Remembering the contributions of Indigenous veterans

This week we're looking at the ways Indigenous soldiers contributed to war efforts across the globe. With stories of those who fought, the secrets they kept and what happened after they came home.
Chester Nez was one of the original Navajo code talkers. (Felicia Fonseca/AP)
Listen to the full episode50:20

This week we're looking at the ways Indigenous soldiers contributed to war efforts across the globe. With stories of those who fought, the secrets they kept and what happened after they came home. 

Chester Nez was one of the original 29 Navajo men recruited by the United States Marine Corps during World War II for a top secret mission. They were called Code Talkers, tasked with developing an unbreakable code based on the complex syntax and sounds of the Navajo language. Stephanie Cram headed to Tejeres, New Mexico to meet Chester's grandson Latham Nez and Judith Avila, who co-wrote a book with Chester about his time as a code talker. 

Scott Sheffield is a history professor at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, British Columbia. For over two decades, his work has focused on Indigenous peoples' participation in the Canadian military. He says their contributions are sometimes forgotten and misunderstood.

John McDonald is Métis and served in Canada's military for 38 years. He later became president of the Aboriginal Veterans Society of Alberta before his recent retirement. At 85, McDonald saw many Indigenous people move through the military as both peers and people he mentored. Kyle Muzyka caught up with him in Edmonton.

Every year, Remembrance Day means a lot to Chantell Burns. Her grandfather, Albert Noname, was originally from Piapot First Nation, Saskatchewan. But at the age of 19 he enlisted in the army, and fought in World War II. Her grandfather was very proud of his time in the army, but when he came home after the war, Noname faced discrimination. 

During the First World War many Indigenous men were quick to leave their reserves and join the battle in France. Many never made it back home. One Anishinaabe soldier from northwestern Ontario fought and died at Vimy Ridge, where he's buried today. Generations after he fell in battle, one of his descendants made the long journey to the site to deliver a special gift. Michael Dick shares his special feature, Finding Private Thomas Godchere.

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