Thunder Bay, ON – Today the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) would like to honour National Indigenous Veteran’s Day, a day of remembrance and commemoration of the many contributions of Indigenous Veterans. We also celebrate and honour all Indigenous women who served in the military in numerous roles including as leaders, warriors, healers, and protectors.
This day was first commemorated in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1994 to ensure that Indigenous men and women Veterans were finally recognized for their contributions to WWI, WWII, and the Korean War serving Canada honourably and risking their lives defending shared values of peace, freedom, and democracy. In total over 12,000 Indigenous men and women volunteered to serve in these wars.
Indigenous people were instrumental in the victories of the WWI and WWII, as code breakers and code talkers using their Indigenous languages and as snipers and scouts. Indigenous women also served as nurses, mechanics and factory workers that supplied the military with supplies. Additionally, Indigenous peoples in Canada contributed by giving up their land to be used as airports, rifle ranges, and defence bases.
It is important to acknowledge the disenfranchisement that Indigenous Veterans experienced because of joining the military, notably losing their Indian Status, and belonging to their respective Nations. Although they had fought in the war as equals, they did not receive the same supports as non-Indigenous Veterans which included land, education, and financial support. When they returned home, they discovered they had unequal access to Veterans benefits. So, today we celebrate these “Forgotten Soldiers” who stood up to protect our rights, freedoms, and liberties by sacrificing their own.
“I am deeply indebted to those Indigenous women and men who selflessly gave their lives in service of others. Each day our hearts need to be reminded of the importance of their roles in building a Canada that is a prosperous and free Turtle Island. We also need to remind all Canadians that their sacrifice cannot be diluted or lessened. Their bravery and resilience must be equitably recognized as we also honour all Canadians who served in all conflicts on Remembrance Day, November 11th.” stated Cora McGuire-Cyrette, Executive Director, ONWA
In recognition of National Indigenous Veteran’s Day, the Indigenous beaded poppy is worn with love and respect to honour all Indigenous people who have served this country. It carries cultural significance and is representative of the sacrifices Indigenous Veterans made for their country, sacrifices that continue today for some Indigenous Veterans.
For more information:
Andre Morriseau, Communications Manager
Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA)