On November 8 Canada honours First Nation, Metis and Inuit soldiers and veterans serving in the Armed Forces.

Established in Manitoba in 1994, the day was formerly known as Aboriginal Veteran’s Day.

Now, November 8 is a national day for recognition and remembrance of more than 200 years of military service by First Nation, Metis and Inuit communities.

This year the Indigenous veterans were commemorated in a small event in Victory Square Park, Vancouver.

2021 has been hard for Indigenous families partly due to unmarked graves at Residential Schools being revealed across the country, said Carolyn Orazietti.

“Be an ally, take a back seat and watch and support the Indigenous community and give them the time and space they need to heal.”

Orazietti is co-chair of the Aboriginal Veterans Society in the Lower Mainland and a veteran of Mi’kmaw descent.

“Just be reflective and appreciative of how much they did for us. Regardless, if they had white skin, red skin, whatever the colour was, they were patriotic.”

David Ward who served in the Canadian Armed Forces with tours of duty in Egypt and Cyprus, has been pushing for more support of First Nation Veterans.

After his service, Ward was living on the streets of Ottawa and struggled with alcohol addiction.

After reminiscing with other Indigenous veterans at the National War Memorial one day, Ward, who is Cree, had an idea.

“There was either a Free France or a liberation of Holland ceremony going on and I’m going, ‘We don’t have a day for us. Why shouldn’t we?'” he said.

Ward then travelled to Vancouver and helped start a British Columbia chapter of the National Aboriginal Veterans Association.

“We’re trying to find our veterans. [But] the Department of Indian Affairs took all the military records of the Aboriginal veterans, and put them in theirs [records],” he said.

“You go down and you see, ‘Oh, finally, I recognise a Native name.’ That one we can find.

“But all the ones that served under their white names we can’t find. We’re slowly but surely finding them.”

There is no accurate record of how many Indigenous people have served in Canada’s military forces over the years.

The Federal Government reports that 3.5 per cent of those currently serving are from First Nation.

By Teisha Cloos