Locals observe citys first Indigenous Veterans Day

Locals observe city\s first Indigenous Veterans Day
Indigenous Veterans Honoured Leading Up To Remembrance Day
Dancers, drummers and even a federal minister were all on hand to mark National Aboriginal Veterans Day in Calgary.

The ceremony was held for the first time at Calgary's military museum, since the event was established in 1994.

Recruits from File Hills, Saskatchewan pose with elders and a government representative in a 1915 photo from the Saskatchewan Provincial Archives Collection. About 4,000 First Nations men served in the First World War. After the armistice of Nov. 11, 1918, they came back to Canada and were still unable to vote, faced racism and were largely shut out of the meagre benefits that were provided. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Saskatchewan Provincial Archives Collection MANDATORY CREDIT

Only equal on the battlefield: Efforts underway to honour Indigenous veterans

Trin Knight helped open the ceremony by playing a traditional drum for several dancers who were on hand. Knight also shared Indigenous veteran's songs and traditional teachings at the event.

Meanwhile, the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa is holding a photographic exhibition, presented by the Embassy of Belgium, to celebrate the diversity of those who fought for the Allied effort. It includes images of Maori soldiers from New Zealand, Sikhs from the Indian Army Corps, and a photo of Indigenous recruits and elders from File Hills, Sask.

Trin says his grandfather served in World War II and had a huge influence on his life. "His name was Chief David Knight —  what I do today was part of his influence, his teachings," Trin said.

Thomas (Tommy) Prince, a member of the Brokenhead Ojibwa Nation in Manitoba, enlisted in 1940 and eventually was assigned to the Canadian-American First Special Service Force, known as the Devils Brigade. He became a legendary sniper, was awarded multiple medals and also served in the Korean War.

That impact of indigenous veterans, like his grandfather, is one reason Trin says that having a day to honour aboriginal soldiers who fought for Canada is important.. 

"There is a huge story there about the diversity of the Canadian corps and the war effort in general," he said. "This exhibition … makes Canadians a bit more aware of the diversity in our countrys history and the contribution that all groups have made to Canada."

"Coming together and doing this is a sign you know were starting to reconcile, were starting to heal as native people that's how I look at this day," Trin said.

After the Second World War, Indigenous veterans couldnt get information from trained veterans affairs counsellors, and had to go through their Indian agent. It was difficult for them to connect with non-Indigenous comrades because they werent allowed in legion halls.

Federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett attended the ceremony. She agrees that marking the sacrifice of aboriginal veterans is an important aspect of reconciliation.

Randi Gage, a Saginaw Chippewa from Michigan and a United States army veteran, organized the first Aboriginal Veterans Day in Manitoba in 1993. She wanted a day to honour them in their own communities but still allowed them to gather for Remembrance Day ceremonies.

"It was important to set a separate day for indigenous veterans because they have been neglected for far too long," Bennett said.

The government estimates that more than 12,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis Canadians served during the First Second, and Korean wars alone. More than 1200 indigenous Canadians currently serve in Canada's military.

Bennett called the ceremony at the military museum a "huge success" adding that it was "wonderful in terms of not only ceremony but celebration of culture and teachings."

Livia Manywounds is a reporter with the CBC in Calgary, a rodeo competitor and a proud member of the Tsuutina First Nation.

About 4,000 First Nations men served in the First World War. After the armistice of Nov. 11, 1918, they returned to Canada still unable to vote and largely shut out of the meagre benefits on offer.

It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges.

The Ojibwa sniper from Wasauksing First Nation of Parry Island would serve with the 1st Infantry Battalion and went on to become one of the most decorated soldiers in the First World War.

The Ojibwa sniper from Wasauksing First Nation of Parry Island would serve with the 1st Infantry Battalion and went on to become one of the most decorated soldiers in the First World War.

Veterans Affairs said in an emailed statement it is committed meeting the needs of Indigenous veterans and is talking to Aboriginal groups to determine the way forward.

When he returned to Canada, his reputation as a brave soldier counted for very little and he didnt receive the same rights or benefits as his white comrades.

“Theyd gone from being a soldier to just an Indian again, said Scott Sheffield, associate professor at the University of Fraser Valley and author of a report on First Nations veterans that prompted a federal government apology in 2003.

Indigenous people were part of every 20th-century conflict Canada was involved in and served in the Canadian military at a higher per-capita rate than any other group.