Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson speaks at the First Nations veterans Remembrance Day ceremony at the Chase Community Hall on Sunday, Nov. 4. (Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer)

Secwepemc community honours veterans

The ceremony at the Chase Community Hall featured tales of the challenges aboriginal veterans faced

Veterans of military service forgotten by many over the years were remembered at a ceremony in Chase on Nov. 4.

The gathering at the Chase Community Hall celebrated the military service of members of the Secwepemc Nation.

After a colour party from the Royal Canadian Legion led by Neskonlith elder Ken Saul carrying an eagle staff marched in, the ceremony began with an address from Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson.

“Just one area of the work in reconciliation that needs to be done is recognizing our aboriginal veterans,” Wilson said.

Jim Dunn, the Chase Legion’s Sgt. At Arms, said it was an honour and a pleasure to be involved in the ceremony.

Things began with a series of traditional songs which carried themes of loss, healing and homecoming.

Before one such song, Ralph McBryan, one of the hand-drummers, told a story about an unrecognized veteran he met at the Squilax Pow Wow 15 years ago. The man McBryan met was from the Secwepemc territory but had served as a U.S. Army Ranger during the Korean War.

Related:Younger Canadians interested in attending Remembrance Day events: poll

“They called all veterans to dance and I knew him and I knew he was a veteran and that he had served, but he was not received at home with any kind of accommodation or any kind of recognition.”

When McBryan asked the man why he was not taking the floor with the other veterans, the man replied he felt unwelcome because he had served in the United States. McBryan eventually convinced the man to dance and be recognized.

“He had spent at that time, 30 years not being recognized and when he came off the dance floor after we had a chance to thank him for his service, he had tears coming down. When I was talking to him before, he was small, he kept himself small, but once his people recognized him, he became big.”

After the songs, Georgia Jules spoke on First Nations people’s history of military service.

“Indigenous people have fought on the front lines of every major battle Canada has been involved in, and have done so with valour and distinction,” she said.

Although approximately 7,000 status First Nations people as well as an unknown number of Metis, Inuit and non-status First Nations people served in the First and Second World Wars as well as the Korean War, Jules said it was not until 1995 that Indigenous people were allowed to lay Remembrance Day wreaths at the national war memorial to honour their fallen comrades.

According to Jules, after their service in the First World War was at an end, government regulations made it difficult for the First Nations veterans to return home. The Indian Act specified that Indians absent from reserves for more than four years no longer had status, she said.

“When they returned to their home communities after the war they no longer had Indian status, they did not have the right to obtain benefits provided to non-aboriginal veterans due to Indian Act restrictions,” Jules said.

“The lives of numerous aboriginal veterans ended in despair and poverty.”

Jules showed a slide show featuring the names of all of the Secwepemc veterans and numerous historical photographs showing them serving in a variety of military roles from the First World War to the present day.


@SalmonArm
jim.elliot@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

South Okanagan real estate market adjusting to ‘new normal’

Numbers are up in March; however, industry insiders say the market has cooled

Serious assault leaves Osoyoos woman in critical condition: RCMP

A 60-year-old Osoyoos woman suffers life threatening injuries following assault inside home

Not all receive COVID-19 aid from federal government

Summerland woman does not qualify for federal assistance during COVID-19 pandemic

Pair of Penticton Vees forwards eye NHL Entry Draft

Danny Weight and Ryan McGuire included in Central Scouting’s final draft rankings

Law enforcement will patrol shuttered campgrounds in Cascades this weekend

Patrols will enforce provincial order requiring all such facilities remain closed during COVID-19

COVID-19 death toll reaches 50 in B.C., while daily case count steadies

B.C. records 34 new cases in the province, bringing total active confirmed cases to 462

Public warned to stay away from algae bloom near Herald Park in Shuswap Lake

Interior Health states that people, pets should not drink the water in the area or touch the algae

B.C. unveils $5M for mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic

Will include virtual clinics and resources for British Columbians, including front-line workers

South Shuswap residents criticize upgrades to Balmoral Road/Highway 1 intersection

Reliance on frontage roads and narrow underpasses near Blind Bay not good enough

B.C.’s COVID-19 rent supplement starts taking applications

$300 to $500 to landlords for April, May and June if eligible

COVID-19: No more international flights at Kelowna International Airport

All international flights at YLW have been suspended, airport to operate just nine flights a day

B.C.’s top doctor details prescription for safe long weekend

Yes, it includes hosting an online cooking show

BC SPCA seeks help for abandoned German shepherd puppies

Donations have ‘petered out’ as doors are closed due to COVID-19

Reality TV show about bodybuilders still filming in Okanagan amid COVID-19

Five bodybuilders from across the country flew to Kelowna to move into a house for a reality TV show

Most Read