Aboriginals remember their fallen comrades in war today, with several groups and activities commemorating First Nations, Inuit and Métis veterans.
“First Nation communities have a very long, proud and storied military presence and this will undoubtedly continue,” stated Grand Chief Denise Stonefish of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI).
“This tradition,” the statement noted, “is recorded in Canada all the way back to the War of 1812, where the alliance of First Nations and Canadian soldiers was vital to halting an American attack.”
Canadian aboriginals fought voluntarily in both World Wars, even though they did not have to—they were not required to register for the draft.
Some celebrated Canada’s indigenous veterans a few days earlier, on November 8, which for the past 19 years has been Aboriginal Veterans Day.
All commemorate the fact that more than 7,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis have served in Canada’s armed forces in both wartime and peacetime, and at least 500 have died in that line of duty, the Interlake Spectator noted.
The Métis are working to erect a memorial to their veterans in Batoche, site of a battle they fought against Canadian forces back in the 1800s. The Métis National Council’s site has its own Veterans Portal as well.
AIAI also noted the contributions of women, expressing the desire that their often-overlooked service will become more prominently noted in future.
“These women were Comrades in Arms not only working in hospitals and medical posts, but also serving in areas of transportation, communications, mechanical, parachute rigging, administration and photography,” the statement noted.
“Our First Nations military brothers and sisters deserve our utmost respect and admiration in defending our homelands,” Stonefish said. “Their spirits, both living and moved on will continue to guide and watch over us.”
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo honored aboriginal veterans’ service also, emphasizing as well the need to ensure that First Nations veterans are fully included in the benefits structure.
“First Nation veterans embody the fulfillment of our promises in Treaty relations—a solemn commitment to alliance and mutual respect,” he said in a statement. “Our veterans honor our Treaty responsibilities, and we seek this same recognition and respect from Canada.”