Ottawa, ON) – As people across this country pay tribute to Canadian veterans, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Regional Chief for NWT Bill Erasmus urges everyone to reflect on the tremendous contributions of First Nation soldiers and military personnel both in times of conflict and peace.
“As we pause to reflect on what Remembrance Day means to us, we call on everyone to consider the tremendous contributions and sacrifices made by First Nations people both in the past and today. This year has a special resonance as the anniversary of the start of World War I and we acknowledge the strength, skill and bravery of First Nation Veterans who fought for the freedom of all of us despite facing many barriers. Some of our people who enlisted traveled for days from remote communities in order to join the effort to protect this land that we have always called home. We acknowledge all the First Nations men and women and all citizens contributing to the armed forces in the past and today,” said AFN Regional Chief Bill Erasmus who leads national efforts on behalf of the AFN Executive in support of First Nation Veterans.
“The AFN will continue to push for adequate recognition and support for First Nation Veterans and for continued contributions to the armed forces. As allies to the British Crown by virtue of our existing Treaties our peoples enlisted in record numbers in Canada and the United States of America, with at least 4000 volunteering for combat,” said Regional Chief Erasmus. “As parties to Treaties, First Nations cannot be conscripted, therefore the voluntary participation by men and women during peace and conflict shows the commitment, dedication and desire to keep our home lands safe and free.”
Many have been acknowledged for their bravery in battle, as advance scouts, and as snipers. Francis Pegahmagabow, of Shawanga First Nation, near Parry Sound, Ontario killed 378 enemy soldiers and capturing at least 300 more. Lieutenant James David Moses, of Six Nations, was a gunner in the 57th Squadron of the Royal Fighting Corps. He was originally with the 107th Timber Wolf Battalion, the only fully integrated unit featuring First Nation soldiers during World War I, and died during a bombing mission in April, 1918. His brother, Arnold Moses, also served in the same unit and later became Chief of Six Nations in the 1940s. Lieutenant Oliver Milton Martin, also from Six Nations, went on to reach the rank of Brigadier, which is still the highest rank ever attained by a First Nation person in the Canadian military. These are just some of the stories Canadians should learn about as part of Canada’s military history.
“On this Remembrance Day we salute all Veterans and all men and women who continue to serve our country and keep us safe,” said Regional Chief Erasmus. “We want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the late Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent killed on duty last month and offer again our sincere condolences to their friends and family. We remember those who lost their lives for our freedom, and continue to pay respect to all members of the armed forces. We also remind everyone that Canadian Parliamentary democracy is founded on the strong relationship between First Nations Treaties, including pre Confederation Treaties and other constructive arrangements, that exist with legal force in Canada. The legal rights of First Nations must be remembered and understood at this important time, lest we forget.”
Regional Chief Erasmus, together with First Nation Veterans will take part in Remembrance Day commemorations in Ottawa on November 11, 2014.
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.