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Indigenous Veterans

Language and Culture

Leading up to Remembrance Day this year, Solomon Ratt penned a poem to recognize Indigenous veterans in Canada.

After talking with his niece – a Regina teacher who wanted to add an Indigenous angle to talking about Remembrance Day in the classroom – he searched to see if he could find anything that mentioned Indigenous veterans, but couldn’t.

“So I wrote this poem,” said Ratt, an associate professor of Indigenous languages at First Nations University of Canada.

Ratt said while writing, he was thinking of his relatives; cousins and uncles that had to give up their status rights to be able to enlist in the army because under the Indian Act they were exempt from conscription.

“Our veterans didn’t have to go to war,” he said.

“They didn’t have to go, but they went because they felt it was important to stand with their fellow Canadians.”

However, when his relatives returned from fighting, they weren’t allowed to return home to the reservation because in those days only people with a status card could live on reserve and they had given up those rights, Ratt said.

“I think of those people when Remembrance Day comes around.”

He ensured the poem was not only in English, but Cree to honour the Cree code talkers from the Second World War.

“They ought to be honoured, they ought to be recognized for their contributions,” he said.

Click for a .pdf of the poem


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