November 8th marks National Aboriginal Veterans Day to honour and remember First Nation veterans who fought for Canada over the centuries.
Though the day is not officially recognized by the federal government, celebrations continue to grow in scope across the country ever since it was the day was inaugurated by Winnipeg’s city council in 1994.
Keenan Keeshig has had multiple family members serve in the war, most notably his uncle Tecumseh who allied with British forces during the War of 1812. He says this day is important in recognizing the achievements of the Indigenous community to inspire a younger generation.
“It’s really giving youth a lot of confidence knowing that their ancestors were actually really brave men back then and were really skilled warriors, and that changed a lot of the history. Now that they are able to see that they can find pride in that they can find pride in themselves.”
Veterans Affairs Canada says more than 7,000 Aboriginal people served in the First and Second World War, as well as Korea, and in 2015, ministers Kent Hehr of Veteran Affairs and Carolyn Bennett of Indigenous and Northern Affairs put out a statement recognizing the contributions of Aboriginal Veterans in these wars.
Keeshig says official recognition from the government is the next step.
“After the war was over we were pretty much set aside. They basically used us for what they needed and then we’re right back to not being viewed as even members of the public. It was hard times so now it’s getting a lot better that it’s being recognized and you feel that these men should be honoured in that way so nothing is forgotten.”
There are more than 1,200 veterans serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.