“Growing Together” – The Cultural Contribution of Indigenous People in the Canadian Military Since the First World War

Slides to accompany this text are available here.

Image 1 – title

1          One hundred years ago, when the Canadian Army was overseas at war, the organization reflected the dominant attitudes of the society at the time. The stereotypical male WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) was very prominent in representations of army culture (although “Anglo-Saxons” had competition from the widespread Celtic presence). The famous painting by Edgar Bundy, The Landing of the 1st Canadian Division at Saint-Nazaire (1918), captures the Army of February 1915. Other groups (including francophones, visible minorities and women) were segregated or assimilated, if not completely banned.[i] Today Indigenous peoples are welcomed and their cultural heritage has not only been appreciated and accepted, this heritage has significantly transformed the Canadian military.

2          The title makes it clear that this presentation is about cultural contribution. What is far from clear is how to precisely define culture. Historians have debated such questions for decades and rarely agree. Of course historians rarely agree about anything; one of my colleagues remains convinced that the Toronto Maple Leafs have been the best hockey team in the NHL over the past fifty years. This presentation will thus be a personal account, not an official Department of National Defence paper. Certainly my colleague the Leaf fan will find parts that he will disagree with. Defining cultures, and how they evolve over time, is difficult but extremely important; the many manifestations that symbolize who we are also communicate a model of how we want to be seen by others and which essential values we seek to emulate.

3          This article will present the perception of some veterans who adapted, in various ways, to the military culture while also retaining elements of their own culture that has helped significantly influence the Canadian military over the past century, most notably over the past fifty years.[ii]  There have been different challenges for each generation and these will be presented separately. The main source will be interviews of veterans, from 1939 to 2000. [iii]  In most histories of Indigenous peoples in the Canadian military, the focus has been on how the Armed Forces changed them; but after a century it is increasingly clear how much they have changed the military.[iv]

4          Background – The First World War and its effects, 1914-39

Image 2 – Shiwak

Experiences from the First World War greatly affected Indigenous perceptions of the Army, where the vast majority served. There had been about 4000 treaty Indians that signed up from 1914 to 1918, despite many obstacles. One of the most serious obstacles was Ottawa’s policy not to accept Native volunteers on the grounds that “Germans might refuse to extend to them the privileges of civilized warfare.”[v] However, many had already enlisted, and many militia units were either unaware of the prohibition or decided to ignore it. They enlisted for the same reasons other Canadians did – patriotism, adventure or simply to earn a regular wage – but there was still a warrior ethos extant in certain bands, particularly those from the more remote regions of the country.[vi]  Once overseas there were problems adjusting to certain military practices, such as the distinction between commissioned officers and other ranks;[vii] however, familiarity with rifles and nature proved useful to Indigenous Canadians – as it did to others – from rural backgrounds.[viii] Returning veterans sought improvements to the Indian Act but were disappointed, and on the eve of the Second World War, Status Indians in Canada had a severely limited range of civil, political and legal rights.[ix]

5          Images 3 – Henry Norwest, 4 – Edith Monture and 5 – Francis Pegahmagabow

6          Part I- The Second World War, 1939-45

When the Second World War began in 1939 approximately 3000 Indigenous people living on reserves volunteered for service.[x] This was an impressive number considering their position in Canadian society but it was less than the number who volunteered for the First World War.[xi] Ottawa’s policies, particularly the decision to conscript “status Indians,” hampered recruitment; [xii] however, despite the obstacles, the number of Indigenous people enrolling was close to the Canadian average.[xiii] Many performed exceptionally well, most famously the highly-decorated Tommy Prince. Of twenty veterans interviewed, the influence of community, family and particularly the father played an important role in their decision to join.[xiv]  Only two veterans suggested that they had been victims of racism during the war and that they had to work harder to prove themselves. The great majority, fourteen, remembered that they had been treated as equals—several mentioning that they walked “shoulder to shoulder” with their “brothers” through those very trying times.  “We depended on each other,” several noted, and all that mattered was that people did their job well.  However, only one of these fourteen considered that such equality extended to civilian life after they returned to Canada.[xv]

Image 6 – Elmer Sinclair

7          Howard Anderson of Punnichy, Saskatchewan, notes that “it was the coming back that was the hard part…That’s where the problem was. We could never be the same yet we were the same in the Army.  When [we came back we] were different.”[xvi] Russell Modeste remembers being jailed upon his return for possession of a liquor ticket (rationed in Canada and forbidden to Indians). He and other soldiers received the ticket departing the ship but “The Magistrate told me that ‘once you entered Canadian territorial waters you were now just another Indian! You have no special privileges and you have to abide by the law.’…You remember these things.”[xvii]  According to Sam Sinclair of Edmonton, in the post-war period “our people knew they were not [receiving] fair treatment but they did not raise hell” with protests or sit-ins like they have now.[xviii] In this period the desire to be seen as equal was much stronger than the desire to have cultural distinctions recognized.

8          Several of the twenty veterans did remember that cultural characteristics had helped them during their time overseas.  The most popular involved exposure to the use of firearms for hunting.[xix] Elmer Sinclair of Nanaimo, British Columbia, recalls his father teaching him to shoot a rifle by looking along the barrel with both eyes open but his army instructor insisted that he close the disengaged eye: “I couldn’t do it. I got on the rifle range and I had both eyes open… I never learned to close one eye,” but he did qualify as a sharpshooter.[xx]  As Canadian soldiers were helping liberate Holland and good relations with the local populations were important, Lawrence Martin of Nippigon, Ontario remembered staying with a family that was most interested in the Indigenous culture.  He kept in touch after the war and recently returned with a native group to perform a pipe ceremony that was greatly appreciated.[xxi] Almost all those interviewed, were glad to have had the experience, the education and training,[xxii] and were well received back into their community.[xxiii]

9          Images 7 – Mary Grey Eyes and 8 – Irene Hoff

10        Part II –The Cold War, 1946 to 1967

After the Second World War, as after the First, when Indigenous veterans returned home many led their communities in the search for improved citizenship status and legal rights.[xxiv] Although treaty Indians would not have the right to vote until 1960 they once again answered the call when the Korean war broke out in 1950,[xxv] and many remained in the military to participate in the first peacekeeping operations.  For Robert Carriere of Winnipeg, fighting communist aggression in Korea was more important than maintaining the traditional hostility towards the Army that some members of his family had shared since his grandfather had fought with Louis Riel.[xxvi] However the influence of family members remained great for most, including Harvey Tommy Holmes Horlock of Toronto whose Uncle Tommy Holmes won the Victoria Cross during the First World War.[xxvii]  In addition to wars and following family members, some referred to specific events that motivated them to join. Fred Young of Winnipeg was moved by the work of the Armed Forces during the Winnipeg flood of 1950: “it was very impressive to me, the way they rescued people [from] the second story windows. They were very inspirational, and I thought, you know, I love what they do.”[xxviii]  Bill Lafferty of Fort Simpson, NWT, was eleven years old in 1942 when the American Army arrived at Fort Simpson, building the current airport and bringing movies: “the Royal Canadian Engineers and the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals [who replaced the American Army after the war]… inspired me to become a soldier myself.”[xxix]

Image 9 – Carriere

11        Making the world a safer, better place, has been a consistent motivation for most recruits into the Canadian Armed Forces; but this post-war period was when Indigenous recruits began to be more active promoting their culture. Fourteen of the twenty found that they had not been treated differently because of their heritage,[xxx] but one who did and was initially hurt when friends called him “the Indian,” was Joe John Sanipass of Big Cove New Brunswick. Coming from an isolated community he found the strict discipline, morning inspections and shining shoes very different from what he was used to and when he was leaving for Germany to unfamiliar songs and bagpipe music he felt even more out of place. However, after he met a group of “natives from Saskatchewan… he just fit right in there,” and found it much easier to socialize with white friends – and sometimes one “would sit right in with us and we’d take him as our brother and that guy learned a great deal about natives.”[xxxi]

Image 10 – Piche

12        Stephen Simon of Big Cove New Brunswick remembers a field training exercise in 1955. He had been talking about his culture with a curious friend and one day “they took away all our canvas and everything…I said ‘just stick with me, if you are willing to work hard we are going to have an enjoyable time, we are going to be comfortable’.” Together they made a teepee and “about four o’clock in the morning, when the storm hit, our teepee was a sack full of white guys.” He also made a pot out of birch bark to boil water and caught a rabbit.[xxxii] In the case of Russell Piché of Calgary his attempt at map reading in Korea was not as successful. “I never was much on maps” so when asked to locate a spot “I was having a heck of a time.” The previous night some of his group had been commenting “how the North American Indian could find his way around in the bush better with a compass or a map than the Caucasian” and one friend now commented that Piché, a Métis, must be only half lost!  One skill, used in the US but not the Canadian Army, was code talking to communicate in their native tongue.[xxxiii]

Image 11 – Coreena Letendre

13        Part III 1968 to the present:

In the period since unification a minority of participants mentioned that they had experienced, or been aware of some discrimination. Although still a minority, the numbers were highest in this final period after 1968.[xxxiv] Coreena Letendre perceived such problems in 1984 – in addition to problems encountered by women – when she sought to join the military police,[xxxv] and Ernest Nadjiwan considers that native people he knew had to work harder and were often passed over for promotions.[xxxvi] But the majority felt comfortable and continued, as the earlier group, to promote Indigenous culture to curious colleagues. Peter MacGregor of Québec noted that some soldiers would ask him questions about his culture and he would “fill them in” – but he adds that for him French-English tensions were much more noticeable.[xxxvii] Garnett Bauersfeld was never offended by being called “chief,” on his ship; he considered this as a sign of friendship…that at times led to confusion when he was with the Chief Petty Officer: “when somebody called ‘Chief’ I turned at the same time as the other…[eventually] even the Chiefs were calling me chief.”[xxxviii]

Image 12 – J. Paul

14        Jocelyn Paul of Wendake, Québec, remembers feeling uneasy during his first months with the R22R, during the Oka Crisis, but adds that people “quickly realized that I was doing my job” and he got along very well.[xxxix] An article in the Maple Leaf earlier this year reveals how well he has gotten along, as Brigadier-General he is the most senior Indigenous member of the Canadian Armed Forces. He was appointed Commander 4th Canadian Division (Ontario) as of June 22 and attributed much of his success as a leader to his Indigenous upbringing as a member of Huron-Wendat First Nation in Quebec. Being, he explained, “proud of my heritage, attracted by the traditional way of life, and growing up on a reserve allowed me to spend a lot of time in the bush,” which enabled him to be comfortable during infantry training with Royal 22e Régiment. “Living in the community of Wendake as a youth meant I spent lot of time speaking with our Elders, learning about our identity and the way other cultures view their respective identities. I learned that there are multiple layers of identity for all people, but in our community, the Aboriginal identity was always first,” said BGen Paul.[xl]

Image 13 – Earl Charters

15        On the question of how their background has helped their participation, the more recent group appears much more likely to emphasize their Indigenous culture. Certainly earlier groups were aware of and took pride in the advantages provided by their background (as snipers, scouts, during survival activities). But they valued being treated equally more than having their distinctiveness recognized. This has encouraged the military to act in many ways. For example, Earl Charters was asked by the Navy on many occasions, in Canada and abroad, to perform his ceremonial dance, which is much appreciated. Far from hiding his background to fit in, as some had done in previous periods, Charters and others such as Dusty Bouthillette of Edmonton have benefited from the recent Forces regulation permitting Indigenous members to grow longer hair to communicate their cultural heritage. “Whenever something is said against my hair,” Earl Charters notes, “there are five others who speak in defence of my decision before I can say anything. It really has been a positive experience. My braids are finally long enough after three years growth….I really wanted to emulate some of the best fancy and hoop dancers that wear braids.”[xli] Survival techniques perfected by generations continue to be adopted by the military, notably in 1999 when Rangers helped avalanche victims at Kangiqsualujjuaq, Québec.[xlii]

Image 14 – MWO Mandeville

16        How participation in the Canadian military has been seen to have affected their life has evolved from a focus on adventure to the 1950s and 1960s focus on more discipline to the post-1968 focus on training and education. There has been the most remarkable continuity in the view that their time in the military was worthwhile and enjoyable.[xliii] Also that family and community remained strong influences on their decision to join; however, in this final period, it seems to have become somewhat less so as there were many with no family members in the Armed Forces.[xliv] The search for adventure remained popular but the majority was attracted by the prospect of full-time employment.[xlv] With career motivations being the main reason for joining the CF, it is not surprising that many focus on education and training as the most important areas they have been helped, as well as feelings related to prestige and self-confidence.[xlvi]  The recognition and appreciation of these experiences have helped shape current Armed Forces recruitment and retention efforts.

Image 15 – monument

17        Some Current CAF programs:

After varying degrees of segregation and assimilation policies in the first part of the 20th Century, the Canadian Forces’ attempts to recruit and retain Indigenous peoples in the past fifty years have been increasingly based on mutual accommodation.[xlvii] In April 2013 there were approximately 2100 Indigenous members in the CAF, mostly in the Army.[xlviii] A “Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group” meets monthly to offer advice on workplace issues such as “barriers to recruiting, training, developing and promotion of the Aboriginal people in the Department of National Defence.”[xlix] On the 20th anniversary of the Advisory Group, in June 2015, a “DND and CAF Eagle Staff” was presented to Army Commander LGen M. Hainse before “the Staff’s journey across Canada as it assumes its role as the travelling symbol of unity among Aboriginal Peoples in the defence community.”[l] More recently, on National Aboriginal Day in June 2017, CDS J. Vance invited Indigenous people in the CAF to “encourage your family and friends to consider a rewarding career with us. And do this while remaining true to your inspiring culture.”[li]

18    Images 16-17 Dieppe, 18 – Eagle Staff, 19 – June 2015 Bold Eagle grads

19        But in addition to studies and speeches there have been concrete programs. For example, the Bold Eagle Initiative (to build self-confidence among Native youth through militia training within a context of First Nations cultural awareness) and the Sergeant Tommy Prince Initiative (to increase numbers of Indigenous soldiers in the infantry and trades to which their tradition, culture and often life experience make them particularly well suited).[lii] The Northern Native Entry Program of 1971, expanded into the CF Aboriginal Entry Program in the late 1990s, offers Indigenous peoples “the opportunity to explore military careers before making the commitment to join.” It offers them pre-recruitment training courses that include cross-cultural and military awareness sessions. CF recruiters also receive “cultural awareness training that help them to better associate with Aboriginal applicants and understand their needs.”[liii]

Image 20 – Alec Tuckatuck

20        A program that is of particular interest is that of the northern Canadian Rangers. From 1942 it grew until by the late 1960s the program was providing an operational military presence across the remote coastal and inland reaches of the Canadian north. The local traditional Inuit knowledge and expertise of Rangers has clearly provided many benefits for the Army in the North.[liv]

Images 21 – Tony, 22 – Tim

21        Finally, the current Canadian Forces Artists Program includes images not only of male WASPs in the Canadian Armed Forces but also Indigenous subjects, captured by some great Indigenous artists, including Adrian Stimson, Tony Atsanilk, Eric Walker, Rosalie Favell and Tim Pitsiulak.[lv]

22        Conclusion

The Canadian military has learned, over the past century, that while a great deal of conformity is essential for efficient military training and operations in most situations, there are occasions when a certain amount of accommodation for individuals or cultural groups is appropriate and beneficial.[lvi] There remains, of course, room for improvement. Perhaps the strongest cultural difference that certainly makes adaptation a challenge is the preference among Indigenous soldiers for greater equality among the ranks.[lvii] Recent Armed Forces efforts to attract and retain these members, involving elders, have been well received but some refer to the need to provide more support. Victor Lyall, an Inuit from Labrador, remarked that “people coming from smaller communities might be a little more timid and quiet” and although he appreciated the pre-enrollment training sessions, after the course “there was never contact from that department. Once you signed those papers and then went through there wasn’t any real check back done to see how you were doing.”[lviii] Frank Michon, a Métis from Thunder Bay spent time in Alert and agreed on the need for closer follow-up.[lix] However, many others praised the efforts of the CF, particularly in the north with the Rangers program.[lx]

23        Last year the Defence Advisory Group reported continuing challenges for Indigenous members of the Armed forces who faced what some called “systematic discrimination.” A web page invited public comment that attracted various reactions. Some agreed, others did not; some were pessimistic others more hopeful. Amid the many unhelpful rants were a few thoughtful suggestions and one gem that provides a fitting conclusion to this paper: “The progress of civilization is a double-edged sword. The reunification of humanity over this last little while is a beautiful chaos of clashing cultures. The advantage will fall to the early adopters of other cultures’ strengths.”[lxi]

A PDF of this presentation is available here

John MacFarlane is a historian with the Department of National Defence Directorate of History and Heritage (DHH).  He has written several articles on the participation of Aboriginal Canadians in the Canadian Armed Forces and participated with the writing of the DHH publication on the topic. This work is the sole opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Canadian Department of National Defence, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the Royal United Services Institute of Nova Scotia. 

Recommended citation: John MacFarlane, “Growing Together” The Cultural Contribution of Indigenous People in the Canadian Military Since the First World War, Royal United Services Institute of Nova Scotia, November 21, 2018


[i] P. Whitney Lackenbauer, with John Moses, R. Scott Sheffield and Maxime Gohier, A Commemorative History of Aboriginal People in the Canadian Military, (Ottawa: DND, 2016).

[ii]  While the “Aboriginal perception” is far from homogeneous (each individual or group has a unique definition of the appropriate balance between equality and recognition of difference), certain characteristics, common to all or to specific time periods, are apparent.  On how egalitarian individual rights are limited by cultural demands of groups see Joel Balkan, Just Words: Constitutional Rights and Social Wrongs, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), particularly pp. 118-33.

[iii]   These interviews are in the Directorate of History and Heritage archives of National Defence Headquarters. They were conducted between July 2001 and July 2002. The selection of interview subjects was determined by the recommendations of friendship centers in each province. These may not be the Indigenous veterans with the most experience but they do provide a good sample of those known in their communities. Also, the number of sixty interviews may not be large enough to consider the study exhaustive but it does provide a good idea of the dominant perceptions. See appendix. Also John MacFarlane and John Moses, “Different Drummers: Aboriginal Culture and the CAF, 1939-2002,” in Canadian Military Journal, spring 2005, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 25-32.

[iv]  Some of the most decorated include: Francis Pegahmagabow, Henry Louis Norwest, Oliver Milton Martin, Tommy Prince. See Fred Gaffen, Forgotten Soldiers, (Penticton, BC: Theytus Books, 1985); Janice Summerby, Native Soldiers, foreign Battlefields, (Ottawa: Veterans Affairs, 1993); John Moses, “Aboriginal Participation in Canadian Military Service,” in The Army Doctrine and Training Bulletin, vol. 3, no. 3, Fall 2000; Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) (Ottawa, 1997); Dickason, Olive Patricia, Canada’s First Nations, (Toronto: McClelland, 1992); For a collection of Métis interviews see Remembrances: Métis Veterans, (Regina: Gabriel Dumont Institute, 1997).

[v]  NAC, RG24 vol. 1221, file HQ 593-1-7, in Summerby, Native Soldiers, p. 6. Many of them served in the 107th and 114th Battalions.

[vi]  There might have been more recruits of that type if it had not been for the fact that many such men did not speak either English or French. See James Dempsey, “Persistence of a Warrior Ethic Among the Plains Indians,” Alberta History, vol. 36, no. 1, winter, 1988. Gaffen, Forgotten Soldiers, p. 15: “Much more than in the white community the warrior had prestige and status in traditional Indian society.”

[vii]  Gaffen, Forgotten Soldiers, p. 15: “Traditionally, among Indians, there was not the same sharp distinction between a war chief and warriors…” See also L. James Dempsey, Warriors of the King: Prairie Indians in World War I, (Regina: University of Regina, 1999).

[viii]  Duncan Campbell Scott, “The Canadian Indians and the Great World War,” in Canada in the Great World War, vol. 3: Guarding the Channel Ports, (Toronto: United, 1919), p. 285 writes that “the Germans had a wholesome fear of the Canadian methods of fighting, of the efficiency of our sharpshooters, and the sudden, desperate nature of our trench raids…[alertness, use of natural advantages] had a remote Indian origin, and as for the Indian himself, there is no doubt that he excelled in the kind of offensive that had been practiced by his ancestors and was native to him.”

[ix]  In 1927 Ottawa unilaterally imposed Indian Act amendments, which attempted to limit Native political activity. Gaffen, Forgotten Soldiers, pp. 35-7.

[x]  Indian enlistments by province (with total native population in brackets): NS, 117 (2364); NB, 203 (2047); PEI, 27 (266); QC, 316 (15,182); ON, 1324 (32,421); MB, 175 (15,892); SK, 443 (14,158); AB, 144 (12,754); BC, 334 (25,515); YK, 7 (1531); NWT, 0 (3816).

[xi]  Census, 1911 lists the number of people declaring their origins to be Indian as 105,611 or 1.5% of the Canadian population (7,206,643). In 1941 it was 160,937 or 1.4% of 11,506,655. There were also 35,416 Métis. The Annual Report for the Department of Indian Affairs in March 1919 estimated that 35% of Indian males of military age had applied.

[xii]  National Archives of Canada, MG27IIIB14, General Laflèche papers: a letter from the Six Nations outlines the grievances. Indigenous peoples whose status was regulated by treaty argued that since they did not enjoy full citizenship rights they were not subject to compulsory service for home defence under the National Resources Mobilization Act of 1940.  On other restrictions see RCAP, vol. 12, chapter 4.1.

[xiii]  Summerby, Native Soldiers, p. 20, RCAP, vol. 12, chapter 4.1. Most of those enrolled served in the infantry, partly because its demands were best suited to many of them and the Air Force and Navy showed a reluctance to accept recruits not of Caucasian origin.

[xiv]  Of the 20, eleven felt encouraged, two discouraged and seven had not been affected either way.

[xv]  Six replied that there was racism in Canada, five some discrimination and one that there was not.

[xvi]  Interview, Howard Anderson, SK-3. As an example of the friendship that existed during those that experienced war together he cites the case of a “funeral in Saskatoon, and there was a white guy and he was about six foot six and [he had been a friend of] this young Indian guy. When they were in the Army they got bombed when they were on this bridge and he fell off. He was under the water and he was hurting badly  [when] this Indian guy pulled him up and saved his life. He comes to the funerals with us. Whenever there is a First Nations’ funeral we go to honour the veterans…Quite a few veterans…come to the funeral and… we do our ritual like the legion does, we do ours.”

[xvii]  Interview, Russsell Modeste, BC-7. He speaks to school children about his experiences and how uncomfortable he was on several occasions when he had to compromise his cultural customs. “One of the things that we do not do is eat anywhere near a dead person. You know it’s like having a coffin in the dining room…And yet in the field I told them that once there was a dead German officer over here to my left, a private to my right. My buddy said ‘well, there’s a lull, what do you say we have something to eat.’ That’s a no-no in our culture…yet we had to do this.”

[xviii]  Interview, Sam Sinclair, AB-2.

[xix]  Four referred to Indigenous peoples being particularly good with rifles, one suggested that leadership skills were more developed and one believed that his family had helped him prepare for the military

[xx]  Interview, Elmer Sinclair, BC-6.

[xxi]  Interview, Lawrence Martin, ON-4.  “When we were in Holland I stayed with a family of people and they were pretty nice people, they were tops. I guess they were happy that we liberated them and they really enjoyed our company…[the kids had no footwear] so I got them shoes they needed for work… I’ve been back over there twice…We did the pipe ceremony over there the last time I went over with a native group.”

[xxii]  Only one of the twenty, Fernand Lainé who was conscripted, described the experience as negative.

[xxiii]  Two exceptions were J.B. and Fernand Lainé.

[xxiv]  RCAP, vol. 12, chapter 4.1 refers to the role in Canadian society, while chapter 4.3 details the role of returning veterans in seeking improvements. Also Gaffen, Forgotten Soldiers, pp. 72, 79. Of particular importance was the parliamentary hearings on the Indian Act in 1946-7: RCAP, chapters 4.5, 5.1 and 5.3.

[xxv]  In 1951 there were 165,607 people identifying themselves as Indians, or 1.2% of the Canadian population.  (Summerby, Native Soldiers, pp. 31-3.)

[xxvi]  Interview, Robert Carriere, MB-1.

[xxvii]  Interview, Harvey Horlock, ON-9: on his mother’s side of the family five went overseas during the Second World War and only one returned. On his father’s side (who had Scottish and English origins) four uncles went overseas, including Tommy Holmes.

[xxviii]  Interview, Fred Young, MB-3.

[xxix]  Interview, Bill Lafferty, N-NT-1.

[xxx]  Among the Korean veterans, none replied yes, two remembered some racism and eight replied none at all. For the others three replied yes and six none at all. Interview, Elmer Sinclair, BC-6, affirmed that “In all the time I served in the Army [1940-67] I don’t recall ever hearing or seeing one of the [many Indigenous people I met] being treated as other than a soldier. We served in units overseas and we were all treated as equals.”

[xxxi]  Interview, Joe John Sanipass, E-NB-4 : “I was hurt because my buddies called me the Indian. But I got over that.”

[xxxii]  Interview, Stephen Simon, E-NB-1: “I took an axe, I cut half a dozen or so poles. We formed a teepee or wigwam type structure. We moved in there, I lit the fire. I left a small hole in the top and we [brought in] some firewood and some rocks. Boy, we were comfortable that night.”: “You know you can do many things to survive. Today I still maintain my dad’s ability, what he used to do [as] I used to watch him.”

[xxxiii]  Interview, S. Simon, E-NB-1.  Stephen Simon, was a radio operator during the Korean war and remembered hearing the person he was speaking with say something in Micmac aside. “I repeated his words. I said ‘I know Micmac,’ and we spoke in Micmac for a while over the radio and then we thought we may get in trouble if we stayed there talking that long.” He was the radio operator on 21 June 1952 when his company attacked Hill 113. “I was one of the leaders but we got chased back down by machine guns and mortar fire…We had 21 casualties.” Elmer Sinclair (BC-6) was working the radios for the PPCLI during the battle of Kapyong.

[xxxiv]  Three replied yes, five that there was some racism and ten that there was none. A report by Cross-Cultural/Multicultural Associates Inc. “Canadian Forces Diversity Project: Baseline Study,” (February 1997), p. 2, concluded that “Attitudes towards diversity were mostly positive, but only somewhat less positive than in the general population.” Interview, Allan Knockwood, “The only chance I had here in Canada was going into the infantry.”

[xxxv]  Interview, Coreena Letendre, She was asked “what would a little Indian girl like you want this trade

for?…[What would you do with] two six-foot guys fighting?” She asked what he would do as “he was not any taller than me.” She then joined the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, and 17 Wing transport squadron, and has enjoyed her military experiences very much.

[xxxvi]  Interview, Ernest Nadjiwan, ON-7: “I think I was passed by for promotions because I was an Aboriginal person. My crew had the best serviceability when I ran it.”

[xxxvii]  Interview, Peter MacGregor, QC-6.

[xxxviii]  Interview, Garnett Bauersfeld, QC-9. Frank Michon, ON-3, remembers that his nickname was “beaver: that’s what they called me and that was ok…Everybody had some sort of name.”

[xxxix]  Interview, Jocelyn Paul, QC-1.

[xl]  Jocelyn Paul quoted in “Understanding Identity: a talk with Brigadier General Jocelyn Paul,” in The Maple Leaf, 23 May 2018 by Major Nicole Meszaros.

[xli]  Interview, Earl Charters, BC-13.

[xlii]  Interview, Alec Tuckatuck, N-QC-8. He notes that Rangers “are trained every week, and they have different kinds of training programs [involving] military, and also…Inuk culture.” For example, how to do things in the cold such as collect food and how to dry yourself in soft snow if you fall into the water. Interview, Vallee Saunders, N-QC-4, the avalanche of 1 January 1999 killed nine and injured 70, of a population of less than 700 people. He remembers “calling up his Rangers to be ready” and 11 of the 14 Nunavik Patrols responded to the emergency. “They were really glad to see us, to receive fresh hands… most of them were really exhausted.”

[xliii]  It should be added that the impression of those who agreed to be interviewed for this study would probably be more favourable than those who refused to be interviewed.

[xliv]  Six had many relatives in the Armed Forces, four had some members while ten had none. In addition, while some noted community pride in traditional participation with the military, (particularly with the Rangers where the chance for specialized training and responsibility carries a certain amount of prestige) Interview, Solomon Curley, N-N-10 While only one felt discouraged by his community to join, ten felt no pressure and nine felt encouraged.

[xlv]  Twelve of the 20 replied that they joined for the work, five adventure, two prestige and one for a cause.

[xlvi]  Six answered that training and education had been the most helpful way the CF affected their lives, while four referred to greater respect, three to increased self-confidence and three to improved discipline. Interview, Gerard Joe, E-NF-3 from Conne River Newfoundland believes that if young people knew “just how rewarding being in the military can be” there would be more recruits; he appreciated in particular how his view of who he thought he was evolved as the Army helped him by developing “a whole new identity and teaching you how to be part of a team.”

[xlvii]  A report by Cross-Cultural/Multicultural Associates Inc. “A Conceptual Framework for Achieving Diversity and Equity in the Canadian Forces,” (April 1997), p. 2, notes that “research in culturally plural societies clearly shows that, among the various ways to deal with this diversity, attempts at assimilation or segregation do not work. Instead, a process of mutual accommodation, in which individuals and institutions change to meet the evolving needs of its changing population, is the most effective course of action.” On page 9 two issues to be worked out are identified: cultural maintenance and contact- participation (to what extent should they become involved with other cultural groups). See also Department of National Defence, Employment Equity: Managing Diversity, Building Partnership, (Ottawa: DND, 1995).

[xlviii]  News Release of 17 May, 2013: “Aboriginal Serving Members Today.” This was 2.11% of the Regular and Primary Reserve forces. According to the 1996 census 799,010 individuals identified themselves as Indigenous peoples in Canada or 2.8% of the 28,528,125 population. The percentage of Indigenouss in the CF was: 1.5% of the Regular Force, 1.0% of the Primary Reserves and 1.3% of the total, not including the Rangers. According to the 2001 census 976,305 individuals identified themselves as Indigenous peoples or 3.3% of the population and in the CF it was: 2.3% of the Regular Force, 1.8% of the Primary Reserves and 3.4% of the total, which includes the Canadian Rangers

[xlix]  D Strat HR news, vol. 2, 2003. See also MacLaren and Davis, 2001, D Strat HR RN 04/02, “The Canadian Forces as a career of Choice for Aboriginal Canadians. A Strategy for 2020.”

[l] DND News Release, 17 June 2015. The Staff was created in 2002 by “two former Aboriginal CAF members, CPO 2nd Class Debbie Eisan and PO 2nd Class Chris Innes….It is a reminder that Canada will never forget the legacy of the First Peoples. The Staff represents traditional Aboriginal culture and clans, as well as traditional belief in spiritual entities, healing and reverence for the Creator and all life.”

[li] DND News Release, “Chief of the Defence Staff Message on National Aboriginal Day,” 21 June 2017. See also News Release of 17 May, 2013, “A Proud History of Aboriginal Peoples in the CAF,” which notes that “each time there has been a need, Canada’s Aboriginal soldiers have overcome cultural challenges and in making sacrifices have made impressive contributions to restore world peace.” It adds that the National Indigenous Veterans Monument in Ottawa was unveiled on 21 June 2001.

[lii]  See L. Beebe, “A Dream Come True,” Sentinel, vol. 27, no. 6, p. 22. Quotation is from DND internet site: CFAEP. See also News Release of 17 May, 2013, “Aboriginal Summer Programs” on the Bold Eagle as well as Black Bear and Raven programs. Prior to their training for the Black Bear Program “the recruits participated in a culture camp, which taught them about traditional medicine wheel teachings, Aboriginal military history, and Aboriginal culture under the guidance of Aboriginal elders.” See DND News Release, 17 August 2012, “57 Aboriginal Youth Graduate from the Black Bear Program.”

[liii]  CFAEP information on the www.DND.ca internet site. See also Henry McCue, Strengthening Relationships Between the Canadian Forces and Aboriginal People, (Ottawa: DND, c. 2000). See also DND press release of 7 July 2017, “Canadian Forces Aboriginal Entry Program,” that specifies: “you will learn about the long and proud history of Aboriginal peoples in Canada’s military and take part in exercises similar to Basic Training, such as morning inspections, daily physical fitness and sports, navigation with compass and maps, basic weapons training and military drill. You will also try living in field conditions. Civilian Aboriginal counsellors will be available to assist you with the transition to military life.”

[liv]  Rangers are enrolled as CF reservists, receiving annual drill, service weapons training, and other support from CAF personnel, to provide the CF with early warning, territorial surveillance, ground search and rescue, and reconnaissance capabilities. They are organized into five patrol groups: 1CRPG in the Far North has 58 patrols; 2CRPG covers Northern Quebec with 19 patrols; 3CRPG has nine patrols in northern Ontario; 4CRGP is located on the Pacific Coast with 27 patrols; and 5CRPG covers Newfoundland and Labrador with 28 patrols. Junior Ranger programs emphasize cultural values and survival skills.

[lv] On the CFAP see the Directorate of History and Heritage website, under CFAP.

[lvi]  See N.F. Dreisziger, ed., Ethnic Armies: Polyethnic Armed Forces from the Time of the Habsburgs to the Age of the Superpowers, (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1990), particularly the contribution by Bruce White: “The American Army and the Indian.” One example of an exception among military groups involves rifle and light infantry regiments using different marching pace on their own parades, doing 140 paces to the minute instead of the standard 120.

[lvii]  McCue, Strengthening Relationships, 28-33, emphasized the “challenge to reconcile the requirements of a military culture with the cultural diversity found in the society that the military represents and from which it draws its members.” The author then described how the military culture differed from Indigenous culture in Canada by being much more assertive, leadership-driven and non-egalitarian.

[lviii]  Interview, Victor Lyall, E- NF-2. He adds that more follow-up might have been helpful.

[lix]  Interview, Frank Michon, ON-3: some “could hardly speak English…others were having problems [adjusting]…To me it was frustrating to see them take that approach – just grab a guy and then put him in with the rest of the guys with no support.” “They had two young Inuits working in the kitchen… this was when they were trying to get young native people into the military. They were going about it the wrong way but they were trying…”

[lx]  Interview, Solomon Curley, N-N-10: “A lot of people respect Rangers because they know what we are there for and what we do. People respect that a lot, including young people. We have a Junior Rangers program…They are great, they really like it and every year we get more who are interested in becoming a Junior Ranger.” Also Interview, Howard Anderson, SK-3 Howard Anderson, Grand Chief of the Sask. First Nations Veterans, adds that the kids come out of the Bold Eagle Program with “their heads up in the air and they are proud as hell. Really and truly they are really a proud bunch of kids when they are done.”

[lxi] “Racism and discrimination ‘rampant’ throughout ranks of Canadian Armed Forces,” APTN news, 19 January 2017, downloaded at “rabble.ca/babble…” #10, comment/5210771.

RUSI(NS) Staff

Editorial Staff at RUSI (NS). This work is the sole opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Canadian Department of National Defence, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the Royal United Services Institute of Nova Scotia.