(Photo credit: Jenna Smith)
November 8 is National Indigenous Veterans Day, and Metis Nation Saskatchewan hosted an Indigenous Veterans Day Ceremony at Batoche Festival Grounds this morning to honour Indigenous Veterans Canada-wide.
It’s estimated that over 12,000 Indigenous People served in the great wars of the twentieth century, and according to Veteran Affairs Canada. Approximately 500 died.
Many Indigenous men and women brought valuable skills to the table when they joined the military such as patience, stealth, and marksmanship. Hunting also helped many Indigenous soldiers become successful snipers and reconnaissance scouts.
“They faced a lot of diversity because of trauma and a lot of trauma is affected by the person that comes home because they saw death. They saw blood, they saw a lot of different things that happened in the war, and a lot of times people don’t recognize that,” explained MN-S Veterans Minister Mervin “Tex” Bouvier.
Many of the Indigenous Veterans that came back home after war were left to deal with trauma on their own, as there weren’t many services provided to Indigenous veterans to help with trauma. Bouvier made it a point to say that the trauma still goes on and things can’t change until Metis veterans become more accepted and recognized.
“Make sure women are recognized, women are the most important thing, they should be recognized as veterans is they’re involved,” said Bouvier.
Throughout the ceremony female Indigenous veterans were mentioned multiple times, emphasizing that they deserve just as much praise as male veterans. Women that stayed home during the war also played a big part as they were left to take care of children and run the house alone.
MN-S Elder and Veteran Josie Searson from Cumberland House is one of those brave women that deserve to be honored today. In the 1960’s, right after graduating high school, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do and decided to enlist in the military. She served as a private in the Canadian Armed Forces and was stationed in northern Quebec.
“I can say that I feel gratitude towards the Metis Nation because it’s only since I’ve been involved for a number of years now with the Metis Nation that I’ve begun to feel some pride in having served in the Armed Forces,” said Searson.
Metis, First Nation, and Inuit veterans have not received much recognition for their service up until recent years.
The MN-S Indigenous Veterans Ceremony in Batoche wrapped up with wreath laying and a performance done by drummers from One Arrow First Nation.