I remember as a boy in school, Remembrance Day was always done with a ceremony at 11:00AM. We would stand in silence for a moment to remember those that fought and especially those who gave their life. I remember readings of poems and how we were given projects with poppies and graves.
The poem most associated with Remembrance Day, would be “In Flanders Fields,” by John McCrae. In some classes, we all stood to read the poem, in others, we read as presentations. I wish I could remember what classes those were and who the teachers were. They all blend together at this point. A blurred memory with familiar faces in the rows of standing students. Some quiet and respectful. One or two, still not grasping the seriousness of the silent moment.
In the gym, there would be at least one veteran of the WWII. Speakers would take turns telling tales of war and how it impacted them during the war, but even more when they got home. They would speak of good friends who never made it back home. Loved ones of solders would be given medals and flags from the countries they served. How many veterans are left? Maybe a few, Indigenous or not, they gave their lives too.
Later in high school, we learned of Indigenous people not receiving what their non-Indigenous fighters did. We learned of Cree-speaking “code talkers,” such as Charles Checker Tompkins of Alberta, provided great service to the war. According to “https://www.veterans.gc.ca/, “it has been estimated that as many as 12,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit people served in the great conflicts of the 20th century, with at least 500 of them sadly losing their lives.” Indigenous people were not strangers to war, as they battled settlers and amongst themselves when they needed to in the distant past.
Today, the ceremonies of Remembrance Day are not as prominent during this pandemic. Thankfully, we have social media to express our admiration and to share our thoughts across the world. A world that would have been very different, Canada and our allies did not stand victorious against a very determined enemy.
Thank you to all who served, and especially to all who fell.
Remembrance Day – kanokiskisiwinikīsikāw (A day to keep remembering)
Indigenous Veterans – https://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/historical-sheets/indigenous-veterans
Native War Veterans Enlisted Even Though They Were Not Canadian Citizens – http://www.firstnationsdrum.com/2019/10/native-war-veterans-enlisted-even-though-they-were-not-canadian-citizens/
In Flanders Fields – https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47380/in-flanders-fields