On November 8, Canadians pay tribute to the First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples who have served Canada in times of war and peace for more than 200 years, from the War of 1812 to both World Wars to Afghanistan, and who continue to serve.
National Aboriginal Veterans Day, as it was then called, was first observed in Winnipeg on November 8, 1994. It has since spread nationwide and is now known as Indigenous Veterans Day. There are some 23,000 Indigenous Veterans, and more than 2,700 Indigenous members currently serve in Canada’s military forces.
From Discrimination to Recognition
Thousands of Indigenous people proudly served in uniform during the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War. Many Indigenous communities also contributed to our country’s war efforts in other ways.
However, despite their service at home and sacrifice on the frontlines, Indigenous Veterans were subject to repeated injustices and discrimination. The government of Canada expropriated hundreds of thousands of acres of reserve lands during this era. Some of their land was also taken and given to non-Indigenous people as part of a program that granted farmland to returning Veterans – a reestablishment program that was typically denied to Indigenous Veterans. Often, they were denied access to the full benefits and supports given to other Veterans, making their transition back to civilian life even harder. Other Veterans had to give up their First Nation status to receive benefits.
Decades of advocacy, activism and protest led to a formal apology from the federal government in 2002, plus compensation for First Nations Veterans. In 2019, Métis Veterans also received an apology and a promise of compensation in acknowledgment that they also were not allowed to receive the same benefits and reintegration support as other Canadians after the war.
On Indigenous Veterans Day, we honour the service, the struggle, the courage and the sacrifice of all who serve at home, around the world and across generations.
How you can get involved: Make the historical, personal
The lives and experiences of individuals who served can get lost in the overwhelming sweep of history. You can deepen your appreciation of their sacrifice by making a personal connection. Here are just two examples:
- Using AI, Indigenous soldier George Stonefish’s letter home from the battlefield was transformed into a haunting image as part of True Patriot Love’s Remastered Memories project. Read an excerpt and see the artwork here.
- Get to know Canadian Cree Veteran Charles “Checker” Tompkins in the documentary Cree Code Talker, which features Indigenous Veterans’ eyewitness accounts of code talkers’ contributions in securing victory in World War II.
How to get involved: Pay tribute in person
- In our nation’s capital, you can pause to reflect at the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument in Ottawa. Erected in 2001, it is a tribute to the dedication and sacrifice of First Nation, Métis and Inuit people from coast to coast to coast who served on the frontlines.
- The Sergeant Tommy Prince Memorial in Winnipeg, MB, commemorates the life and service of this residential school survivor who became a soldier with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and won the Military Medal.
- The Nipissing First Nation Cenotaph in Garden Village, ON, is dedicated to those who lost their lives, who served in any capacity, and those who continue to serve.
- The Francis Pegahmagabow Monument in Parry Sound, ON commemorates his service in the First World War. A highly decorated soldier, Pegahmagabow served as councilor and later Chief of Wasauksing First Nation, as well as becoming an early activist in the national Indigenous rights movement.
Invictus Games 2025: Welcoming the world to Indigenous lands
Invictus Games Vancouver Whistler 2025 will welcome up to 550 competitors from up to 25 nations to experience the first ever Winter Games in Invictus Games history. With their family, friends, and the world cheering them on, wounded, injured and sick service members and Veterans will experience the unrivalled power of sport to aid in their recovery.
Four host First Nations artists have been chosen to work together to create and design the visual identity for the Games: Levi Nelson of Lil’wat Nation, Olivia George of Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Mack Paul of Musqueam Nation and Ray Natraoro of Squamish Nation. This is a first-of-its-kind inclusive initiative for the Invictus Games, as well as for the First Nations involved, as they will be developing one comprehensive identity that represents each of the nations.
The Invictus Games are committed to engaging with each Nation, addressing Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, and respecting Indigenous protocols in all aspects of the Games.
#TruePatriotLove #HonouringVeterans #CanadaRemembers #IndigenousVeteransDay #LestWeForget #IndigenousWarriors
About the author: Officer, Communications