CAF Story | Reconciliation and Healing

Video / June 30, 2022


(PG) There's not a whole lot of photos or films of these Sun Dance ceremonies, because it is so sacred.

The dance involves fasting and sometimes ceremonial piercings of the skin. It's a test of your physical endurance and your spirituality. Cplc Phoenix George.

I grew up on Carry The Kettle First Nation. It is about 80 km east of Regina. Growing up, the community would come together to do events, ceremonies. We'd have our powwows, our celebrations together.

All of my mother's close relatives were known to me as Auntie and Uncle. All of the family my age were my cousins, and if they were being raised with me, they were my brothers and sisters. So family meant a lot to us.

My grandfather Percy Ryder was an infantryman with PPCLI mid 1950s, and he served in continental Europe. He brought back a lot of his stories. That was kind of implemented into us... is to honour our ogichidaa, or our warriors.

So right out of high school, I wanted to join the Bold Eagle Indigenous youth army program and I brought it up with my grandpa, he said he would support me joining the military after I received an education, because it might have been hard for an Indigenous person and an Indigenous woman.

So in 2014, I graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Science honours in paleobiology. April 2015, I was off to basic training. The Sun Dance is a very sacred ceremony. It is a personal sacrifice that you make for your family, for your community.

And what's important there is that you have a purpose. That could be very relatable for members of the military, because ultimately, we might give that sacrifice. And I believe that's what our ogichidaa, our warriors, that's what they did. They had a purpose.

MWO Greyeyes, he had contributed so much time and support and effort towards the Indigenous community within the DND and the CAF. And when he retired and I was asked to give him a gift, I wanted that gift to reflect his time as an infantryman with PPCLI.

My mother had taught me how to bead. It takes a story and it puts it into a form that you can feel and that you can see.

When I dance, I dance for my grandfather, because he had... he was sick.

Given the time that he joined, I can imagine that it was vastly different from what we see today in the CAF.

You know, now, me being an Indigenous woman, I'm a mother... in a combat role.

My grandfather did have that hesitancy about me joining the military.

So I think he would be very proud to see that where there used to be racism and misunderstandings, that there is now reconciliation and healing.

I've always been quite stubborn of... if someone said I can't do something.

So I think he would definitely be like: "Of course you did!"

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