National Aboriginal Veterans Day today

Tuesday is National Aboriginal Veterans Day in Canada.

First celebrated in 1994

Robert Nahanee, a member of the Squamish First Nation, talks about First Nations contributions to the military during a National Aboriginal Veterans Day ceremony in Vancouver last November. (CBC)

Today marks National Aboriginal Veterans Day in Canada. 

First celebrated in 1994, it is a way for Indigenous people to celebrate, honour and remember their veterans who fought for Canada over the centuries in their own way.

"It means we finally have our own day to pay our tribute, our respects, to remember those people that have fought on our behalf," said Steven Ross, grand chief of the Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association.

Steven Ross, grand chief of the Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association, said there is a separate day for Indigenous veterans because of the different ways they are remembered and celebrated. (

"We remember our veterans who have gone to the spirit world in a different way," Ross explained. "We use the drum, we use our songs."

Ross added the involvement of elders and smudge is part of Indigenous culture and something that fits with most First Nations cultures.

Ross said there is mutual respect between other methods of paying tribute to all fallen soldiers.

Indigenous history in known warfare

There are more than 1,200 Indigenous veterans serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. 

The Indigenous people's participation in warfare is recognized over a 200 year span.

In 2015,ministers Carolyn Bennett of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and Kent Hehr of Veteran Affairs, put out a statement defining Indigenous people as allies in the War of 1812. 

The statement also recognized the contributions of Indigenous veterans in World War I, World War II and the Korean War.

"Their wartime participation over the last century was proportionately amongst the highest of any other group in Canada, and their contributions have shaped the Canada we know," the statement said. 

With files from Brad Bellegarde