National Aboriginal Veterans Day – 08 November

Above: Chuck Isaacs, President of the Aboriginal Veterans Society of Alberta.

by Lucie Roy

 Aboriginal Veterans have served in Canada’s Military Forces from the formative times of the War of 1812 to the present. Their military contributions were essential to Canada’s survival in earlier times.

National Aboriginal Veterans day began in Winnipeg in 1994 when Indigenous veterans were not recognized in Remembrance day activities.

 The day is celebrated annually on 8 November as a day of remembrance and commemoration that honours the contribution that Indigenous veterans ( First Nation, Inuit, and Metis) people made in war and peace support operations.

 More than 12000 Indigenous Canadians served this country and volunteered to join the military in the First and Second World War as well as Korea. made in war and peace.

Indigenous men and women have continued to this day to risk their lives defending Canadian values of peace, freedom and democracy in operations overseas. The efforts of Indigenous Veterans over the past 200 years have helped shape Canada.

 In the Canadian Armed Forces Indigenous people have become leaders in every field, from engineers and physiotherapists to technicians and system specialists.

 Some of the soldiers who served include Metis military veteran, Retired Sgt Chuck Isaacs, who is currently the President of the Aboriginal Veterans Society of Alberta, overseeing a membership of 105 and among many projects serving as a pension advocate for those veterans not receiving benefits and doing recruitment for the Canadian Armed Forces Bold Eagle Program.

Isaacs has a long line of family members who served in the military. His father, Jack Norman Isaacs was a Korean War veteran.

He said he wanted to be in the military since he was 12 years of age. His babysitter was his fraternal grandfather, Charles Andrew Short, who survived the war and was also a Canadian Military Engineer, just like he was.

 His other grandfather, had the same name as his Dad, Norman Isaacs and he served in the Canadian Ordnance Corps in WWII.

 Isaacs said it goes further back than that in the line of military service his grandmother’s uncle, Donald Ross was the last man killed at the Battle of Batoche.

Isaacs himself joined the military in 1985 and trained a s a Combat Engineer. He then took a Combat Diver Course, and Combat Int. and was qualified to drive most of the vehicles in the regiment.

Isaacs said every time there was a course or chance to volunteer he put his hand up.

In 1989 he served in Lahr Germany with 4 Combat Engineer regiment and also did ROTO O for 7 months with United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR).

 While in Germany he completed a British and French Diving Course and on his return was posted to the Dept of Military Engineer & Resources in charge of all Canadian military engineer equipment in Canada and abroad.

 He deployed several times to Yugoslavia.

 His medals earned include Canadian Decoration,UNPROFOR, Nato 3 tours, Peacekeeping Medal, Queens Jubilee and the Special Service Medal

One of the soldiers from Tofield, Alberta has a mountain named after him.

George Alexander Campion was born January 23, 1911 in Tofield, son of Adolphe Campion, grandson of Cuthbert Grant) and Esther Dumont (great nice to Gabriel Dumont).

He enlisted February 15, 1940 in Edmonton. WWII medals earned includes the Military Medal,, 1030-45 Star, Italy Star, Defence Medal, Canadian Service Medal w/bar and the War Medal 1939-1945.

He was killed after the battle of the Hitler Line in Italy during WWII May 23, 1944.

Sgt George Campion was buried at the Cassino War Cemetery in Italy.

In January 1949-1950 seven Alberta war heroes had Jasper National Park mountains named in their honour. Mount Campion after Sgt G>A. Campion “A” Coy is 2484 m (8150) ft.and is located in the Little Berland River Valley at the head of Star Creek Hoff Range Willmore Park.

Private Harry Francis Maloney, born January 1895, who enlisted in Edmonton in November 1915, received the British War Medal and Victory Medal and is buried at the Courcelette British Cemetery in Somme France.

Private Thomas Maloney enlisted June 9 1917 in Frank Alberta.

He earned the British War Medal and Victory Medal and is buried at the Regina Cemetery in Regina Sask.

Private George Coming Singer of the Blood Indian Reserve in Macleod is buried at the Lenham Cemetery in Kent, United Kingdom.

Private Mike Foxhead born August 16,1898 of the Blackfoot Reserve, Gleichen, enlisted October 9,1916 in Calgary at the age of 18.

He was killed in action a year later on October 23, 1917. His body was never recovered and he has no gravestone.

His name is found at the Menin Gate (Ypres) memorial in Belgium on panel 24-28-30. He earned the Victory Medal and British War Medal.

First Nations, Inuit and Metis people were not eligible for conscription because they were not citizens of Canada but many volunteered despite the challenges the faced, waking many miles to enlist, learning English and coping with racism.

When they joined the military they gained the right to voter but lost their Treaty status and upon returning home after the war were disenfranchised- lost right to vote and because they lost their Treaty status many veterans spent years trying to get their Treaty status reinstated.


The Aboriginal Veterans Society of Alberta in coo Government erected a Aboriginal Memorial Monuments on the Alberta Legislature grounds and at the Lac Ste Ann Pilgrimage grounds as a commitment to ensure proper recognition.


To honour Indigenous veterans, the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument was unveiled in Ottawa in 2001.

It has a large eagle on top, four men and women from different Aboriginal groups in the middle and sculpture of a grizzly bear, a caribou, a wolf and a bison around the outside. These animals have special symbolism in many Aboriginal-Canadian cultures.

Wiingashk Pins, made with sweet grass. This poppy is an international symbol to represent war veterans.
Made at the Garden River First Nation in Ontario. Store sweet grass pins in the dark when not in use preferable in the freezer.
Indigenous Veteran Challenge Coin.
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  1. As a retired Military member, I can say that it matters not what creed or color you are. In the trenches, we are all brothers. To have more than one Remembrance day takes away from the other. It really does. Instead of ALL Canadians being honored for the sacrifice, now only one specific ethnic group, and that is harmful to national unity. On Remembrance day, I honor ALL soldiers who fought, and died for our country, not just white or black or red. All Canadians. Will aboriginal people attend Remembrance day services, now that they have their own? A few maybe, but not as it was. And that is counterproductive, No? Instead of segregating, we should be unifying as one. There is a reason why Remembrance day falls on Nov.11. At the 11th hr, on the 11th day, in the 11th month, the armistace was signed, ending WWI. What happened on Nov. 8th? Nothing. Tommy Prince, served with honor. He served with men of all creed and considered them all his brothers. That is the spirit that should be honored in this day and age, and I will honor his service and the thousands of others on Remembrance day.

    • Lance, Many of our indigenous were not treated with the respect or the honour that non indigenous received once they returned home. Did you know indigenous veterans were not allowed to join the Legion nor were they allowed to place a wreath at the cenotaph during memorial services. They were only allowed to show their respects once the official service was done. This was until at least Nov 1992 please see the links below.

      “When the First World War began, many Indigenous people volunteered in part because of the legacy of their forefathers in the War of 1812. Initially in 1914, there was confusion and indecision over their enlistment, but in 1917, they were recruited and it’s estimated that more than 4,000 Aboriginals served, in addition to Métis and Inuit. While fighting alongside other Canadians, prejudices and stereotypes were broken down as they made friends with their comrades and proved their abilities. Their knowledge of tracking and hunting made them an asset in combat. At least 50 were awarded medals for bravery and heroism.”

      “native contribution to the Western world’s freedom went largely unreported and unnoticed. It is only recently that native veterans have begun to be heard. In fact it was not until November 11, 1992?{article below says 1995.} that native veterans were permitted to place a wreath at the cenotaph during memorial services. Traditionally they had to wait until the conclusion of the official service before showing respect for their fellow comrades (Micmac News, Nov. 1987, p. 8-15).”

      “it was not until 1995, fifty years after the Second World War that Indigenous Peoples were allowed to lay Remembrance Day wreaths at the National War Memorial to remember and honour their dead comrades. First Nations (status Indians) were exempt from conscription because they were not considered “citizens” of Canada and did not have the right to vote. To serve in the Canadian Air Force or Canadian Navy, you had to be “of pure European descent”; this restriction was rescinded in 1940 for the Air Force and 1943 for the Navy.”

      “Indigenous soldiers, sailors and airmen who served in major conflicts of the 20th century came home to discover they could not receive the same benefits as other veterans, says the report.
      “We’ve been saying ‘a veteran is a veteran is a veteran,’ but that has not always been the case for indigenous veterans,” said Thibeau.”

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