Toronto, 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.
As we reflect, we remember and honour those who lost their lives, and those whose lives were forever changed.
This day was first commemorated in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1994 to ensure that Indigenous Veterans were finally recognized for their contributions to WWI, WWII, and the Korean War. We honour the Indigenous veterans who served Canada honourably and risked their lives defending shared values of peace, harmony, and freedom.
Today, we honour Indigenous Veterans through the Indigenous beaded poppy, which 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.
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 allowing their land to be used as airports, rifle ranges, and defence bases. However, despite these services and sacrifices, Indigenous veterans have historically been overlooked and underappreciated by mainstream Canadian society.
It is important to acknowledge the disenfranchisement that Indigenous Veterans experienced. As they were exempt from conscription, Indigenous veterans of the First and Second World Wars volunteered to serve, while giving up their Indigenous status. Many Indigenous soldiers were also denied the same benefits as other returning veterans, while their reserve land was sold away. Although they had fought in the war as equals, they did not receive the same supports as non-Indigenous Veterans. So, today we celebrate these “Forgotten Soldiers” along with the Soldiers today, who stand up to protect rights, freedoms, and liberties by sacrificing their own.
That’s why it is critical that we recognize and remember Indigenous veterans, including Charlotte Edith Anderson Montoure, who was the first Indigenous woman to become a registered nurse in Canada, and the first Indigenous woman to gain the right to vote in a Canadian federal election. She was also the first Indigenous woman from Canada to serve in the United States military. She had to study in the US because most Canadian nursing programs excluded Indigenous women, and the Indian Act meant she would lose her Indian status if she attended post-secondary school.
Ms. Montoure’s story is just one of a plethora of Indigenous veterans, and we acknowledge and thank her and all other Indigenous veterans for their service and sacrifices. As an Indigenous women’s organization, we are dedicated to uplifting and empowering Indigenous women leaders (including Indigenous women like Ms. Montoure) and working to ensure Indigenous women and their families are safe now and for future generations.
“We need to be thankful each and everyday to those Indigenous women and men who selflessly gave, and continue to give, their lives in the service of others. We also need to be mindful of tensions in the world at this very moment. My heart is heavy with the hope that the Creator will bless our world with peace and remind all peoples that the 7 Grandfather Teachings are guidance for us all.” – Cora McGuire-Cyrette, Chief Executive Officer, ONWA
For more information and media inquiries, contact:
Andre Morriseau, Communications Manager
Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) Email: email@example.com