CAF Warrior: Sgt Oz Kaitoa

May 18, 2021 - Defence Stories

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Sgt Oz Kaitoa, Base Gagetown’s first Indigenous Spiritual Advisor.
Photo: Capt Lisa Evong

At Base Gagetown the Chaplain Branch, the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group (DAAG) and specifically, Sgt Oz Kaitoa, a Gunner and Anishinaabe, Ojibwe – Canadian, from Parry Sound, Ontario, are doing important work.

Oz has been a part of the Canadian Army’s Artillery Branch since 2002 and has participated in three tours including, a humanitarian mission to Sri Lanka, a Defence and security mission in Pakistan, and a combat mission in Afghanistan. In 2018, Oz became the military co-chair of the DAAG. That’s when he says he really got involved with sharing information and building awareness around the various First Nation’s cultural practices and activities.

The DAAG at Base Gagetown meets regularly to facilitate various Indigenous activities throughout the year. Despite the year-long programming, a gap in spiritual and cultural support offered to Indigenous members of the Base was identified. New Indigenous recruits or members who are posted in with or without a family tend to feel isolated from their home communities and from their spiritual Elders. Identifying this gap was a pivotal moment and those involved acted quickly.

Through Oz’s own spiritual journey and by “walking the Red Road,” a journey of sobriety, free from all drugs and alcohol, Oz carved out a niche for himself and was selected as the Base’s first Indigenous Spiritual Advisor.

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Sgt Oz Kaitoa displays his honoured spiritual regalia.
Photo: Capt Lisa Evong

This role is perfect for Oz who already holds honoured qualifications in the Indigenous community that include being a decorated Sundancer (participating in various annual ceremonies where the Sundancers cannot eat or drink for four days and conduct four-hour Sweats), a Drummer, and Sacred Pipe Carrier. Oz has been given his Pouring Rites by his Sundance Chief in order to lead ceremonies as a Lodge Conductor at the Base Gagetown Lodge, planned to be finished this spring.

The Spiritual Advisor at Base Gagetown is certainly a ground-breaking concept. The role consists of a 5th Canadian Division Support Group Gagetown military member with strong connections to the local First Nation communities, including the Oromocto First Nation, St. Mary’s, Kingsclear, and Elsipogtog First Nation. The Spiritual Advisor is available to offer spiritual guidance and counselling to anyone – even non-Indigenous members – who simply need to talk to someone.

And if that isn’t keeping Oz busy enough, he is also working to become an Elder by taking local night classes to eventually enroll in a Bachelors of Psychology program at the University of New Brunswick. Oz also plans to do a Masters in Behavioural Science and Indigenous Counselling.

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