Nova Scotia

Women start new tradition to honour Eskasoni's veterans

Two Eskasoni women were inspired by the recognition of veterans in Millbrook First Nation and decided to celebrate their own veterans.

'We want our children to remember them, too'

Rosie Basque and Mary Gould stand next to one of the banners they designed for Remembrance Day. The banners feature 44 Eskasoni veterans. (Brittany Wentzell/CBC)

Eskasoni First Nation has a new Remembrance Day tradition.

Banners with photos of local veterans line the street of the main road.

Rosie Basque and Mary Gould have been working on the project since July. Both are volunteers in Eskasoni's Remembrance Day events.

After seeing banners in Millbrook First Nation last year, they knew they wanted their veterans to get the same recognition.

"Eskasoni is the Mi'kmaq's largest reserve so I thought it was a great idea," said Basque.

Basque and Gould designed the banners. Each one includes the word sma'knis — meaning veteran in Mi'kmaq — and includes where the veteran served.

One of the 44 banners that line the main road through Eskasoni. (Brittany Wentzell/CBC)

Gould's father, Roddie Stevens, served in the Second World War.

Basque's husband, Wilfred Basque, was in the U.S. Marine Corps and fought in Vietnam. Several members highlighted on the banners served in American forces.

So far, the reaction has been nothing but positive, Many in the community are asking that the banners be left up beyond Nov. 11.

"[Families of veterans] just couldn't believe that we did it and they were thanking us," said Gould. "Some people said, 'It brought tears to my eyes.'"

Basque said one of the biggest challenges in the project was obtaining photos. In some cases, families only had a single photo of a veteran. 

Remembering challenges in conflicts and at home

The women placed each banner as close to living relatives as they could. Sometimes they placed the banner next to the former residence of a veteran. 

Basque and Gould also had a booklet designed for the Remembrance Day service in Eskasoni but they saved several copies to give to the community's schools.

"We want our children to remember them, too," said Gould. 

Basque believes it's important not just to remember the sacrifices veterans made on the battlefield but also the challenges Indigenous armed forces members faced when they returned home.

"Our veterans had a hard time because they weren't even allowed to vote … there was a lot of obstacles they faced," she said.

The booklet includes the poem In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, translated into Mi'kmaq.

It also includes a poem by Basque's husband, who died 21 years ago. The poem is titled Sma'knis.

Rosie Basque's husband, Wilfred Basque, was a marine and served in Vietnam. (Brittany Wentzell/CBC)

"I'm sure he's looking down and feeling really proud, just like the rest of these men," said Basque.

The project cost $12,000 and was sponsored by Eskasoni's chief and council.

In all, the women put up 44 banners, which included all of the photos they were able to get. Gould and Basque said they plan to expand the project next year.

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About the Author

Brittany Wentzell

Current Affairs Reporter/Editor

Brittany Wentzell is based in Sydney, N.S., as a reporter for Information Morning Cape Breton. She has covered a wide range of issues including education, forestry and municipal government. Story ideas? Send them to brittany.wentzell@cbc.ca