This remembrance day, let us not forget to pay tribute to First Nation veterans and current troops overseas by observing their military contributions in past wars.
The following information has been complied from Veterans Affairs Canada website: Aboriginal War Efforts.
First Nations have been an integral part to Canada’s military forces overseas and at home, sacrificing their lifestyle and their lives in the name of Freedom and Peace. It is estimated that approximately 1 in 3 First Nations people enlisted in the First World War, despite conscription that prohibited them from enlisting. Many First Nations struggled with the challenges of racial prejudice, as well as overcoming language and cultural barriers while undergoing difficult training regimes all soldiers had to endure. Although many reasons for enlisting were similar to non-native soldiers, some natives had additional cultural motives for enlisting, such as reconnecting their spirit with their ancestor warriors, and to assume a more active, masculine role than what they could provide for their families on reserves.
In WWI, WWII, and the Korean War, Canadian First Nations were renowned for their excellent skills in infiltrating into enemy territory and sharp shooting; many became decorated war veterans for their skills and bravery. Records claim that 7000 Aboriginal Canadians enlisted in all three wars, although Aboriginal Veteran groups estimate this number is significantly higher due to records not including Inuit, Metis, and non-status Aboriginals in the statistics.
In contrast to WWI, WWII’s conscription enforced all Canadian citizens to enlist in the war. It was discovered, nonetheless, that the majority of Aboriginal Canadians already voluntarily enlisted, embracing the military traditions of their fathers and brothers. The Korean War saw less Canadian Forces participants than in the previous wars, however 26000 Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Canadians fought for South Korea’s freedom, a participation rate only surpassed by the USA and UK.
Remember to take a moment this Remembrance Day, November 11th to honour all past and current military personnel.
For more information about Aboriginal War Efforts, visit Veterans Affairs Canada.
You can also download a comprehensive PDF by VAC: A Commemorative History of Aboriginal People in the Canadian Military
– Tara U. MOA work study student.