In most classrooms, students recognize veterans on Remembrance Day (Canada) and Veterans Day (US), but it is also important to remember the Indigenous soldiers who fought in the wars. This blog post will cover the background of National Indigenous Day, how it came to be, and how you can help your students learn more about ways to recognize Indigenous veterans on this day.
What is National Indigenous Veterans Day?
National Indigenous Veterans Day is a day to recognize the military service sacrifices of Indigenous soldiers who fought in World War 1, World War 2, and the Korean War. These First Nations, Inuit, and Métis soldiers were not being recognized at Remembrance Day ceremonies despite their contributions.
In fact, it wasn’t until 1995 that Indigenous veterans were finally allowed to lay wreaths at the National War Memorial on Remembrance Day, and in 2003, when First Nations veterans received any veteran benefits from serving the country (2019 for Métis veterans).
In 1994, Aboriginal Veterans’ Day was started in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was started to recognize the 200 years of military service by First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples. It is now referred to as National Indigenous Veterans Day and occurs annually on November 8.
How can I help my students learn more about and recognize National Indigenous Veterans Day?
- Have students read this article from The Canadian Encyclopedia Indigenous Peoples and the World Wars – The Canadian Encyclopedia.
- Visit Muskrat Magazine to learn about some of the significant Indigenous war heroes.
- Watch this video from Global News, National Indigenous Veterans Day honours ‘often overlooked’ sacrifices, and learn what this day means to some Indigenous veterans.
- Learn about Sergeant Tommy Prince, the most decorated Indigenous veteran in Canada, and his fight for Indigenous rights. In 2022, Prince was honoured on a Canada Post stamp. Read about his life and sacrifices at The Canadian Encyclopedia.
- Visit the Government of Canada website to learn more about the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument in Confederation Park in Ottawa, Ontario, which was unveiled in 2001.
Read Books About Heroes of National Indigenous Veterans Day
This is a story about a young First Nations girl and her cousins who discover a secret room full of ribbons, medals, and photos of their Grandpa in uniform.
The story of Canadian soldier Tommy Prince, who is renowned for his daring and bravery during World War II and the Korean War.
This graphic novel anthology is told by various Indigenous creators and authors and contains stories of Indigenous history as retold in the future.
The text for this book was created by Wab Kinew, an Ojibwa activist and public intellectual who created a rap celebrating the historic and modern-day Indigenous heroes, including those who fought during wartime.
Books About American Indigenous Soldiers:
This is the story of Chester Nez, a young Navajo boy who was taken from his home to attend a boarding school that tries to erase his heritage. He is then recruited by the US Marines to create a military code in the Navajo language for World War II.
This book tells the story of the Navajo code talkers who helped the Allies win World War II despite their mistreatment by and distrust of the American government.
This book discusses the missions of these Code Talkers as well as how they were treated.
For students who love the graphic novel format, have them check out this book about the Navajo Code Talkers.
Learn more about Remembrance Day and the contributions of Indigenous soldiers.
This Remembrance Day Unit will not only help your students develop a deeper understanding of Remembrance Day, but it also includes content about Indigenous veterans.
There is a lesson on the famous Indigenous Code Talkers, another on Indigenous veterans, as well as a general lesson on conflict in war – along with two weeks’ worth of lessons to teach your students about this important day.
What Teachers Have Said About This Lesson:
“This was an excellent unit to use for Remembrance Day! My students were really engaged in meaningful conversations about this important day during and after these activities. They particularly enjoyed looking at the photo prompts in small groups and then sharing their thoughts with their classmates.” – Lindsay C.
“This unit is brilliant. I have been teaching for over 30 years and never had anything so engaging to draw from! It allowed us to pull together the past and the present. Love that there were many mini activities with opportunities for assessment as well. We are in class learning, so shared the videos and songs as a whole group, but then worked online to complete the activities. Lots more here than we had time to use (downloaded it the week before Remembrance Day) but definitely will use again!” – Carol T.