Beausoleil First Nation is home to about 800 residents and rests in the southern tip of Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada on Christian, Beckwith and Hope Islands. These beautiful islands are home to the Chippewa people, some of whom were warriors volunteering and fighting in wars with people who spoke languages they sometimes could not understand.
In order to preserve and honor the memory and sacrifices of these local heroes, a group of veterans and Beausoleil citizens formed a committee, and in 2008 launched a fundraising golf tournament to help erect a memorial in the middle of the Nation’s land base. The Fourth Annual Beausoleil First Nation Veterans Memorial Golf Tournament is scheduled for August 27 at the Brooklea Golf and Country Club in Midland.
Beausoleil First Nation Council Member and former Canadian Forces veteran Bill Jamieson, said the projected cost of the entire project is about $125,000. To date the memorial committee has raised just under $20,000. The monument will honor 57 Christian Island veterans, including four from World War I, 37 from WWII and 16 from the Korean War. One community member failed to return home from the Korean War, and that veteran’s likeness will be depicted in bronze in the center of the memorial.
The memorial committee also plans to honor Canadian Forces peacetime veterans from Beausoleil First Nation.
Jamieson said the committee is researching the War of 1812 to determine if their tribe was allied with the British to repel American forces. “We are looking for documented evidence of this, if it comes back positive, then those people who were in the War of 1812 will also have their names inscribed on the monument,” he said.
If their research proves what some residents believe to be the truth, Jamieson said there is grant funding available in preparation for next year’s bicentennial commemoration of the War of 1812. “What we are doing also fits right in with the Legacy Fund, which the government is providing communities throughout Canada to honor aboriginal veterans,” Jamieson said. Legacy Fund proposals are due in September and Jamieson said they are asking for a grant in the amount of $125,000.
A member of Beausoleil First Nation, H. Neil Monague said he had the idea for the memorial when the last WWII veteran from Christian Island passed away in 2008. “Elizabeth Monague was the last surviving WWII veteran and I wondered why no one was doing anything to honor them. Our veterans have made a lot of contributions to our First Nations and all of North America,” he said.
Monague said honoring veterans locally would not stop with the completion of the planned memorial. “Community activities will be held in memory of our veterans,” he said. “Including sporting events, educational activities and fundraising efforts.”
The memorial will be placed in the village center and will replace an existing stone cairn located just down the street from the band office. The new design will feature a brick walkway leading to a circular area where the memorial will be placed, surrounded by flags and shrubbery.
“We need help, especially from our government,” said Monague. “Our people weren’t asked to join the military, they stepped up to the plate themselves and went. They stood for what they believed in and stood side by side with the non-Native society.”
Jamieson said that many veterans returned home without the post-war benefits that all Canadian war veterans were entitled to. “In some cases, First Nation veterans had to relinquish their status and treaty rights to join the military,” Jamieson said. “As a community we need to keep alive the tremendous sacrifices our veterans have made. In some cases, giving up their rights as First Nations citizens only to be denied their basic entitlements and benefits that other non-aboriginal veterans enjoyed.”
Jamieson and Monague both agree the legacy these Christian Island veterans left behind must be preserved and younger generations made aware of the important contributions that aboriginal veterans have made to Canadian military history.
If you are interested in donating to the memorial fund, or would like more information, contact H. Neil Monague at (705) 247-2287 or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The recorded history of Christian Island dates back to the Huron Indians and Jesuit ruins at St. Marie II, erected in the 1600s. Today the Nation has a membership of about 1,800 people.