Approximately 100 people attended an Aboriginal Veterans Day Celebration Friday at the Westbank First Nation to pay their respects to the Indigenous people who sacrificed their life in wars for the freedom of all Canadians.
The event included remarks from Westbank First Nation Chief Chris Derickson, the singing of the Okanagan Song and Woman’s Warrior Song from 50 Sensisyusten school students and the laying of wreaths for Indigenous people who died or who have passed on from war.
Chief Derickson said it was important to reflect on those who participated in wars to reflect on what they did for the country.
“Men and women have fought bravely in World War One and Two and in other wars around the world to protect the funamental right and freedoms of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike,” Derickson said.
“For that, we are forever grateful and we hold a great debt to the men and women in uniform, to those who have worn the uniform, and to those who have fought for our freedoms.”
According to the Westbank First Nation, approximately 7,000 Indigenous people served in the Canadian Armed Forces during the First and Second World Wars.
Despite progress made since the World Wars, Chief Derickson said there’s still more to be done to advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
“First Nations can have disagreements with the country knowing our rights protect us from the action of the state.
(However), It’s time for western society to acknowledge the Indigenous peoples of this land who resided here and whose rights were taken away many years ago because we couldn’t have disagreements, and because we couldn’t just talk about things (with governments) and find a way through by discussion.”
While Lt.-Col. Mead said, it was important for all Canadians to recognize the commitments that veterans have made to the country.
“When you see a veteran, take the time to imagine what they’ve endured. Then, go shake their hand,” Mead said.
“Look them in the eyes and say thank you and acknowledge for every hand you shake, there are thousand that can no longer be shook.”
Following the speeches, a minute of silence was given before the song “Amazing Grace” was performed bagpiper Kim Smith-Jones.