I am a Métis from Paddle Prairie Metis settlement. My father, Mervin Bellerose, co-authored the Métis Settlements Act of 1989, which was passed by the Alberta legislature in 1990 and cemented our land rights. I founded Canadians For Accountability, a native rights advocacy group, and I am an organizer and participant in the Idle No More movement in Calgary. And I am a Zionist.
Occupation of ancestral lands, or at least of part of them.
Common ancestry with the original occupants of these lands.
Culture in general, or in specific manifestations (such as religion, living under a tribal system, membership of an indigenous community, dress, means of livelihood, lifestyle, etc.).
Language (whether used as the only language, as mother-tongue, as the habitual means of communication at home or in the family, or as the main, preferred, habitual, general or normal language).
Residence in certain parts of the country, or in certain regions of the world.
Religion that places importance on spiritual ties to the ancestral lands.
Blood quantum – that is, the amount of blood you carry of a specific people to identify as that people. The concept was developed by colonialists in order to eventually breed out native peoples.
Let us now look quickly at the Jews. How do they fit this definition?
Their lands were occupied, first by the Romans, then by the Arabs in the seventh century.
They share common ancestry with previous occupants as determined by several genetic studies.
Their culture can be traced directly to the Levant, where it developed into what is now known as “Jewish culture.” While different Jewish communities have slightly different traditions, they all share the same root culture, and it remains unchanged. They have resurrected their traditional language, and while many still speak Yiddish and Ladino, Hebrew has become the primary language again.
They have spiritual ties to the land, which plays a large role in their traditions as a people.
Despite all the arguments about “European” Jews, they in fact meet all the criteria set forth by Martínez-Cobo. Even though Israel is the first modern indigenous state, it still has lands that are occupied by foreigners in Judea and Samaria. Those are ancestral lands and, many feel that they should be returned to the indigenous peoples for self-determination.
Approximately 50% percent of Palestinian Arabs can track their ancestors back farther than their great-grandparents. Many are descended from Arabs brought to the Levant by the British to build infrastructure after World War I.
The vast majority of Palestinians are Arabic speaking Muslims; the Arabic language is indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula, as is the Muslim religion. The Muslim religion’s holiest places are not in the Levant, but in the city of Mecca, located in the Arabian Peninsula. They have no specifically Palestinian culture that is completely Palestinian dating before the 1960s; in fact, prior to that, the majority identified as “greater Syrians.”
Some Palestinians share common ancestry with indigenous peoples, but they neither follow indigenous traditions nor do they self-identify as those indigenous peoples. They share neither religion nor language with them. Blood quantum alone is insufficient to transmit indigenous status.
The Arabs of the Middle East subsumed several indigenous populations, but no group can become indigenous through subsuming indigenous peoples. Rather, they conquered the entire region and spread their own language, customs, and religion. This is historical fact.
Now you might ask, why is this important? It is important to indigenous people because we cannot allow the argument that conquerors can become indigenous. If we, as other indigenous people, allow that argument to be made, then we are delegitimising our own rights.