Around the Thompson community was celebrated the annual remembrance day for Indigenous Veterans, remembering those who were in the past forgotten and acknowledging them as an equal to other fellow veterans who fought along side each other in past wars.
Acts of remembrance are important. They pay tribute to a history that can potentially be lost if not properly commemorated.
Thompson paid the due respect in both the R.D. Parker Collegiate high school and the Royal Canadian Legion. At 5:20PM November 8 the unveiling of a newly painted mural was presented, dedicated to the Indigenous soldiers who fought in both the First and Second World War.
In the Morning of this Annual Celebration nearing 10:20, Classmates and teachers alike gathered in the school gymnasium to revisit the ancestral past with flags waving and tribal percussion.
Stories were relived from soldiers who fought on the front lines such as Francis Pegahmagabow; one of Canada’s most decorated Indigenous soldiers, being awarded the Military Medal with two bars during the First World War.
Tommy Prince; serving as a reconnaissance expert in the Devil’s Brigade, posed as a local farmer to repair a severed communications wire in full view of enemy troops. He is also one of Canada’s most decorated Indigenous soldiers.
“The determined volunteers were often forced to overcome many challenges to serve in uniform” Stated the R.D. School Principle “From learning a new language, adapting into multicultural differences to having to travel great distances just to enlist”
This statement stands true as their dedication to preserving our democracy is a testament to their unwavering commitment, serving from Canada to the rest of the World. Indigenous veterans had an integral part of the Canadian Military.
In World War 1 (WW1) nearly 4,000 indigenous men joined the Canadian Expedition Force, whereas the following war; World War II (WWII) more then 3,000 indigenous men enlisted in the Canadian Military given high rank positions such as snipers, scouts and guards.
The Indigenous also served in the Korian and Persian Gulf War, where the First Nations tribes made up a significant amount of the gathered army. The Gulf war of 1990-1991 gave the tribal representatives a variety of roles such as the Special Force and the Air Force.
Yet coming back was made extra difficult on a lot of the Indigenous as they were denied all their Veteran benefits and treated in many ways unfairly. But through this difficulty made way for the beginning of change. A new dynamic would begin to take shift and eventually pull away racism to the culture that has shaped to this day.
Much of this this being made aware by Councillor Joyce Mclvor who presented in her given speech at the Mural Unveiling; “Now, Indigenous veteran organizations have done a lot of work to restore the memories of the Indigenous and acknowledge their remarkable skills and services contributed by the Indigenous people”
Chief Angela Levasseur also made mention how far we as multicultural people have come honoring one another with the respect due, instead of placing one race above another, saying that “Many of our First Nation Veterans have since been acknowledged and decorated for their contribution during times of conflict”
There was a time when certain ethnicities were looked down on, but represented here in Thompson this past Wednesday, November the 8th was that we live in a modern World now where we make a point to remember all our veterans, each and every one equally.
National Indigenous Veteran's Day does not make less of any race, neither more, rather to celebrate a point that we are not the men and women of the past, eager to right past wrongs. Today we don’t remember the way we as people once were, but rather the freedom fought for. Today we honor you!
~Matthias J. Johnson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Thompson Citizen. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.