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Indigenous Relations Division

November 2018


Honouring Indigenous Veterans

November 8, 2018

The Indigenous Relations Division would like to acknowledge that November 8th is Indigenous Veterans Day and share the following information:

On November 8, 1993 the first Indigenous Veteran's Day took place across Canada and in 1994 the day was officially recognized by the Government of Manitoba to honour the contributions of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples who served in the Canadian Military.

On June 21, 2001 the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument was unveiled in Ottawa. The monument was created by artist Lloyd Pinay from Peepeekisis First Nation in Saskatchewan, inspired by the memory of his father, a veteran of the Second World War.

More than 7,000 Indigenous peoples served in the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War. It is estimated that 12,000 Indigenous peoples served in the three wars. During the First World War, over 50 medals were awarded to Indigenous Peoples in Canada for their bravery while sniping and scouting, and for performing heroic acts.

Indigenous languages played a unique and crucial role in the wars. Charles Checker Tompkins from Grouard, Alberta, was a Cree veteran of the Second World War. He and other Cree soldiers worked as "code-talkers." As a member of this special group, his job was to translate military messages into Cree before they were sent to battlefields in Europe. Often messages came from military officials to provide orders and instructions for troop movement, supply lines and other specifics. It was vital that they remained secret from enemy ears.

Indigenous women contributed valuable skills and services to all three wars. At home, they helped raise money, knitted for soldiers or worked in factories and overseas many served as nurses. For example, Charlotte Edith Anderson Monture, from the Six Nations Grand River Reserve, Ontario, served as a nurse overseas in the First World War. She worked at an American hospital base in Vittel, France, caring for wounded soldiers. Monture was the first First Nations woman to work as a trained nurse in Canada.

In recent history, Ms. Randi Susanne Gage, who served as a Vietnam-era Veteran and was an Armour Supply Specialist in the United States Army, has been a constant advocate for the rights and health of Indigenous Veterans and all Veterans in an effort to ensure they receive the supports they deserve. Ms. Gage was the founding secretary/treasurer of the Manitoba Aboriginal Veterans Association on August 8, 1992. In 2008, in Riverton Manitoba, Ms. Gage was invited to help The Riverton & District Friendship Centre develop an event for Indigenous Veterans Day. The event, which started off with twenty people, has now grown to over one hundred attendees every year. In 2011, Ms. Gage began working to have a memorial built for local Riverton Veterans, dedicated to Indigenous Veterans and in remembrance of all Veterans. Through her hard work, this project has now grown to a $1.2 million memorial that is set to be completed in 2017.

Thomas George (Tommy) Prince is Canada’s most decorated Indigenous war veteran and left his home at the Brokenhead First Nation in Scanterbury, Manitoba, to serve in the Second World War and was assigned to the 1st Field Park Company of the Royal Canadian Engineers. By 1942 Prince was a Sergeant with the Canadian Parachute Battalion. Posted to the 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion, he was among a select group of Canadian soldiers sent to train with an American unit to form a specialized assault team. Prince was awarded the Military Medal and the American Silver Star for gallantry in the Second World War, the Korean Medal for his service in the Korean War, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal for his voluntary service and honourably completing 18 months total service, as well as the United Nations Service Medal for his military service in the Korean War. The City of Winnipeg has acknowledged Sergeant Tommy Prince by naming the former North Centennial community center in his honour.

On November 8, we encourage you to take a moment to bow your head in silence to honour the thousands of Indigenous soldiers who fought for this country. This is also an important reminder of who and what we acknowledge when opening our meetings and gatherings with:

“We would like to acknowledge that we are in Treaty No. 1 and homeland of the M├ętis Nation”

For further reading on Indigenous veterans and soldiers please visit:

http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/those-who-served/indigenous-veterans/native-soldiers

Last update: January 29, 2019

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