Remembrance with the North
(Retired) Master Warrant Officer Floyd Powder said the most important work Canada can do is bring awareness to the contributions Indigenous veterans made in all wars. Powder, born and raised in Fort Smith N.W.T, spoke about his father, who had moved from Fort Chipewyan, N.W.T to Calgary, Alberta to join the military near the end of World War II. Even though Indigenous peoples from the North went off to fight for Canada, they returned to a discriminating system and a system that - at the time - still denied Indigenous peoples and veterans the right to vote and to be treated as equals when they came back as heroes.
Floyd Powder stated, “Despite numerous challenges, many average people volunteered: often travelling great distances from rural communities to enlist, learning a new language - English - and coping with racism against them.”
Back in 2019, the Liberal government pledged $30M to commemorate the contributions made by Metis veterans in World War II, with the money to be used as a trust fund for survivors and descendants. Presidents for the North Slave Metis Alliance and N.W.T Metis Nation were initially doubtful that they’d be able to access some of this pledged money for N.W.T Metis veterans because neither organization was associated with the Metis National Council. Some of those doubts were addressed, when Clement Chartier - [then] President of the Metis National Council - stated that money would be available to all Metis veterans, using Fort Smith as an example, saying the community could access funds to build something like a monument or hold a ceremony.
More recently, Indigenous N.W.T recognition for veterans has seemingly taken a more positive turn, as an organization known as the Last Post Fund has created an Indigenous Veterans Initiative (IVI), with the stated intent of being, “consistent with the Canadian government’s efforts towards advancing reconciliation and renewing the relationship with Indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership.”
The Last Post Fund has offered Indigenous veterans in the N.W.T deserving recognition by offering quality-made headstones with names, dates, and syllabic and/or community-based symbols to mark their graves; graves that were previously marked with wooden crosses and/or unmarked. The IVI started in 2019 and has two components, “to provide grave markers to Indigenous Veterans deceased for over 5 years and laying in unmarked graves [and] to add traditional names of Indigenous Veterans to existing military grave markers.
Floyd Power is also a researcher with the charitable organization the Last Post Fund, and has contributed towards efforts to provide 11 headstones through IVI to graves for Indigenous veterans “in Yellowknife, Bechoko, Fort Simpson, Hay River, and Fort Smith.” Edna Powder of Fort Smith N.W.T remembered her cousin - Joseph Xavior Powder - who left his community to serve in World War II at the age of 15, and was happy with him receiving a headstone, saying she was happy because “that is something that will last forever.”
So dear readers, how will you continue to remember the Northern Indigenous veterans who served in times of conflict? And if this was the first time you gave some thought to those who come from our smaller communities in the N.W.T, now you can think of their contributions. As we take time to reflect and be grateful, let’s participate in initiatives for Northern Indigenous veterans of past and present since they are equally heroes to us all.
(From the Last Post Fund): “If you think that a family member or a member of your community may qualify for this program, or if you would like to contribute to the community research effort, please contact Maria Trujillo, Indigenous Program Coordinator at
1-800-465-7113 extension 222, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Until next time,
Team ReconciliAction YEG
 “‘Long time coming’ for recognition of Indigenous veterans”, Cabin Radio (Nov. 10, 2019) online: <cabinradio.ca> https://cabinradio.ca/25422/news/long-time-coming-for-recognition-of-indigenous-veterans/
 “N.W.T. Métis leaders doubt they'll be able to access $30M to honour Métis vets”, CBC North (March 25, 2019) online: <cbc.ca> https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/metis-vets-commemoration-fund-1.5070833
 “Indigenous Veterans Initiative”, Last Post Fund (2020) online: <lastpostfund.ca> https://www.lastpostfund.ca/indigenous-veterans-initiative/
 “Last Post Fund offers unique program to honour Indigenous veterans in N.W.T.”, APTN National News (Oct. 18, 2021) online: <aptnnews.ca> https://www.aptnnews.ca/national-news/last-post-fund-northwest-territories-indigenous-veterans/
 Supra note 7.