In addition to being Alberta's 100th anniversary as a province, 2005 is also the national ‘Year of the Veteran', an acknowledgement of a proud history of service to Canada in the world wars, the Korean conflict and numerous peacekeeping duties around the world.
Military service with honour is also truly a part of the rich Aboriginal Canadian heritage. In so many ways Aboriginal soldiers demonstrated the highest levels of citizenship through their military service. Aboriginal veterans' sacrifices both abroad and at home have aided in ensuring that Canada remained and still remains a free and proud country.
Many Aboriginal veterans overcame major challenges to serve in the wars, from learning to speak in English to adjusting to new cultures to traveling great distances just to enlist.
An anonymous Aboriginal veteran recently recalled what it meant to him to fight for his country in the Second World War: “The war proved that the fighting spirit of my tribe was not squelched through reservation life. When duty called, we were there, and when we were called forth to fight for the cause of civilization, our people showed all the bravery of our warriors of old.”
As these veterans of past wars are in an age group in the seniors or Elders category, an avenue was needed to ensure their proper recognition. As a result, the Aboriginal Veterans Society of Alberta was formed by First Nation, Metis and Non-Status veterans in 1983. Its goal is to recognize all Aboriginal veterans still with us and those who have passed on to ensure that future generations will know of the contributions and personal sacrifices made by Aboriginal veterans.
In honour of that goal, several partners worked together to erect an Aboriginal Memorial Monument on the Alberta Legislative grounds in September 2004. The dedication of this monument is a commitment to ensure proper recognition for Aboriginal veterans. It reads: “Dedicated to the Aboriginal veterans of Alberta who served their country in times of peace and war.”
“It will be somewhere we can go on November 11th and remember the people that died over there,” veteran Robert Berard has said. “It's a symbol that we have done our share.”