Indigenous Veterans Day: How we honor First Nations, Métis and Inuit soldiers

TORONTO – November 8 is Indigenous Veterans Day, when Canada honors First Nations, Métis and Inuit soldiers and veterans, and their long and distinguished legacy of service in the Canadian Armed Forces.

The Canadian flag on the Peace Tower in Ottawa and on all federal government buildings across the country – which was hoisted on the main pole on Sunday for the first time since May 30 – has been lowered again to mark the Day. native veterans on Monday.

The flags were lowered in May in recognition of the hundreds of anonymous graves identified in former residential schools where many Indigenous children were abused and died while in the care of government and religious organizations.

After attending a Liberal caucus meeting on Monday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defense Lawrence Macaulay, were scheduled to meet with Indigenous veterans to mark the day.

Ret. Royal Canadian Navy Lieutenant Commander and member of the Peguis First Nation, Bill Shead, told CTV’s Your Morning Monday that “the ceremonies and the flags, whether they are … at half mast [or not] are really just outward signs of what you remember in your heart about aboriginal veterans or any veteran for that matter.

Shead said he believed that the duty “that we have as citizens is at least to remember them and to remember them sincerely”.

Known as Indigenous Veterans Day when it was created in Manitoba in 1994, November 8 is now a national day of recognition and commemoration of over 200 years of military service by First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities. .

A physical landmark called the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument, now often referred to as the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument, was unveiled by then Governor General Adrienne Clarkson in Ottawa in 2001, near the National Aboriginal War Memorial. canadian war.

INDIGENOUS CONTRIBUTIONS SHAPED CANADA

Indigenous peoples have a long military history in shaping the country, including their pivotal role in Canada’s efforts in the War of 1812 against the Americans, when the US Army of General William Hull crossed the Detroit River and invaded what was then known as Upper Canada.

Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, renowned for his combat skills and leadership, was behind the effort to rout Hull and fought alongside General Isaac Brock, capturing Fort Detroit on August 16, 1812.

Tecumseh, who fought for the Shawnee, was a famous figure until his death in action in October 1813. His victories were decisive in Canada’s journey to the formation and independence of the United States.

More than 4,000 Aboriginal people served in uniform during the First World War from 1914 to 1918, according to Veterans Affairs Canada, where their skills as hunters made them excellent snipers and reconnaissance scouts.

Native soldiers received at least 50 decorations for bravery during the First World War, including Henry Louis Norwest, a Métis from Alberta, who was one of the most famous snipers in the entire Canadian Corps with a record divisional of 115 fatal shots. He received the Military Medal and the bar for his courage.

During World War II, which began in September 1939, over 3,000 Aboriginal people served in Canadian uniforms at the end of the conflict in 1945. Most were in the Canadian Army, but some were assigned to the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy. Canadian Air Force. An invaluable contribution to war efforts As snipers and scouts, Indigenous soldiers also became “code speakers,” translating sensitive missives from the war effort into languages ​​like Cree to avoid be intercepted by the enemy.

Once again, Native soldiers received many decorations for their bravery during the war, including Ojibway aviator Willard Bolduc from Ontario who received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions as an air gunner in bombing raids, and Huron Brant, an Ontario Mohawk who earned the military title Medal for his bravery and courage in battle in Sicily.

The Korean War of 1950 again saw Indigenous soldiers in combat. Veterans Affairs Canada highlights the story of Tommy Prince, an Ojibway from Manitoba who served with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in Korea. Prince was the second in command of a rifle platoon and led men into an enemy camp where they captured two machine guns.

He fought in the Battle of Kapyong in April 1951, an act that saw his battalion receive the US Presidential Unit Citation for its distinguished service – something rarely awarded to a non-American force. Prince also received two medals of gallantry at Buckingham Palace.

Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class George Edward Jamieson, a member of the Six Nations Upper Cayuga Band, was possibly the most senior Aboriginal serviceman in the Royal Canadian Navy during the Korean War.

A World War II veteran who escorted convoys during the Battle of the Atlantic, Jamieson remained in the peacetime navy and served aboard HMCS Iroquois as the chief anti-submarine torpedo instructor. -marines when this ship was posted to Korean waters in 1952. Three years later, she was promoted to Chief Petty Officer 1st Class, the highest rank of NCO in the Navy, according to the Directorate of History and of the heritage of National Defense.

It is estimated that up to 12,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit people served in the great wars of the 20th century, according to Veterans Affairs Canada, killing at least 500 people.

Canada’s colonial heritage and racism forced Indigenous military and veterans to fight for the recognition and commemoration they deserve. Native veterans were not allowed to share a “toast” in honor of their lost comrades with other veterans of a Royal Canadian Legion until 1951, and only if the province in which the Legion was located. allowed it, including on Remembrance Day.

Veterans and Indigenous families were not allowed to lay wreaths or form their own guards at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Remembrance Day until the mid-1990s.

Many of those who served in the great wars also returned home to find that their status had been lost, a legacy noted by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh who visited the National Indigenous Veterans Monument on Monday, calling it ” injustice that we must recognize ”.

Robert Falcon Ouellette, a 25-year veteran and Indigenous soldier, acknowledged on Monday the struggle many face.

“Obviously I had absolutely amazing times… but I experienced discrimination while in the forces, I saw people saying horrible things to me,” he told CTV. News Channel.

Falcon Ouellette says he’s thinking of Sgt. Tommy Prince and his own grandfather who served in the armed forces who “were willing to serve” overseas, but then returned home and could not vote until 1960, but is hopeful for the future.

“We are on the road to reconciliation,” he said, adding that many soldiers now proudly proclaim their indigenous heritage instead of hiding it to avoid racism and discrimination within the armed forces.

Currently, more than 2,700 members of the Canadian Armed Forces are Indigenous, according to the federal government, and Indigenous soldiers continued to serve in deployments such as Canada’s Mission in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014 and with the Canadian Rangers. .

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