Aboriginal Peoples have fought and served alongside first with the British and then Canadians during times of war, military conflict and peace. Aboriginal Veterans have also volunteered and served with Canada’s Allies. Through their courage and sacrifice, these men and women have helped to ensure that we live in freedom and peace, while also fostering freedom and peace around the world. Unfortunately, for some Aboriginal Veterans several discriminatory and injustices were suffered during these wars and conflicts including when they returned home. Aboriginal Veterans struggled for their benefits throughout the years and felt a national organization with a definite set of goals and aims would enable them to present a unified voice to present their concerns. Several organizations were established however, there was no organization or association which strictly represented only Aboriginal Veterans and their families. These founding members realized that although the Aboriginal Veterans served proudly alongside their fellow countrymen and women and allied forces, they felt a separate organization was necessary in order to remember their fallen comrades of Aboriginal ancestry.
In 1981, a group of retired Aboriginal Veterans from the Canadian Armed Forces formed an Association to represent all Aboriginal Veterans and through their vision, the National Indian Veterans Association (NIVA) was formed. The Association came into existence on the 8th of April 1981 and was named the National Indian Veterans Association (NIVA). In 1993, the name was changed to the National Aboriginal Veterans Association (NAVA) in order to better reflect the three Aboriginal Peoples of Canada, First Nations, Inuit and Métis.
On each occasion, our Veterans overcame cultural challenges and made impressive sacrifices and contributions to help the Nation in its efforts to restore world peace. This was an incredible response, a tradition that continues today from both Aboriginal Veterans and Aboriginal serving members.
In 2011, NAVA was dissolved and from this AVA was born.
Aboriginal Veterans Historical Perspectives
Aboriginal Veterans History Fact Sheet Series: Aboriginal Peoples and Canada’s Military Heritage
Fact Sheet 1 – The Covenant Chain Wampum Belt records the political agreement between the Iroquois Confederacy and the British Crown for harmonious relations during peace and military alliance during war.
Fact Sheet 2 – Major exploration and discovery expeditions of the 18th and 19th centuries were dependent for their successful outcomes on the traditional skills and knowledge of Aboriginal scouts and guides.
Fact Sheet 3 – The military support given to the British Crown by allied First Nations was an important factor in the successful defence of British North America against American invasion during the War of 1812.
Fact Sheet 4 – First Nations military support for Crown government in Upper and Lower Canada during the Rebellions of 1837 and 1838 aided the preservation of the parliamentary system in British North America.
Fact Sheet 5 – From the time of the American Civil War to the present, many Aboriginal persons from Canada have served in the U.S. military.
Fact Sheet 6 – Units of Métis riflemen using tactics adapted from the buffalo hunt were organized in anticipation of Fenian raids into Manitoba in 1870. In other situations these same tactics posed a serious challenge to conventional Dominion militias during the Red River and Northwest Resistances.
Fact Sheet 7 – Mohawk and Ojibwa boatmen served with distinction during the Nile Expedition of 1884-1885.
Fact Sheet 8 – By the time of the South African War, Aboriginal persons in some areas of Canada had become active in local militia units. Walter White of the Anderdon Band of Wyandot was killed in action at the Battle of Paardeberg while serving with the Royal Canadian Regiment in South Africa.
Fact Sheet 9 – Over 4000 status Indians from across Canada served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. Nursing Sister Edith Anderson Monture of the Six Nations served with the U.S. Army Medical Corps in France.
Fact Sheet 10 – Approximately 3000 status Indians served during the Second World War, including Military Medal and U.S. Silver Star recipient Sergeant Tommy Prince of the 1st Special Service Force.
Fact Sheet 11 – The Korean War saw the return to service of numerous Aboriginal veterans of the Second World War, as well as the emergence of a new generation of Aboriginal servicemen and women.
Fact Sheet 12 – Military service has remained an important rite of passage for Aboriginal persons throughout the era of the Cold War, Peacekeeping and now Southwest Asia and elsewhere.
Fact Sheet 13 – Aboriginal persons, especially Inuit, form a significant portion of the Canadian Rangers, reservists charged with surveillance and reconnaissance across vast areas of Canada’s Arctic, coastal and inland territories.
“Lest We Forget”
(compiled by AVA member John Moses, Six Nations of the Grand River, from various sources)