Paying tribute to Wotstak First Nation veterans

More than 60 people withstood the cold wind blowing off the Wolastoq (St. John River) to pay homage to Wotstak (Woodstock) First Nation veterans during National Indigenous Veterans Day on Nov. 8.

Chief/Sakum Tim Paul welcomed participants and guests to the sixth annual Wotstak (Woodstock) First Nation Veterans Memorial situated on the banks of the Wolastoq.

The solemn ceremony began with Piper Darlene Morton leading Sgt. at Arms Bruce Hendry and the Colour Guard, featuring members of the Woodstock Royal Canadian Legion Branch 11, ANAVETS Unit 95 and Wotstak First Nation veteran Roberta Paul to the monument.

Singer Antatasha MacIntosh and drummers Valerie Polchies and Robin Sappier opened the ceremony with a traditional song, followed by an elder reciting the Lord’s Prayer in Maliseet.

Shaun Sappier served as master of ceremonies.

Chief Paul noted the importance of remembering and thanking the many Wotstak First Nation residents who served with the Canadian and American forces in two World Wars, the Vietnam War, as peacekeepers and during peacetime.

The singing of O Canada in Maliseet preceded the playing of the Last Post, followed by a moment of silence and the sounding of Reveille.

After Lisa Sappier recited Flanders Fields, Shawn Sappier read the roll call of Wotstak First Nation etched into the memorial behind him.

Each Wotstak First Nation National Indigenous Veteran Day ceremony includes a brief profile of one of the names on the monument.

Chief Paul offered a brief biography of Charles Edward Polchies, who joined the Canadian Army as a member of the Carleton York Regiment in 1940, returning from war in 1945.

Medicine woman Lisa Sappier, who offered a smudging ceremony to guests before the event began, read the Commitment to Remember before the laying of wreaths.

Wotstak First Nation chief and council laid the first wreath honouring their community’s veterans. Among the many laying wreaths and crosses of tribute included ANAVET Beth MacFarlane on behalf of MP Richard Bragdon and the Government of Canada and Woodstock Mayor Trina Jones on behalf of the town.

Wotstak First Nation hosted a reception at the band hall following the ceremony.

Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun