November 8, 2022, will mark the 28th annual Aboriginal Veterans Day.
Indigenous people have served in the military for 200 years and were known to be excellent scouts and marksmen. They have also been widely recognized as “code talkers,” translating sensitive intel into Cree to avoid interception by opposing forces.
Despite this service, Indigenous veterans were historically not offered the same support and resources that were provided to non-Indigenous veterans, and were further stripped of their Indian status and all rights that went along with that, including band membership. Further compounding this discrimination, Indigenous veterans and their families were not permitted to lay wreaths or have their own formed guards on Remembrance Day. Aboriginal Veterans Day was a response to this exclusionary action; beginning in Manitoba in 1993, it was as an opportunity for Indigenous veterans, and their families and communities, to mourn and remember as they wished.
Although these discriminatory policies towards Indigenous veterans have been reversed or amended in recent decades, Aboriginal Veterans Day continued and is now observed nationwide in acknowledgement of the long-fought battle for recognition of Indigenous veterans’ very important contributions to the Canadian military.
The City will lay a wreath at the cenotaph out front of City Hall on November 8. The new mayor, Patrick Johnstone, will represent New Westminster at a ceremony being held in Vancouver.
The following ceremonies are open to the public:
- Squamish Nation Annual Veteran Powwow
November 5-6, 12:00 pm
Chief Joe Mathias Centre, 100 Capilano Rd, West Vancouver
- National Aboriginal Veterans Day
Nov. 8, 10:00 am
Victory Square Cenotaph, East Cambie & Hastings St, Vancouver
To learn more about the origins of Aboriginal Veterans Day and Indigenous people in the military, visit the following websites:
- Government of Canada: Indigenous Veterans
- Government of Canada: A Commemorative History of Aboriginal People in the Canadian Military
- The Canadian Encyclopedia: Cree Code Talkers
- Active History: Indigenous Veterans, the Indian Act, and the Origins of National Aboriginal Veterans Day
- News, CBC News Hamilton: Oldest living veteran from Six Nations, Ont., is 1st to receive USS Arizona Medal of Freedom
- News, Cherokee Phoenix: Tribe honours 100-year-old WWII female veteran