The flag of the Tsq’éscen First Nation was raised over 100 Mile House Tuesday, Nov. 8 to mark National Indigenous Veterans Day.
Around two dozen dignitaries from the District of 100 Mile House, the Cariboo Regional District and the Tsq’éscen First Nation, formerly known as the Canim Lake Band, turned out for a brief ceremony. Tsq’éscen Chief Helen Henderson said the day was as much about truth and reconciliation as it was honouring her community’s veterans.
“We originally planned to raise this flag on National Indigenous Truth and Reconciliation Day to mark the beginning of a redefined relationship with 100 Mile House,” Henderson said. “We pushed it back to honour our war veterans and also the Canadian flag. As contentious as the flag is in relation to every child matters, we know that when called to serve our men and women still stepped forward to contribute.”
Henderson recognized several indigenous veterans during the ceremony, most of whom served in the First and Second World Wars, including Morris Dixon, Julian Boyce, Peter Christopher, Louie Emile, Sam Archie, Henry Bob, Edward Dixon, Paul Theodore and Joseph Archie. She said they’re an important part of local history and their footprint can be seen across the Tsq’éscen’s traditional territory.
Although the exact numbers are not known, thousands of First Nations people enlisted in the Canadian army and served in the First and Second World Wars (out of approximately 100,000 Indigenous People in Canada). Indigenous soldiers had many skills valuable to the military: “patience, stealth and marksmanship” (veterans.gc.ca).
“Many of the Tsq’éscnemc who joined the army had skills as trappers and hunters, whose working day started at 3 a.m. and went until 4 p.m. and then early to bed by 7 p.m. This rigid lifestyle helped them to adjust to army life,” the Tsq’éscen First Nation said in a release.
“Tsq’éscen veterans served as gunners, division tankers and infantry. One of the vets delivered messages to the front lines on a motorcycle, and another worked in engineering and helped to build bridges. A few Tsq’éscen vets walked ahead of those at the front line, checking for land mines. Another worked to support their fellow community members while they were so far away from home. Many were injured, both physically and emotionally, and carried those scars with them for the rest of their lives.”
The flag was blessed with a ceremonial song and a smudge before being raised alongside the Canadian flag. District of 100 Mile House Mayor Maureen Pinkney said the community was honoured to recognize the past and future caretakers of the land by raising the flag.
“Indigenous peoples are actively strengthening and maintaining their relationships with the land which are grounded in respect, reciprocity and resilience,” Pinkney said. “There are many steps towards reconciliation and acknowledging their traditional territory and this is but one.”
The flag will remain flying alongside the Canadian flag from here on out. Henderson said protocols for when it will be lowered and raised are still being decided.
It will also be raised over the Tsq’éscen First Nation in the near future, she pledged. Henderson said seeing it raised in 100 Mile House was a special experience.
“From the top of my head to my toes I get a sense of who we are and being connected,” Henderson said. “Today is meaningful and cultural absolutely but it also represents a redefined, budding and a strengthening relationship with the town.”
With files from Angie Mindus.