The Charger Blog

Activist Discusses Indigenous Culture, Embracing Identity with University Community

Ryan Bellerose, a member of the indigenous Métis people from northern Canada, shared his story with the University community, discussing identity, Israel, and indigenous cultures. He visited the University as part of a new speaker series about promoting human rights.

October 31, 2019

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Image of Ryan Bellerose
Left to right: Michael Desir '22, Hen Mazzig (the third speaker of the series), Professor Martin A. Goldberg, and Ryan Bellerose.

Angelina Caroli ’23 is a member of the Mohegan tribe, and she was looking forward to attending a talk on campus by Ryan Bellerose, a member of the indigenous Métis people.

"As a Native American, I wanted to learn about Mr. Bellerose’s views and how they are different from those of my tribe," said Caroli, a criminal justice major. "It was eye opening to learn how tribes may perceive the same things differently."

Bellerose, who grew up in northern Canada, was the second of four speakers to visit the University this semester as part of the Human Rights Law and Policy Speaker Series, which was created by a sub-committee of the University’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) Council in response to the growing number of incidents of antisemitism across the country. The goal is to explore new approaches to help combat these incidents – especially on college campuses.

Bellerose, a self-proclaimed Zionist who advocates for Israel, discussed indigenous cultures and human rights. The founder of Canadians For Accountability, a Native rights advocacy group, he is also a founding member of the Calgary United with Israel (CUWI) organization. In his talk, he discussed the importance of continuing to learn and keeping an open mind.

"It was eye opening to learn how tribes may perceive the same things differently."Angelina Caroli ’23

"The only way to beat bad ideas is with good ideas," he said. "Therefore, we should be willing to listen to anyone who is willing to talk."

Bellerose described the difficulties he and his people faced when he was growing up in rural Canada. Bellerose, who has traveled around the globe, remembers having no power or running water as a child, and that his father needed written permission to leave the reservation. He discussed what his experiences taught him about his own identity, and he encouraged students to explore theirs.

"You are who you are," he said. "Find out who you are, dig into your roots, and be proud of it."

Evan Carbognin ’20, a marketing major, said he was interested in hearing his story.

"It is important when speakers like Mr. Bellerose come to campus because these events are good opportunities for students to make connections," he said. "They offer great opportunities for students to ask questions, and it’s important for us to make the most of these opportunities."