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Indigenous Veterans Day gathering at Batoche, Sask., honours those who sacrificed

On Indigenous Veterans Day, members from Métis National Council, First Nations and Métis Nation–Saskatchewan gathered at Batoche to honour Indigenous veterans and their sacrifices.

Day remembers those who fought for self-determination and self-governance, says Métis Nation–Sask president

A woman wears a poppy in her hair during a ceremony on Aboriginal Veterans Day in Vancouver, British Columbia on Friday, November 8, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Members from Métis National Council, First Nations and Métis Nation–Saskatchewan gathered Monday at Batoche, some 89 kilometers north-east of Saskatoon, to honour Indigenous veterans.

"This place we are at, Batoche, is a very historic place and very important. When we look at Indigenous people, Métis, First Nations and Inuit that have gone to fight battles for freedom. It took courage and they had courage," Métis Nation–Saskatchewan president Glen McCallum said at the Indigenous Veterans Day event. 

"As we begin to move forward, we have work to do in regards to mending the wounds that have been created by the lack of inclusion by federal and provincial governments."

Wreaths woven with poppy flowers were presented by the members to honour the veterans at Batoche National Métis Veterans' Memorial Monument, which is engraved in honour of all Métis veterans. They observed Indigenous Veterans Day with prayers by elders. 

Métis Nation-Saskatchewan president Glen McCallum said the day is about remembering the people who went to battle for freedom, self-determination and self-governance. (Submitted by Métis Nation-Saskatchewan)

A bagpipe ceremony was followed by lighting the flame that McCallum said is a way to connect with "brothers and sisters on their journey to the spirit world."

He said the fire is kept ablaze in remembrance for four days. 

"We remember some people didn't come home. We will continue to celebrate and remember. We will never forget the people that went to battle for freedom, self-determination and self-governance," McCallum said.

Mervin 'Tex' Bouvier, representative for northern region 3, said that while they grieve the lives that were lost to their families and communities, they celebrate the day. 

"We celebrate today because the lives of the Indigenous men and women who had dedicated their lives to this land we call Canada, are not forgotten," Bouvier said at the ceremony.

"We thank our veterans for their sacrifices to their families, for their love and pride, to their friends for compassion, to their communities for their support."

Family members highlighted the importance of continuing to share the stories of Métis veterans, not only to educate the youth but to enshrine hope in communities.

Chief Warrant Officer Albert Boucher said the role as stewards of land is important and should be remembered as people are woven into the fabric of those histories. 

"For the fallen, we have places to go and remember them, memorials, cenotaphs. Carved into the stone and steel of those memorials are the names, deeds and places that they have fought," Boucher said.

"But for the wounded, it's carved into their bodies, minds and spirits. Each morning they rise to face the challenge of the day with what the war has left them. They are the embodiment of sacrifice and we must honour them."

He said the nation bears the duty to honour the sacrifices of Indigenous veterans.

In Regina, the Royal United Services Institute of Regina, a local organization of civilians and retired military personnel, dedicated memorial pedestals saluting Canada's military history.

The plaques summarizing the stories of Canada's Indigenous veterans have been dedicated at the Regina Cenotaph in Victoria Park. 

"Canadians know that remembrance is about saluting those who fell in Canada's service, but we're not sure they actually know the circumstance of what they're supposed to be remembering," retired army major Brad Hrycyna, the president of the group, said in a news release.

"These pedestals are going to be a tool that will help them to understand the sacrifices that servicemen and women have made for our country."

WATCH | Indigenous war veterans honoured at two ceremonies in Regina 

Indigenous war veterans honoured at two ceremonies in Regina on November 8

1 year ago
Duration 1:32
A plaque was unveiled at the Victoria Park Cenotaph in Regina honouring Indigenous war veterans

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pratyush Dayal covers climate change, immigration and race and gender issues among general news for CBC News in Saskatchewan. He has previously written for the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun, and the Tyee. He holds a master's degree in journalism from UBC and can be reached at pratyush.dayal@cbc.ca

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