Ryan Bellerose:This Is an Interesting Time to Be Indigenous
...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 peopleretakingtheir 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...