Canada observes National Indigenous Veterans Day

A file photo taken in 2016 at the Royal Canadian Legion Air Cadet Hall in Iqaluit, Nunavut. (Courtesy Sima Sahar Zerehi/Government of Nunavut)

Canada observed National Indigenous Veterans Day on Nov. 8 with leaders across the country calling on Canadians to reflect on the contributions of Inuit, First Nations and Métis service members in the Armed Forces.

“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,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement on Wednesday. 

“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.”

Canada’s Governor General Mary Simon said the day was a moment to remember the service members’ dedication to Canada:

“We are proud of these brave men and women”

Johannes Lampe, the president of the Nunatsiavut Government in the Atlantic Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, asked Beneficiaries of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement to observe a moment of silence on both on Nov. 8 and on Remembrance Day on Nov. 11.

Members of the Blood Tribe in the 191st Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, Fort Macleod, Alberta. (Glenbow Archives, NA-2164-1)

“Despite being exempt from conscription, over 4,000 Indigenous men, including Labrador Inuit, enlisted in the First World War and over 300 died, and another 20,000 volunteered for service in the Second World War and over 200 died,” Lampe said.

“Many Indigenous people have served in conflicts since, and many more continue to serve today. We are proud of these brave men and women who helped shape this great country we live in, proud of the sacrifices they have made, and proud of the legacy they have left behind.”

Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok also paid tribute to service members on Wednesday:

Inaugurated in Winnipeg, Manitoba 

National Indigenous Veterans Day started in 1994 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Over time, it was adopted in other provinces, and then nationally.

There are currently over 2,700 Indigenous members serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Lieutenant David Greyeyes in September 1943. Greyeyes was Plains Cree from the province of Saskatchewan and was awarded the Greek War Cross for heroism in battle. (Department of National Defence)

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Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: ‘He’s finally being recognized’: Indigenous veterans honoured this week in N.W.T., CBC News

United States: Veterans from Indigenous Alaskan village have war stories archived online, Alaska Public Media

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