CAF Story | How the CAF helped CPO 2 Stevens find his culture

Video / June 15, 2022


(PS) I feel that military had the chance to give me back part of my culture and really startle me on my path towards my spiritual reckoning.

Patrick Stevens, Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class in the Royal Canadian Navy. I am sonar operator by trade, currently serving as the Indigenous Advisor to the Chaplain General.

I grew up in the Nipissing First Nation near North Bay, Ontario. We have a lot of traditional beliefs, but because we weren't as isolated as some, we have lost a lot of our culture. Given the chance to speak about my culture, at first, was very challenging. I didn't want to do it. There wasn't much opportunity for any members, any people, let alone Indigenous members, for jobs, for work. And I wanted to change, I wanted to do something better.

I had the opportunity to attend a recruiting event in my reserve. The recruiting event got me involved with the Canadian Armed Forces Aboriginal Entry Program. With that, I was able to join. Being part of the Infantry Reserve at the time, I had the chance to look towards the right force. With the right force came different options. From there, I joined the Navy as a sonar operator.

I was in Thunder Bay, Ontario, with HMCS Halifax. We had... at that, a local chief came and presented Indigenous members with an eagle feather. At the time, I don't know what happened that day. Something in me kind of spoke. I wanted to talk about my culture a little bit. I looked at taking part in the ceremony. As I got to the flight deck and then presented with this eagle feather, it was a really defining moment in my career. At that point, I started to say: Yeah, I am Indigenous. I am a proudly serving Anishinaabe. This is who I am, this is my culture. The eagle feather brought me on my path, my path in the military, my reckoning of my culture, my thirst for knowledge.

I'm now learning to speak my traditional tongue, you know, learning to speak my own language. The military brought me in speaking English. They allowed me to learn to speak French, and now, I mean, allowed to learn to speak my native language, which is this amazing feat.

From there, I’ve also come to act as the Eagle Staff carrier. So, I started with an eagle feather in the military. And eventually, I was able to take the teachings of how to carry the Eagle Staff through the military. The honour of having that in my position, being able to carry that with pride, you know, for someone that was originally ashamed and didn't want to talk about my background, to now, I have the Eagle Staff, I'm also recently carrying it out on Remembrance Day.

As many times to face obstacles and barriers, there's just as many supporting of the Indigenous people as well as multifaith, multiculture, multibackgrounds within the military.

Canada itself is a nation of differences. If we truly learn to embrace our differences, it makes us a stronger nation. So, the Canadian Armed Forces are representative of that truly.

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