Saskatchewan First Nations veterans pay respects at Vimy Ridge
- EFN Staff | November 10, 2019
EFN story date: June 6, 2017
The Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association (SFNVA) went overseas to join thousands at Vimy ridge this spring to commemorate the centennial of the battle that some say defined the start of Canadian identity. The events that unfolded in foreign soil one hundred years ago significantly impacted Canada in becoming an independent Nation. Many First Nation communities in Saskatchewan sent their family members there to fight on behalf of Canada.
SFNVA Grand Chief Steven Ross joined twenty other veterans and family members at Vimy and said it was one of the most impactful journeys he has every taken. “When we arrived, we realized there was a lot that we didn’t know, things that the textbooks don’t tell you. There were so many people that died in this battle, it was overwhelming to see.”
The Saskatchewan group was kept very busy with events and tours of the area. While there, they located and performed a ceremony for fallen soldier Sergeant Harvey Dreaver from Mistawasis First Nation. “We wanted to honour the sacrifice that he made for us and recognize that he rests there on foreign land so we can enjoy the freedoms we have today,” said Grand Chief Ross. “It was a well marked gravesite and those who attended made comments and payed their respects. It became very emotional.” As they toured the area they were able to find other First Nations soldiers from the south who have rested in the same cemetery for a century.
The event itself was extremely large including attendance by Prime Minister Trudeau and other world leaders. Steven wishes that there would have been more support offered by the Federal government to make the trip a reality, but says “I am glad we were able to do it on our own. We had a lot of support and I want to sincerely thank all of the people who provided donations and sponsorship to make this happen,” said Ross of the countless fudnraisers that were held to pay for the trip. “We see it as very important to acknowledge the role that First Nations people have played in shaping our country. We have to continue to do this.”
The SFNVA is in talks to build a healing facility in Saskatchewan for returning veterans. “A lot of them come back with a lot of pain, they need to have access to professional help. We are working this and requesting assistance from the Federal Government,” added Ross. “I believe that in time, we will succeed.”
For more information about Vimy Ridge, or to view a video of the centennial event visit http://www.vimyfoundation.ca