Across Saskatchewan, people took the time on Wednesday to acknowledge, reflect and honour the province’s Indigenous veterans who served Canada with their contributions.
For the next couple of days, many events will take place across the province to recognize National Indigenous Veterans Day, which takes place this year on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023.
In a social media post, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) said on this day, they pay tribute to the First Nation veterans and all other Indigenous warriors who defended their rights and freedoms.
“We salute their courage and determination in fighting for a cause beyond the boundaries of what we call Canada,” the post read.
“Their sacrifice was immense, facing death on the battlefield and losing their First Nation status when enlisting. We must never forget their bravery; even today, we support our relatives who continue to serve and protect our people.”
The Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association (SFNVA) is a provincial organization that works to bring equality to the province’s Indigenous veterans, recognize their sacrifices, preserve the history of Indigenous veterans and redress historical wrongdoing.
“The association is very important because it was initially developed to fight for the rights of Indigenous veterans in Canada,” said Robin Cote, the SFNVA president – South Branch, in a previous story.
“We can’t really fully understand why the association was developed until we understand the Indian Act of 1876 and what enfranchisement meant to First Nations people across Canada.”
The FSIN stated people cannot forget the fight upon the veterans returning home especially with the lack of equitable treatment.
“The non-Indigenous veterans received benefits such as education, land grants, training, and funding. Unfortunately, after the wars, First Nations veterans were told these rights were inapplicable due to Treaty,” FSIN stated in a post.
“Most benefits were denied to Indigenous Veterans, and many died without compensation for their sacrifice in the war effort. Today, our SFNVA Veterans take every opportunity to educate the public about our warrior’s sacrifices and give them the respect they rightly deserve.”
On the morning of Nov. 8, the Métis Nation–Saskatchewan (MN–S) held a private ceremony in Batoche to recognize the Métis men and women who served for Canada. The event started with a smudge, an opening prayer, lighting of the fire in remembrance of resistance warriors, Indigenous drumming and fiddling, lowering the national flags, a moment of silence and laying the wreaths.
“It was beautiful … at Batoche, there is a beautiful cenotaph with most of our veterans’ names etched into (it),” said MN-S vice-president Michelle LeClair. “It was a very spiritual grounding place … it was wonderful.”
MN-S said their Métis veterans faced similar problems that First Nation veterans faced, such as issues around treaty land entitlement.
“Many of our men served in all of the wars … certainly the Second World War was a big one where we saw a lot of men and women signing up to serve with the Canadian Armed Forces,” said LeClair.
“It’s a day to sort of reflect on the fact that our veterans were treated the same. So, it’s nice to have a day where you can focus on the contribution that Métis and First Nations and Inuit veterans made to this country and continue to make in this country.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated in a prepared statement that Indigenous peoples have significantly contributed to domestic and international efforts for over 200 years.
“Indigenous Peoples have historically faced unique challenges – from having to travel far from their communities to enlist, to overcoming language barriers, and adapting to cultural differences while in service to Canada,” the statement read.
“Despite this, they demonstrated great courage to overcome these challenges on the frontlines and as skilled sharpshooters and trackers. The Government of Canada is working to ensure that all Indigenous service members, Veterans, and their families are equally supported and recognized for their service – because that is what they deserve.”
Although National Indigenous Veterans Day is observed nationally on Nov. 8, there are many events that will take place across the province for the next few days.
In Regina, there will be a Remembrance Day event at the First Nations University on the morning of Nov. 9.
On Friday, Nov. 10, the Whitecap Dakota Nation will host a veteran’s memorial service at the Dakota Dunes Resort Hotel starting at 9:30 a.m. At this event, a special presentation of the repatriation of Chief Whitecap’s Pipe will take place as well as an unveiling of a new Chief Whitecap portrait.
Also on Friday, the Prince Albert Grand Council will host a ceremony at its urban services at Margo Fournier Centre starting at 10:00 a.m.
A veterans celebration tea event will be held on Nov. 11, 2023, at the Saskatoon Ramada Inn starting at 10:00 a.m.
The George Gordon First Nation and Beardy’s and Okemasis Cree Nation will both host a round dance on Saturday Nov. 11, in each community.
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