Commander Canadian Army marks Indigenous Awareness Week

Statement / May 23, 2023

Greetings, Bonjour, Aaniin, Ainngai, Tawnshi, Kwe Aweti,

As Commander Canadian Army, Defence Team Champion for Indigenous Peoples, and proud member of the Huron-Wendat First Nation, it is my honour to announce the start of Indigenous Awareness Week (IAW) for 2023.

This week is a time of celebration – but also reflection – and learning. Designed to increase awareness and understanding of Indigenous people, our cultures, histories, and contributions to Canada.

The Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence celebrate the richness of cultural diversity that First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples bring today. We are skilled professionals and leaders serving Canada at home and overseas. We bring unique knowledge and perspectives as part of a dynamic and increasingly diverse team.

As Canadians we need to reflect on the historic contributions of the Indigenous and remember they have been at the forefront of defending this land since the earliest days of the European arrival. Cartier, Champlain, Mackenzie, and Thompson were all led and enabled by Indigenous Peoples.

Our ancestors showed the land and the rivers to the newly arrived Europeans and helped them survive in the harsh Canadian climate environment. Economic exchanges and military alliances were quickly established.

More than 10,000 First Nations and Métis Peoples sided with the British against American aggression in 1812. [source]

During the World Wars, our relatives served in large numbers, despite not being equals in Canadian society. Our Peoples were disenfranchised by our electoral system well into the 20th century. [source]

Indigenous Peoples have continued to distinguish themselves at war and in peacekeeping. Today, in contrast to the military, economic, and political nature of those first alliances with the French and English, our desire to serve is based in patriotism, team spirit, and a sense of adventure.

I have seen the future in the faces of the youth who take part in Canadian Armed Forces Indigenous Programs, which impart both soldiering skills and Indigenous cultural teachings. Some of those young people choose to join up, and some do not, but all of them have the potential to be leaders.

The theme of IAW 2023 is “Reconciliation is a Path Walked Together”. This brings me to the learning aspect of this week.

You can join this journey by keeping an open mind and questioning stereotypes. Delve into the parts of our national history that include Indigenous Peoples; much is still unknown or forgotten.

Explore the vast diversity that exists within Indigenous communities. We share the common feature of being the descendants of the first inhabitants of North America, but each of us has our own unique culture and history and brings very different perspectives.

As a country we are walking in the right direction, driven by a genuine desire for Reconciliation. It may seem at times that we are only taking small steps, but those steps add up. I have seen it and felt it in my own life.

I invite you to come along on this important and rewarding journey to reconciliation.

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