Lest we forget
November 11, 2017 12:00 PM   Subscribe

For Remembrance Day: Although not subject to conscription, many Aboriginal men and women signed up to fight for Canada in the World Wars. Some escaped from the horrors of residential schools to the horrors of the battlefield. Although many experienced equal treatment on the front, upon return they were denied the same benefits and recognition as their non-Aboriginal comrades. Photographer Zehra Rizvi interviews three surviving Aboriginal WWII veterans (and the late Henry Beaudry, who died last year at 95).

Beaudry is one of the veterans featured in Forgotten Warriors, a documentary by Cree/Métis filmmaker Loretta Todd that highlights the achievements of Aboriginal veterans and their unequal treatment by the Canadian government.

A Heritage Minute about Sergeant Tommy Prince, Canada's most decorated Aboriginal war veteran.

National Aboriginal Veterans Day is observed across Canada on Nov. 8.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl (5 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
posted by Talez at 1:40 PM on November 11 [4 favorites]

Thank you for acknowledging this. I don't know that I could watch these; I don't know if I'm being a wimp or if it's because I've had to bear witness to so much racially-charged cognitive dissonance in North America already, but I can already tell watching these will only raise my blood pressure, incite nausea, and leave me hating the world even more. I'm already an ethnic mixed-race freak stranded in white-majority North America, and I can't always take in many various ways in which the West has needed to erase the value of the Indian in the push back against globally-relevant injustices.

Thank you again for acknowledging this with relevance to Canada's participation in racism on what is sometimes experienced by others as a typically more-forcefeeding-whitewashed-versions-of-history occasion. My hangups aside, thank you too to the veterans who are not themselves responsible for how the mechanisms of history have worked. We owe it to the nature of these sacrifices to develop a society that does better. ??
posted by human ecologist at 1:49 PM on November 11 [1 favorite]

Thank you for sharing this.
posted by xarnop at 1:51 PM on November 11 [1 favorite]

Some of the links about WWI mention that many Indigenous soldiers operated as snipers or scouts, because they were able to draw upon traditional hunting and military skills.

I only see one line about Francis Pegahmagabow on the Indigenous Veterans page, which doesn't really do him justice. He's considered the best sniper of WWI, credited with 378 German kills and capturing 300+ more. He was awarded the Military Medal three times.

Despite his remarkable wartime record he faced many the same challenges as all Indigenous veterans upon returning home: "On his return he was required to bear arms of a different nature. His fight was to improve the living conditions of the Indians of Canada." He helped found the Brotherhood of Canadian Indians, the first national Aboriginal organization, and served a term as supreme chief of the National Indian Government.

The headquarters of the 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden was renamed in honour of him, but not until 2006 — more than 90 years after the war, and more than 50 years after his death.
posted by Kabanos at 2:56 PM on November 11 [8 favorites]

From last year, this group if Coal Harbour highschool students stitched a banner with seal skin poppies commemorating 12,000 First Nations vets.
posted by chapps at 9:50 PM on November 11 [1 favorite]

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