Aboriginal Servicemen and Canada's Wars
This page is dedicated to Metis Senator Ralph Villeneuve, a former member of the Royal Canadian Navy who has helped many Vets achieve proper recognition of their military service.
In 1993 the Canada Federal Government through the Veterans Affairs, published a small thin book entitled "Native Solders, Foreign Battlefields". It was revised in 1998. The document attempts to show how the Aboriginals felt about fighting for the country of Canada.
What it doesn't explain is that of the estimated 4,000+ aboriginal men and women in World War I and the estimated 3,000, as well as an unknown number of non-status aboriginal men and women of World War II, served the Country of Canada even though they were not citizens! They were officially aliens.
In 1914, Indians were not expected to have the courage or interest to volunteer for fighting overseas to defend their Country. Indeed, until the summer of 1915 they were not allowed to leave Canada in their units because it was thought that their presence would provoke savagery by the Germans against the Allies! It was not always made public but in addition to this, Indians, in their normal everyday lives were not allowed in any public bar, couldn't vote and if they married a non-Indian lost all status and rights. They were not allowed to perform any Ceremonies or Aboriginal style religious services. Anything that was thought to be related to Aboriginal use was severely discouraged. If they wanted to become a Canadian Citizen, they had to relinquish their Aboriginal Status totally. Despite this the thousands that volunteered and fought, suffered, were wounded, poisoned, crippled and even died, still willingly entered a conflict not of their choosing in order to try to help preserve their way of life.
The booklet is full of stories of these heroic individuals and rightfully so. Their fellow members of the Armed Forces were astounded by the Aboriginal prowess, bravery, determination and fortitude of these people, both men and women. They were very glad to have them serving alongside themselves. In this booklet, Aboriginal individuals from all the Armed Forces are focused upon to give a graphic idea of who they where, where they hailed from, their backgrounds and what they accomplished. Often they appear in the top honours regarding medals and awards.
Their combat record which also extended into the Korean War is impressive. One Veterans group has estimated that counting the Metis, Inuit and other natives, there were 12,000+ Aboriginals who responded to Canada's Call to Arms for the three wars. They overcame cultural and social challenges and made sacrifices for a greater good, even though the country that they lived in refused to identify them as Citizens and treated them with contempt.
From a tiny group of people a positive and significant impact has been made on the history of Canada. Through the dedication of people like these, they helped Canadians to see the Aboriginal Nations in a different light. In 1951, Aboriginals were allowed to enter public bars. In 1956 they were granted Citizenship. In 1960, the Canadian Government permitted Indians to vote in Federal and Provincial elections without any loss in their status under the Indian Act.
The new Aboriginal Medal available for all Aboriginals who have and are currently serving in the Armed Forces of Canada
Booklet available from:|
15th floor, 66 Slater St.
Cat No. V32-56/1993E