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An Interview with Ryan Bellerose (Part One)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/09/15


Ryan Bellerose is a Métis Activist and Writer from Northern Alberta, and a Co-Founder of Calgary United with Israel (CUWI). He discusses: family background; personal heritage; the Israel-Palestine issue; myths around Indigenous land rights; status of some treaties; Metis and non-Indigenous populations working together; and land rights issues between Israel-Palestine and Indigenous-and-non-Indigenous Canada.

Keywords: activist, Calgary, Israel, Métis, Northern Alberta, Ryan Bellerose, writer.

An Interview with Ryan Bellerose (Part One): Métis Activist; Writer; Co-Founder, Calgary United with Israel (CUWI)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What is family background regarding geography, language, culture, and religion/irreligion?

Ryan Bellerose:  My family is Metis, we have our roots in the Red River area in Manitoba, just south of modern-day Winnipeg. We were forced to move west after the northwest rebellion to an area in what is now St. Albert, but were again forced to move north to what is now the Fort Vermillion area and the Paddle Prairie Metis Settlement in Northern Alberta.

We spoke mainly Cree and Michif and were mainly Roman Catholic with a mix of traditional Cree spirituality. My family was mostly pretty atheist as my Father and some of his brothers and sisters were in residential schools and had a strong dislike of organised religion because of that.

I grew up Catholic because my mother was a child of white settlers who farmed in the Rocky lane area and were French and Norwegian stock. They were very religious people. I left Catholicism after travelling to Israel a few years ago and realising that if I am trying to advocate for a cultural resurgence, I needed to follow my own path.

My Family was very traditional on both sides, I grew up hunting and fishing, and my father moved to a very remote place when I was a small child, so I spent half the year with him in the bush and half with my mother in town and eventually the city where she attended university. This gave me a firm grasp on what life was like on both sides of the Indigenous issue.

2. Jacobsen: How does a personal Metis heritage provide a foundation for knowledge about Indigenous rights issues, especially land claim issues?

Bellerose: It does not, without a strong family knowledge, and a personal desire to know and understand the Indigenous struggle, there is no real foundation. many Indigenous people are so involved in the day to day struggle to survive that they do not have a very good knowledge base let alone a strong grasp on the macro struggle for Indigenous rights.

That is why we have so many people who say things that are counterproductive but feel good. Instead of being focused on fixing the issues in our communities many have bought into the perpetual victimhood narrative of the left and rather than working on bringing everyone up, to a baseline, want to drag others down to create another lower bar.

3. Jacobsen: The Israel-Palestine issue continues to fan flames, not only between the two countries’ citizens but also internationally for a variety of reasons. What seems to make the most sense of the land claims issues from an Indigenous rights perspective? Why does this seem the most evidenced and substantive as a case? How does this argument relate to the Canadian context with Indigenous land rights claims?

Bellerose: Its actually a very simple issue at the core, either you believe that Indigenous people have the right to live in peace and worship the Creator in their own manner, speak their own language, and manifest their own cultural identity on their ancestral lands, with access to their sacred places and self-determination, or you do not.

If you support those things and you are a reader of history and understand the indicators of indigeneity, you support the Jewish people who are Indigenous to that specific land. This does not mean they have the right to forcibly remove anyone and they have not, but it does mean they have the right to be there on their ancestral lands protecting their sacred sites.

The false narrative of Arab Indigenous status is easily debunked, because Indigenous status is site-specific. For instance, I am Metis/Cree, you can call me an Indian or native Canadian, but I am not Indigenous to all of Canada I am Indigenous to the Red River area.

Just as an Englishman can be called European but his language and culture were developed mainly in what is now England, not Spain. Arabs are Indigenous to the Hejaz or the Arabian peninsula where their language and sacred places began and are located.

It relates because if we allow the argument that colonisers can become Indigenous through passage of time or through conquering of Indigenous people, and not through genesis of culture and coalescence of a people, then the same argument would apply here in a few more years and white Europeans would be Indigenous to Canada for the same reasons.

4. Jacobsen: What seems like the common myths around Indigenous land rights claims now, in this country? What truths dispel them?

Bellerose: The most common myths are that all land in Canada was surrendered under the treaty, that one was simply not true, there are many unceded lands in Canada where tribes were not even consulted and simply subsumed without even knowing.

Their leaders never signed anything. Another common myth is that we are all equal under the law, when in fact Indians who live on the reserve cannot own their own lands, do not have full ownership of their homes and in fact, are considered under the law to be wards of the crown.

I think the more damaging myths though are the “Indians don’t pay taxes” nonsense and “we pay for everything for Indians” myths. First off, the only Indians who do not pay taxes have to live and work on the reserve, which very, very few Indians do.

The money that pays for the entire industry to run comes from the transfer trust agreement which was an agreement by the government to put all resource money into a trust to be overseen by the government. That money has slowly been misused and access has never been openly granted to us.

5. Jacobsen: What are the current statuses of some of the more prominent treaties of the land of the Indians in Canada? What media coverage obscures the truths stated before? Do certain outlets not provide accurate coverage of half-truth coverage out of political and social convenience? If so, what ones? 

Bellerose: That is a complex question you must understand that out east most of the treaties are federal and with the crown, in BC the treaties are different. The biggest issue is not the treaty lands but the fact that there are so many areas that were unceded by the actual native people in the area.

Media coverage is generally poor because most media does not do much research and trends towards tabloidism rather than journalism.

6. Jacobsen: To extend a trite question, how can the Metis and non-Indigenous populations work together, toward more unified and common goals of integration in various domains? What will this take from the members of the communities and the leaders of those communities?

Bellerose: Working together can only come from a foundation of mutual respect and honesty which has not been the case. We are not just fighting stereotypes but actual paradigms those paradigms will be difficult to change.

7. Jacobsen: What seems like the areas where the Israel-Palestine issue does not overlap with, for example, the land rights and treaties issues between Canada and various Indigenous/Indian nations?

Bellerose: For beginners, in Canada, the Indigenous population is not the majority. We do not have the sheer numbers for a democracy to be anything more than a different kind of tyranny for us.

In Israel, the Jews are the majority and can assert themselves democratically to maintain their culture, language, and religion. In Canada, we cannot do that. Our goals must be modified, we need to argue for more participatory power in government, more actual power in those governments and for our traditions to be taught and respected.

Without that, our people will eventually be subsumed and assimilated. That was the original goal of the white government and has always been at the forefront of our minds when we deal with them.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Métis Activist; Writer; Co-Founder, Calgary United with Israel (CUWI).

[2] Individual Publication Date: September 15, 2018:; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2019:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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