YORKTON - Indigenous Veterans Day was marked in Yorkton Wednesday with a ceremony at the Painted Hand Casino.
The day was first held in Manitoba in 1993, and is now marked across the country in recognition and remembrance of Aboriginal veterans.
During the First and Second World Wars and Korean War more than 5,000 First Nations men volunteered, along with an unknown number of Metis and Inuit.
More than 500 died in service, noted Yorkton Master of Ceremonies Ross Cadotte at the Yorkton Tribal Council event.
“There are people who never had an opportunity to spend time with grandchildren, with their fellow beings, their communities,” said Cadotte.
But why a special day for Indigenous veterans?
“It was because of the injustice that they received,” said Cadotte.
While Indigenous soldiers “fought shoulder-to-shoulder” with non-aboriginal soldiers throughout the wars they did not receive the same benefits upon their return.
There was no land as white soldiers could access, no dollars for education.
What they did face was a Canada where their children were taken from them to be placed in residential schools, to a Canada where they faced discrimination and racism, a Canada they could not even vote in.
It was “a country that didn’t want them to exists at that point in time,” said Royal Canadian Legion General Alexander Ross Branch No. 77 - Yorkton president Brittany Johnson.
Cadotte said it remains important to remember.
“We should feel pride in our First Nations veterans, he said, adding they played a role in preserving freedoms we now enjoy.
Cadotte said while wars exist, pointing to Ukraine and Israel it is because of veterans ”we enjoy a good night’s sleep” here in Canada.
“Let us never, ever take our freedoms for granted,” added Yorkton Mayor Mitch Hippsley in his remarks. “That’s why we are here today.”
“If it wasn’t for them (veterans) we wouldn’t have what we have today,” said Johnson.