Westbank First Nation honours those who served on National Indigenous Veterans Day

Ahead of Memorial Day, West Bank First Nations gathered to honor Aboriginal military contributions on National Aboriginal Veterans Day.

Despite the cold weather, members of the RCMP and BC Dragons, veterans, the Mayor of West Kelowna and community members joined Westbank First Nation to listen to the community’s traditional songs, prayers and recitations of veterans’ names.

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Jordan Coble, a member of the West Bank Indigenous Council, said: “We come together, bring people together, and pay tribute to all who have sacrificed so we can have a community, our language, so we can can own our land and each other.”

“It’s really hard to carry that solemn emotion because you’re so happy to see so many people come together and recognize the huge role that Indigenous peoples have played in shaping and creating what Canada is today.”

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The ceremony is traditionally held in front of a three-piece sculpture created by Smoker Marchand.

Tuesday’s ceremony was the first to be held with snow on the ground.

“The three behind me represent veterans returning to our community who are often injured and need care and attention,” Coble said, pointing to the sculpture.

“It’s our community members, our seniors, and especially the women in our community, making sure they’re cared for and protected when they return.”

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Aboriginal Veterans Day has been recognized since 1994, first in Manitoba and then nationally.

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While the day is not a federal holiday like Memorial Day, Coble said the number of people recognizing Indigenous Veterans Day across the country continues to grow.

“It wasn’t so long ago that Aboriginal veterans were left out, and we can get more involved in those activities and spread power — because Canada wouldn’t be Canada without Aboriginal people,” Coble said.

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