Throughout history, Aboriginal Peoples have been at the front lines of Canada’s major conflicts.
And to acknowledge their contribution to Canada the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) recognizes Aboriginal Awareness Week. This year Aboriginal Awareness week is being held May 19 to May 22. During the week, the CAF will be acknowledging the tradition of military service found in First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures, as well as their heritage of courage and heroism.
“I welcome this opportunity to express my gratitude to the First Peoples of this land for their past and current contributions to this country and to Canada’s Defence Team, both military and civilian,” said Lieutenant-General Marquis Hainse, commander, Canadian Army and Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Force’s Champion for Aboriginal Peoples.
During the War of 1812, more than 10,000 First Nations and Métis warriors under renowned chief Tecumseh fought alongside the British and Canadian militias, an alliance that proved critical in the shaping of Canada.
Despite early barriers to Aboriginal People’s participation, that tradition of service and sacrifice continued in the First and Second World Wars when thousands of Aboriginal men and women volunteered to serve in the CAF.
War heroes Sergeant Francis Pegahmagabow and Sergeant Thomas Prince exemplified the proud warrior spirit and deep sense of patriotism important to First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures.
Sgt Pegahmagabow fought for his country in the First World War and came home to champion Aboriginal rights, providing an example of the 2015 Aboriginal Awareness Week theme, Self-Determination in Action.
Over the years, Aboriginal Peoples of Canada continue to answer the call of duty whenever their country asks them.
“We give our eternal thanks to those who paid the ultimate price in serving our nation, such as Master Corporal Kristal Giesebrecht, a member of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, who died in an incident involving an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2010,” said Hainse.
In a statement acknowledging Aboriginal Awareness Week Hainse said as an organization the CAF recognizes and value the ways in which the unique cultural, spiritual and traditional identities of the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples enrich the CAF’s military ethos.
The CAF belongs to all the peoples of Canada. Ensuring inclusivity and respect for all members helps this organization stand ready to meet challenges in an increasingly complex world.
According to the Canadian Armed Forces website (www.forces.ca) the CAF offers a variety of programs for young Aboriginals including, the Aboriginal Leadership Opportunities Year (ALOY), Summer Training Programs and the Canadian Forces Aboriginal Entry Program.
ALOY offers a highly positive, productive, one-year educational and leadership experience through the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) in Kingston, Ontario.
The program includes sports, field trips, leadership development, military training, cultural support activities, and individual learning plans. Through these learning plans, participants take part in individual and small group tutorials for pre-university (non-credit) and first-year university courses.
As part of the program, students are enrolled in the Forces for one year as an Officer Cadet and receive free tuition and books at RMC. They may request to leave the program at any point in the year. At the end of the year, they may apply to continue at RMC in a degree program through either the Regular Officer Training Program or the Reserve Entry Training Plan.
The Forces also offers three Summer Training Programs that combine military lifestyle with cultural awareness, Bold Eagle, Raven and Black Bear.
These six-week long programs give participants a taste of military training with the option, but no commitment, to join the Forces. The training is based on the Army Reserve Basic Military Qualification and is taught by military instructors.
All three Summer Training Programs begin with a Culture Camp. The camp is designed to ease the transition from civilian to military lifestyle and focuses on common spiritual beliefs. All Culture Camps are conducted by Elders of different First Nations and Aboriginal groups.
Bold Eagle is open to Aboriginal Peoples living in Western Canada or Northwestern Ontario. Participants train in Wainwright, Alberta. Raven is the Navy’s summer program for Aboriginal Peoples from across Canada and participants train in Esquimalt, British Columbia. Finally, Black Bear is an Army training program for Aboriginal Peoples from across Canada that takes place in Oromocto, New Brunswick.
The CAF arranges travel to and from the program, living accommodations, food, clothing and all equipment. While participants are in the program, they are temporarily a Forces member and are paid for completing the full six weeks.
The Canadian Forces Aboriginal Entry Program is a special three-week program for Aboriginal Peoples who are considering a career in the Forces. During the program, you get hands-on experience with military training, careers, and lifestyle with no obligation to join the Forces. At the end of the program, you receive $1,200 for completing the program and a certificate of military achievement.
Participants learn about the long and proud history of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada’s military and take part in exercises similar to Basic Training, such as morning inspections, daily physical fitness and sports, navigation with compass and maps, basic weapons training and military drill.
The course takes place at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in St Jean, Quebec and at Canadian Forces Base Halifax, Nova Scotia. The CAF provides transportation to and from the training centre, living accommodations, food, clothing and all equipment for the course. At the end of the course, if participants choose to join the Forces, they return home until the next available Basic Training course starts.
Aboriginal Awareness Week was first introduced back in 1992 and is held the week following the Victoria Day long weekend. It was designed to increase awareness of Aboriginal peoples within the Canadian mosaic and the public service.
It has evolved into a week to honour the many Aboriginal cultures in Canada, including the Métis, the Inuit, and First Nations.
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