From a statue for a First Nation sniper to a reading of the “Act of Remembrance” for the first time in the Métis language, indigenous people who have served in the Canadian military are being remembered alongside all veterans on the November 11 commemorations of the Armistice.
Alex Maurice of Beauval, Saskatchewan, will read the famous poem in Michif, the language of Métis people in western Canada, CBC News reported. Normally it is only read in English and French.
“Veterans, you know, are of all ethnicities,” Maurice told CBC News. “At the same time, yes, it is an honour. And it’s finally come forward and recognizing that Métis veterans—we exist.”
Another long-time-in-coming recognition was announced recently for Francis Pegahmagabow, until now an unsung hero of World War I, an ace sniper credited with 378 kills, and the capture of 300 prisoners, CBC News said.
Although the Ojibwe soldier of Wasauksing First Nation was a hero overseas, he went unrecognized at home.
“When he was in uniform, he was considered an equal… by what he could do,” said Adrian Hayes, who wrote a well-known biography of Pegahmagabow, to CBC News. “When he came back, he just went back to being an Indian. Indians at that time were not even Canadian citizens. They were treated like children and the Indian agents wanted him to basically sit back and shut up and not say anything.”
That lack of recognition is set to change when a life-sized bronze statue of the WWI hero will be put up in Parry Sound, Ontario, in spring 2016, according to CBC News.
Elsewhere in Canada, similar acknowledgements are taking place. And among First Nations, the call rises once again to remind the rest of the country that the nation was built on cooperation—but that that is the opposite of what transpired for returning aboriginal soldiers. Under the Indian Act, returning soldiers were stripped of their ‘Status Indian’ recognition because they had been absent from the reserve for more than four years, wrote Grand Chief Gordon Peters, Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI), in a statement.
In recounting this, Peters urged the Canadian people to remember this, put it behind them, and unify.
“This year, I challenge all Canadians to not forget,” he said in the statement. “Do not forget the lives sacrificed by native and non-native soldiers. Do not forget the shared values that those soldiers carried into battle together. Do not forget the freedoms and liberties that continue to be lost on Canadian soil to this day.”
Further, Peters urged Canadians to educate themselves, and noted that in loss we are all equal.
“Stand with your First Nations brothers and sisters, and help us defend our human rights as we did overseas so many years ago,” he said. “Take the time to learn about our history and treaties. Demand an inquiry for our missing and murdered women. Don’t stand for inequitable service provisions in our communities. Together—nation to nation—we can move forward. Let us honour our collective sacrifices and losses, and continue to build a better future.”