Native veterans forced to fight another war on home front
Posted By ERNIE SANDY
Posted 19 hours ago
First Nations peoples have every reason to feel proud of the wartime sacrifices made by their ancestors during the First and Second World Wars and other armed conflicts.
Almost every family knows someone who served in one of the wars because there were so many who enlisted. The number of veterans will never be known because so many were excluded. Only those registered under the Indian Act were counted.
According to the Saskatchewan Native Veterans Association, there were more than 12,000 native veterans. It was also reported by the Native Veterans Association of Northwestern Ontario about 500 native veterans died during the First and Second World Wars.
Another source of pride is the fact that, even though native people were exempt from enlisting, they volunteered. This exemption stemmed from the fact the federal government classified my people as wards of the Crown; in essence, we were considered children, therefore not responsible enough to have rights as Canadian citizens. This law would have a severe impact upon returning native veterans.
Volunteering to serve in the war had a harsh price. Native people had to renounce their land and treaty rights as Aboriginal peoples and become Canadian citizens.
In spite of that, thousands enlisted in wars that had absolutely nothing to do with us. Hundreds were killed and some are still buried in countries they fought to defend.
Even though we were prisoners of poverty in our communities as a result of government policies that kept us oppressed, we became champions of freedom so others could live in peace; most importantly, many of our veterans found their spiritual strength and resurgence as once-proud warriors.
Today, we stand tall in our defiance of being second-class citizens. It was in those sacrifices on foreign soil that many of our veterans became warriors to fight an equally ominous, but domestic, foe: the federal government.
The way native veterans were treated when they came home also prompted them to take action.