Thoughts on Aboriginal Veterans' Day

Aboriginal Veterans' Day 2020

November 6, 2020

Guest writer Elder Carolyn Orazietti shared her thoughts with us on Aboriginal Veterans' Day, coming up on November 8.

Aboriginal Veteran’s Day is celebrated on the 8th of November, ahead of the Remembrance Day that is November 11th. Aboriginal Veterans were given a special day, because traditionally they were not honoured during the regular Remembrance Day ceremonies of days gone by. It’s only fair and good they have their own day!

What is a warrior? I believe it to be a patriotic person who shows great courage in the face of adversity. A warrior, or soldier shows such devotion to the country, it compels them to want to stand in protection of it and its people during times of peace and war. It is a person who is willing to defend its freedom at all costs.

During the First and Second WW and the Korean War, many thousands of Indigenous, Innuit and Metis soldiers served Canada in the fight to protect its citizens from the tyranny and oppression from the enemy who wanted to take over our peace loving countries.

Some of those people signed up to be soldiers because they wanted to see the world, while others wanted to put their skills to use. They had lived their lives as warriors and were formidable hunters and stealthy trackers. These people brought their superior skills to battle and emerged as true heroes, contributing big time to major advances made by the Allied forces.

When these valiant people applied their skills to being soldiers, they were true ‘stand outs’ who influenced the outcome of the wars that they were involved in, namely WWI and WWII and the Korean War. Some of the most heavily decorated soldiers of those conflicts were Indigenous – like Francis Peghamagabow, WW1 and Sgt. Tommy Prince, WWII. These two warriors were the most skilled and valued snipers and are among the most highly decorated of any Allied soldiers from any of the conflicts. They are legend to this day, along with so many other Indigenous, Innuit and Metis fighters. Think of the code talkers who were able to send messages back and forth in their Indigenous languages. No enemy was able to figure out what they were saying so they were able to achieve really great strides in communication during these really terrible times.

It was really hard for Indigenous people to even get to serve their country back then because they were not considered Canadian citizens at the time. The government decided that an Indigenous person had to relinquish their status in order to join the military, which they inevitably did. The problem continued when they got back home. After fighting so bravely with everything they had, they were not allowed to return to their reserves and as a result, many resorted to living on the streets. Legend Sgt. Tommy Prince died alone on the streets.

Today we have many organizations that serve soldiers – like the Government’s Veteran’s Affairs and groups like the Order of St. George. This Order is involved in creating spaces for those soldiers who are at risk of homelessness from slipping through the cracks. They work on noted, successful programs like Tiny Homes for Heroes that focus on wellness and returning to the work force.

I believe that all Indigenous people can share the pride in knowing that our people dedicated themselves and their lives to protecting their own; their people, their communities and also protecting the greater nation of Canada. They dedicated their lives to Canada and its citizenry. I feel a swell of pride thinking of the valour of these people!

Remember them and what they died for. They died for all of us, so we would have a chance for a good future as a free person. They did it for the future generations. For their children and their grandchildren. They put it all on the line for us and for our futures. Let’s live up to their dreams and their belief in you and me. Make use of this beautiful legacy they gave us, of hope for a better future. A future of freedom and of happiness. Find your warrior spirit and dare to stand up for yourself and others – fight against injustice and do the healing necessary so that you can claim your own happiness and a good life.

This piece was contributed by a guest writer and was not subject to the Fed's editorial policy.