avoid exploitation I would encourage the First Peoples to tell their own stories and make their own movies absent outside influence. Otherwise it is just cultural theft for profit. From my perspective, attempts to infiltrate and influence the First Peoples Communities for profit by Jews and others should be resisted. The first line of defense of any critique of Jews is to label them anti-semetic and we will likely see those aspersions thrown here too. As a Traditional Native American I believe in the interconnectedness of all things, our relatives, including Jews. In my tradition I have been taught to state my opinion and then walk away, do not argue. I will. This post was meant to highlight the disfunction that a group of our relatives has caused and to encourage them to find a better balance that leads to life and harmony instead of death.
averagejoebodybuilder's picture
Palestinians are Arab only by language and culture. They are still the descendants of jews that converted to Christianity and Islam.
averagejoebodybuilder's picture
I can't believe that this news service actually accepts articles from a hasbara shill
Ramone Romero's picture
As a Christian, this bothers me on many levels, but particularly because the ends never justify the means. In other words, just because ancestors lived on the land at an earlier time does not mean their descendants can come and uproot by force people who have been living there for many generations. That may be how things were done in Old Testament times, but as a follower of Jesus, that is not the way He taught. (That Christians haven't followed Jesus' teaching is another sad matter...) The late Russell Means said, "Every policy the Palestinians are now enduring was practiced on the American Indian. The American Indians are the Palestinians of the United States, and the Palestinians are the American Indians of the Middle East." But on a side-note, anyone familiar with Biblical history should note that the Hebrew people were not "indigenous" to Palestine/the land of Israel: Genesis 11 says that they came from Ur of the Chaldeans (modern-day southern Iraq).
Ramone Romero
Lgáa's picture
This is a very well written article, Ryan. I can see that the people who would rather we just follow along with the political agenda would call you names like "Zionist shill" to try to undermine your opinion. Some of them are ethnic studies sell-outs who have modelled themselves on the likes of Angela Davis, people with low blood quantum who are no more authentic than Ward Churchill, cultural interlopers, or charlatans. Do I have to mention a particular 'academic' who teaches American Indian studies instead of in a department of Religious Studies, or his fake friend who looks less Polynesian than Pamela Sue Anderson, or a few of these self-styled women warriors who make their living by wearing a bad attitude as a badge? None of those people are leaders. They are followers: of white academic feminist lesbians with an axe to grind with the universe. Just as you state, we don't have to march to someone else's drum. We have our own ideas. And for the person who wrote it below, Russell Means never spoke for me. Some of us belong to tribes that are capable of taking advantage of a modern Western-style education and getting decent work in different fields without becoming 'professional Indians' and joining in with some white leftist chorus of whining professional mourners who run from tragedy to tragedy to suck the life out of European pity for its dead baby poster children that are recycled from the Syrian war. Those are the people who now are trying to colonize the truth; don't let them get away with it.
Illana Estelle Bismuth's picture
Me too Sammy I am chocked not by Ryan Bellerose but by your comment .. Jews control the world ? are you a nazi descent ? you pretend to defend the native american traditions and heritage but you did adopt the western and middle-east thinking !! some people would call you "an apple" !! And you Sammy do you realize how much you preach for european cliche developped by Europeans in the dark ages and spread all over the world ??
Illana Estelle ...

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