November 8th is Aboriginal Veterans Day which was established in Manitoba in 1994. Renamed National Aboriginal Veterans Day, it is now recognized in other provinces and is celebrated annually. It is a day to recognize and acknowledge the many contributions and sacrifices of Aboriginals not only to Canada’s war efforts,but also to its peacekeeping reputation. An estimated 12,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit soldiers contributed to the two world wars and there are many who are still serving to this day.
My great uncle Arthur Boudreau served in the Canadian Army. I remember him when I was child, his goofy smile, always joking and laughing. He was born in Camrose Alberta. He was one of the first known Indigenous triplets to be born in Alberta in 1918. In 1942, he traveled with the Canadian Army to Kingston, Jamaica, where he was stationed for 28 months as a guard in a German concentration camp. He was equipped with a rifle, bayonet and pistol, and he never had anything to fear. They were so far from the battle zones, and the prisoners never threatened their captors, nor did they try to escape. As the only Indigenous person in camp, he had no one to converse in Cree, something he missed. His brother also served in the forces but was stationed elsewhere. Arthur returned to Canada in 1944, back to Vermilion,AB where his family lived on a road allowance. (This information was recorded by Terry Lusty and submitted for publication to NNN in Edmonton, AB in 1993). These were not stories that were shared in my family and I did not learn about Uncle Archie’s service till I found the article in my Kokum’s photo album when I was older.
In October, Sergeant Tommy Prince (1915-1977) was honoured by Canada Post when they unveiled a new stamp with his image. He was a member of 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry at Kapyong, and was one of the most decorated Aboriginal soldiers in Canada. He was born on St. Peter’s Reserve, Manitoba, into the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation and later attended residential school. He returned home after the Second World War to face stark racism and discrimination. As an Indigenous person he did not have the right to vote in federal elections. He also did not have access to many of the generous benefits afforded to white veterans.To speak for the rights of his people, Prince took on the role of Vice-President of the Manitoba Indian Association. A spokesperson for the group, he testified before a special parliamentary committee in 1947, where he advocated for the abolition of the Indian Act and respecting existing treaties. He re-enlisted in 1950 at the start of the Korean War. Prince faced illness and poverty later in life, and died at age 62 at the Deer Lodge Centre in Winnipeg in 1977.
In recent years there has been a surge of handmade beaded poppies to honour our Indigenous soldiers. Many artists create beaded poppies and donate the proceeds to the Indigenous Veteran Society or an Indigenous Veteran serving organization. You can find these beautiful works within Calgary through various Indigenous vendors and businesses, such as Moonstone Creations.
Events in Calgary
Indigenous Veterans Day Ceremony 2022
Join The Military Museums Foundation and the Glenbow Museums for an afternoon commemorating Canada’s Indigenous Veterans.
Hosted by The Military Museums Foundation
Tue, 8 November 2022, 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM MST
Reserve your spot on Eventbrite:
Government of Canada : Indigenous Veterans
Aboriginal Veterans Society of Alberta
The Last Post Fund- in the spirit of reconciliation, to add name markers to unmarked graves and add traditional names to markers
Aboriginal Veterans Tribute Honour list
Remembering and Honouring Indigenous War Heroes: World War 1 and 2