Indigenous veterans group advocates, connects
- NC Raine | November 09, 2021
In the past, the Canadian government too often brushed aside Indigenous Veterans returning home from service, but since 1972 the Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans' Association (SFNVA) has ensured that no one goes unrecognized.
“They have pride when they're recognized. Before, nothing was ever mentioned when Veterans passed away. So at least now they're being recognized by the people, by the Veterans themselves – we do a lot of PR work like that,” said Steven Ross, Grand Chief of the association.
“Our job is to advocate for the Veterans… There's still a lot of people who don't understand what benefits are available to them,” he said.
The organization also helps veterans to keep in touch.
“I'm still connected to some of my friends from the Armed Forces from over 50 years ago. That (sense of community) is important. We are able to get things done for our fellow Veterans, and hopefully, other organizations will follow,” he said.
Ross said he is most proud of the SFNVA’s Courageous Warriors of Saskatchewan book, released earlier in 2021, which highlights the stories of many of Saskatchewan's Indigenous Veterans over the last century.
The organization also offers semi-military, semi-Christian military funerals services, which its members conduct themselves. They also work with the federal government to place military markers on Veterans' grave sites.
“I believe every Veteran deserves that,” said Ross.
“They were willing to die for their country, die for the Queen, willing to die for the land, for their people, for the Treaty.”
The association, which was created to promote, preserve and protect the Treaty Rights of First Nations Veterans, serves about 75 full-member veterans, and around 100 associate members. About 20 of those fulltime members are still in service.
It is a branch of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), led by an elected Grand Chief and representative Presidents in Prince Albert, Regina-Fort Qu'Appelle, and North Battleford.
To qualify as a full member, one must have an honourable discharge from the Armed Forces, said Ross. Associate members are for family members, or anyone else who wishes to participate and support in the activities of the organization. Both membership types pay a $25 annual fee, and receive a quarterly newsletter, invitations to social gatherings, and for the full members, access to benefits and assistance receiving benefits.