Abegweit First Nation marks National Indigenous Veterans Day

·2 min read
It is the fourth year that the Abegweit First Nation on P.E.I. has held a ceremony in commemoration of National Indigenous Veterans Day.  (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
It is the fourth year that the Abegweit First Nation on P.E.I. has held a ceremony in commemoration of National Indigenous Veterans Day. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

Dozens of people gathered at Abegweit First Nation in Scotchfort, P.E.I., Monday morning to mark National Indigenous Veterans Day.

It's the fourth year the P.E.I. First Nation has held a ceremony in the community to commemorate the day.

"When you start looking at the list of all the community members that did serve in the world wars, as well as the Vietnam War and Korean War, it's eye opening," Tyler Gould, director of economic development at Abegweit First Nation said.

"It just kind of makes me feel a sense of gratitude to those individuals, my ancestors."

Many there, including Abegweit Chief Junior Gould, have relatives who served.

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

The day is about finally recognizing the Indigenous people who fought in Canada's wars. They left their communities and cultures behind — to fight for a country that treated them poorly, he said.

"The people that volunteered in a country that didn't recognize them, they should be held on a pedestal and acknowledged as being a veteran with a different circumstance," Junior Gould said.

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

He can remember his uncle telling stories from his time fighting in the Second World War.

"I just wish I'd paid more attention back then....That knowledge and traditional wisdom is buried with them," he said.

'They believed in our country'

Elder Doreen Jenkins' great-grandfather served in the First World War. Her brother enlisted with the United States Marine Corps. He fought in the Vietnam War, earning two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star.

"His commanding officers would constantly reprimand him and things — like hitting his head against the wall," Jenkins said

She said only in recent years, through ceremonies like this one, is the unique sacrifice of Indigenous veterans being acknowledged.

"This is really important to have recognition of these people that didn't have to go to war, but they signed up to go to war," Jenkins said.

Steve Bruce/CBC
Steve Bruce/CBC

"They fought tooth and nail to go to war, because they believed, they believed in our country, our traditional lands. They wanted to make sure their children and children's children could grow up in safety."

She sees ceremonies like this as progress.

"It's a good start. It's a good start. And it's good to see we can sit and speak of this, and the people here acknowledge it."

'It gives me a sense of optimism'

Tyler Gould thinks so too. He said more Canadians finally seem to be opening their eyes to this country's troubled history.

"The discussion is changing. More and more people are starting to engage themselves in the conversation. They want to learn more," he said.

"It gives me a sense of optimism and we look forward to being more inclusive as a community and sharing our history, like we're doing today."

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