Saskatchewan

Oldest Sask. female Indigenous veteran remembers time in WWII

It was 1944 when a young, vibrant and energetic Virginia Pechawis decided to leave her reserve and join the army. A member of the Mistawasis First Nation, Pechawis is the oldest living female First Nations veteran in Saskatchewan.

Virginia Pechawis, now 90, signed up for the Canadian Army in 1944

Virginia Pechawis, Saskatchewan's oldest female First Nations veteran, lays a wreath at a Remembrance Day service. (Submitted by Lorraine Pechawis)

It was 1944 when a young, vibrant and energetic Virginia Pechawis decided to leave her reserve and join the army.

A member of the Mistawasis First Nation, Pechawis is the oldest living female First Nations veteran in Saskatchewan.

With Canada in the midst of the Second World War, the then-18-year-old made the trek to Prince Albert, Sask., some 80 kilometres away from her First Nation, to a Canadian Army office.

"It was a good chance for me to get away from the reserve," she said.

Pechawis, who had never left the reserve before enlisting in the army, said her first destination was Regina, where she spent little time before being sent to Quebec City.

"I stayed there for a while and really got to like that place," she said.

Following her 18 months in the army, Pechawis worked on a ship out of Quebec that transported lumber from Canada to the United States and back again.  

Virginia Pechawis, front centre, is Saskatchewan's oldest living female First Nations veteran. (Submitted by Lorraine Pechawis)

Upon returning to Saskatchewan, Pechawis received a parcel of land for her time served in the army.

For many First Nations people who enlisted in the army during the Second World War and the Korean War, a parcel of land was promised for their contribution to Canada. The issue for many First Nations veterans was the location of the land.

"They gave us land that was ours in the first place," Pechawis said.

At 90 years old, Pechawis has watched the world around her evolve. When it comes to her personal belief about living a long life, she has this piece of advice: "Think young; don't think you're old!"

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