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Remembering Our Heroes on Indigenous Veterans Day

After attending a Liberal caucus meeting Monday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with the Minister of Veterans Affairs and the Associate Minister of National Defence Lawrence Macaulay, was to meet with Indigenous veterans to mark the day.

Ret. Lt. Commander in the Royal Canadian Navy and member of the Peguis First Nation Bill Shead, said on CTV’s Your Morning Monday that: “ceremonies and flags whether they are…half mast [or not] are really just outward signs of what you remember in your own heart about Aboriginal veterans or any veterans for that matter.”

Shead said he thinks the duty “we have as citizens is at least to remember them, and to remember them sincerely.”

First established as Aboriginal Veteran’s Day in Manitoba back in 1994, Nov. 8 is now a country-wide day for recognition and remembrance of more than 200 years of military service by First Nation, Metis and Inuit people.

Famously, a physical landmark called the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument was unveiled in Confederation Park by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson in Ottawa in 2001, close by to the National War Memorial.

Indigenous people have played a major role in forming this country through their military service. One of their first major efforts was the War of 1812 against the Americans, when General William Hull crossed the Detroit River and invaded Upper Canada (present-day Ontario).

General Isaac Brock was joined by Shawnee chief Tecumseh in repelling the Americans and capturing Fort Detroit on August 16, 1812.

Tecumseh, who fought for the Shawnee, was a celebrated figure until his death in battle in October of 1813. His victories were decisive in Canada’s journey to formation and independence from the United States.

CTV adds that "...more than 4,000 Indigenous people served in uniform during the First World War from 1914 to 1918, according to Veterans Affairs Canada, where their skills as hunters made them excellent marksman and reconnaissance scouts, [earning] at least 50 decorations for bravery during the First World War, including Henry Louis Norwest, a Metis man from Alberta, who was one of the most famous snipers of the entire Canadian Corps with a divisional sniping record of 115 fatal shots. He was awarded the Military Medal and bar for his courage."

The Second World War saw Canada's Indigenous people serve as snipers and scouts - and perhaps most famously - as "code talkers,” translating data from the war effort back and forth in languages like Cree, which went undeciphered by Axis forces.

Notable figures include Ojibway airman Willard Bolduc from Ontario who earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions as an air gunner during bombing raids, and Huron Brant, a Mohawk man from Ontario who earned the Military Medal for his bravery and courage fighting in Sicily.

One of Canada's most famous Indigenous soldiers is Tommy Prince (pictured), an Ojibway man from Manitoba who served with Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in the Korean War. Taking part in the Battle of Kapyong in April 1951, his battalion was awarded the U.S. Presidential Unit Citation for its distinguished service – something rarely awarded to a non-American force. Prince was also awarded two gallantry medals at Buckingham Palace.

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