November 8th marks an important day in remembrance and paying tribute to the Indigenous Veterans of Canada who have a long and proud tradition of military service to our country. The Indigenous proved to be determined volunteers who were often forced to overcome many challenges to serve in uniform, from learning a new language and adapting to cultural differences, to having to travel great distances from their remote communities just to enlist. With more than 4000 Indigenous peoples in uniform during the First World War conflict it was a remarkable response. In some areas, one in three able-bodied men would volunteer, some communities saw every man between 20 and 35 years of age enlist.
When the second World War erupted in September of 1939 many Indigenous people again answered the call of duty and joined the military. By the end of the conflict in 1945, over 3000 First Nations members had served in uniform for the second World War. Indigenous people also contributed to the war effort on the home front. Donating large amounts of money, clothing, food to worthy causes and granted the use of portions of their reserve lands to allow for the construction of new airports, rifle ranges and defence installations. The special efforts of First Nations communities in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia were also recognized with the awarding of the British Empire Medal to acknowledge their great contributions.
In honour of this day in remembrance we pay the greatest of homage to the Indigenous people and the sacrifice our First Nations have endured, many giving their lives to serve the country we all call home.