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Okanagan Indigenous veterans were stripped of their status after war efforts

Westbank First Nations held a ceremony for Indigenous veterans day
Royal Canadian Legion Westbank 288 treasurer Liz Dickson and president Anne Fox. (Jacqueline Gelineau/West K News)

Indigenous veterans day is a time to pause and recognize the contributions that Aboriginal people made to protect Canada and Canadian values.

Westbank First Nation hosted a ceremony on Nov. 8, to celebrate Indigenous veterans and to share the story of how racism overshadowed the achievements of the brave men who fought for their country.

It is important to recognize that in addition to risking their life, Indigenous people who fought in the First and Second World Wars were stripped of their Indian Status, said Jordan Coble, member of council for Westbank First Nation.

Despite the fact that they lost their identity, 99 per cent of eligible men in the Okanagan Indian Band enlisted in the fight, because they believed in the cause, said Coble.

“It made for a very complicated homecoming,” said Coble. “You’re coming home to a community that is no longer your own.”

Coble explained that as a non-status Indian, people felt disconnected from their Indigenous community while not being accepted by colonizers.

READ MORE: Premier remembers Indigenous Okanagan veteran who served two wars

Feeling disconnected from society contributed to inter-generational traumas that impact Indigenous people today, said Coble.

“We’re not here to garner sympathy… we’re here to share our story.”

He explained that on the journey of Truth and Reconciliation, Indigenous communities are at the stage of sharing truths, and people need to listen and learn.

“Everyone needs to understand that listening is the most important tool that we have. “

Coble said that people need to embrace the true history of Canada, even though it is not all pleasant.

READ MORE: Indigenous Veterans Day: Kelowna student honours ancestors in writing


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Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

I'm a reporter in the beginning stages of my career. I joined the team at Capital News in November 2021...
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