Through every major war, there have always been Indigenous members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Tuesday, November 8th marks Indigenous Veterans Day. It was first recognized in Manitoba in 1994 and shortly thereafter the holiday was recognized by BC.
It is a day to recognize the men and women from First Nations across Canada who have served their country, a great many paying the ultimate sacrifice.
According to Veterans Affairs Canada, in the First World War, over 4,000 Indigenous men fought on behalf of Canada. The Head of the Lake Band, whose land is located near Vernon BC, saw every man between 20 and 35 years of age enlist.
Today is Indigenous Veterans' Day and we’re honouring the important contributions Indigenous Peoples have made in their service with the Canadian military.
Indigenous Peoples continue to proudly serve in operations at home and around the world. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/jqRrMoFMcF
— Canadian Armed Forces (@CanadianForces) November 8, 2022
In the Second World War more than 3,000 Indigenous men put their lives on the line in the name of freedom. Soldiers who came from First Nations were often some of their regiment’s best scouts and snipers.
British Columbian Indigenous communities were even honoured by the Crown following the war effort with the British Empire Medal to acknowledge their contributions on the home front.
“Today, we remember soldiers like Dominic ‘Dick’ Patrick, who was one among 15 Sai’kuz soldiers who volunteered for service in the Second World War,” said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.
“He joined at least 3,000 First Nations members, including 72 women, who enlisted for duty. Patrick’s bravery at a battle in the village of Moerbrugge earned him the Military Medal for gallant and distinguished conduct.”
“Despite their service and valour, many Indigenous veterans, including Patrick, returned home to face continued prejudice and discrimination.”
“Patrick returned home to British Columbia, where he was refused restaurant service because he was Indigenous. That year, he was imprisoned 11 times for returning to that restaurant and repeatedly demanding fair and equal treatment. He is remembered by his family and community for his courage in fighting for Indigenous rights back home.”
“On this sombre day, we remember those who never came home. We also remember those who returned home forever changed by their service. Lest we forget.”
Today, there are more than 2,700 Indigenous members of the CAF. They make up 4% of the total active servicemen and servicewomen.
In contrast, the total Indigenous population of Canada was estimated at 3% by Statistics Canada in 2021.