Indigenous

Mi'kmaw brothers' military careers continued their family legacy of service

A pair of Mi'kmaw brothers from Pabineau First Nation in New Brunswick who both served more than two decades in the Canadian Armed Forces say they took what they learned from the military into leadership roles in their community. 

'It's important they understand that First Nations have made sacrifices as well,' says Terry Richardson

Jim Richardson, left, and his brother Terry at the monument in Pabineau First Nation honouring veterans and military personnel from their community. (Oscar Baker III/CBC)

A pair of Mi'kmaw brothers from Pabineau First Nation in New Brunswick who both served more than two decades in the Canadian Armed Forces say they took what they learned from the military into leadership roles in their community. 

The pair says their family has a long history of serving in Canada's military so it was important for them to add to that legacy.

Jim Richardson, a current band councillor, said he's proud of his younger brother's career.

"I was older than him but I looked at it with pride," said Richardson, 73. 

Terry Richardson, 57, said "the roots of the military are deep in my family."

"That's one of the reasons I thought it was important to be in the military."

Terry spent 25 years in the Canadian Armed Forces with the North Shore Regiment, joining in 1984 and retiring in 2009. He was deployed in the Gulf War in 1991 as a nuclear biological chemical defence technician, to Bosnia in 1998 and for two tours in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008.

Terry Richardson, centre, served two tours of Afghanistan during his 25-year career with the army. He's pictured with two soldiers from Afghanistan. (Terry Richardson/Facebook)

He said his time in the military taught him valuable skills like negotiation, public speaking and problem solving.

"I fought for the rights of other individuals in a lot of those countries and I returned to Canada and now I'm fighting for the rights of our people," he said.

In 2020, Terry Richardson was elected chief of Pabineau First Nation and said he continues to fight for economic prosperity for the Mi'kmaq, in particular when it comes to tax sharing agreements with the provincial government.

He said he's still trying to negotiate a better future for his community and he hopes Canadians remember Mi'kmaq have fought in every Canadian theatre of war. 

"It's important they understand that First Nations have made sacrifices as well," said Terry Richardson.

The Richardson brothers' uncles: James Richardson served in the Korean War and Gilbert Richardson served in the Second World War. (Submitted by Terry Richardson)

He grew up on stories of his uncles' heroism: Gilbert Richardson served in the Second World War and James Richardson served in the Korean War.

Now, Terry's son Matthew is serving in the Armed Forces.

"Making the world a better place is part of who we are as Indigenous people," said Terry. 

Terry's older brother Jim Richardson said he signed up with the Armed Forces because of his great-uncle Gilbert Patles, who served in both World Wars. Jim went on to serve for 22 years with the air force at the National Defence Headquarters and in Europe. 

Terry Richardson says his community of Pabineau First Nation has a rich history of serving in the military. He said they have 350 members and each one has a connection to someone who served or is currently serving. (Submitted by Terry Richardson)

Jim said the military helped mature him and gave him a global perspective. He said his proudest moment was reaching the rank of major because it marked him as a leader. 

"You earn respect by how you treat people and the confidence that people have in you," he said.

"You may be a major or whatever but you don't gain respect by that rank, you gain respect by who you are and how you treat people."

He said the military gave him an action-oriented mindset, a solutions-based outlook and problem solving skills that help him in his role as band councillor. Jim said his brother, Terry, asked him to run for council because of his business acumen and he now holds the economic development file.

Jim Richardson said he remembers a time when Indigenous veterans returning from conflict zones didn't get the same benefits as their non-Indigenous peers. He would like to see programming to ensure Indigenous veterans are aware of all the benefits available to them. 

Richardson said he's seen the country make immense changes and he said he hopes things continue to improve because veterans served "for a better Canada and a better world and to make a difference."

Pabineau First Nation will hold Remembrance Day celebrations at noon where both brothers will speak. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Oscar Baker III is a Black and Mi’kmaw reporter from Elsipogtog First Nation. He is the Atlantic region reporter for CBC Indigenous. He is a proud father and you can follow his work @oggycane4lyfe

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