By: Kimiya Shokoohi, The StarPhoenix

For Shirley Henderson, some of the most meaningful moments around Remembrance Day happen away from the big crowds and events.

Those intimate moments offer connections for some Indigenous veterans who have contributed to Canadian military efforts across the globe over the years.

“They visit one another, and they talk and they joke about different things that happened when they were in the war,” Henderson said.

On Wednesday, as part of National Indigenous Veterans Day, thousands of veterans gathered across the country. The Prince Albert Grand Council is set to recognize the contributions of its veterans in a smaller setting on Friday, with around 100 participants.

“The veterans felt there was too many people at the other veterans’ events and they were being pushed around in the event,” Henderson said.

Many Indigenous veterans “were feeling left out and further by the events that were taking place because they weren’t recognized,” she said.

She has been organizing the more intimate ceremony for the last 15 years, since veterans began noting that the larger scale ceremonies were less personal and less likely to offer nuanced recognition.

In recent years, some recognition for the service of Indigenous veterans has come in the form of the beaded poppy. The intricate Indigenous rendition showcases the popular Indigenous craft of beading.

Friday’s annual ceremony will take place at PAGC Urban Services in downtown Prince Albert. The event will include prayer, a grand entry of dignitaries and veterans, a Remembrance Day message, a reading of the poem In Flanders Fields, the laying of six wreaths, and an ode by trumpet.

Indigenous people have been part of Canada’s military history dating back to the War of 1812, when it’s estimated more than 10,000 First Nations people fought. Thousands more — of First Nations, Metis and Inuit ancestry — served in the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War, and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Indigenous military personnel have also served within the country as part of the Canadian Rangers, a group of army reservists active in the North and remote areas, using their insights to help monitor the coastlines and assist in local rescue operations.

Many Indigenous people who have served in the Canadian military had to overcome challenges and barriers, including learning a new language, racism, adapting to a different culture and travelling great distances to enlist.

In a celebration of National Indigenous Veterans Day on Wednesday, the City of Saskatoon noted that some Indigenous people hoped their wartime service and sacrifice would increase their rights in Canadian society — but the treatment of veterans returning to civilian life was not equal.

Despite serving on the front lines together, Indigenous veterans were often left behind compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts.