FIRST NA­TIONS WAR VET­ER­ANS FOUGHT FOR FREE­DOM OF OTH­ERS

Regina Leader-Post - - CITY+REGION - DOUG CUTHAND

The Sec­ond World War cre­ated the mod­ern na­tion we call home.

While Canada was forged in the mil­i­tary and in­dus­trial ac­tion of the war, for First Na­tions peo­ple it was a ma­jor turn­ing point that would change our way of life and be­gin the de­col­o­niza­tion of our peo­ple.

Fol­low­ing the war, the vet­er­ans came home and re­turned to life on the re­serve, but they would also bring change. One vet­eran told me that, al­though they had marched across Eu­rope and lib­er­ated whole coun­tries, they came home only to be “In­di­ans” again.

But the vet­er­ans per­se­vered. They had seen the out­side world, won the re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion of their white com­rades and weren’t pre­pared to re­turn to the old ways of do­ing things.

In our re­search we came across in­ci­dents and push­back from the vet­er­ans. At a band meet­ing, one vet­eran called the In­dian Agent a “lit­tle Hitler,” to the de­light of his friends.

In 1957, the Union of Saskatchewan In­di­ans evolved into the Fed­er­a­tion of Saskatchewan In­di­ans. The vet­er­ans were now tak­ing lead­er­ship po­si­tions.

John Tootoosis was elected the first leader, and he was fol­lowed by David Knight, Wil­fred Bel­le­garde and Wal­ter Di­eter, all of whom were Sec­ond World War vet­er­ans.

They were fol­lowed by David Ahenakew, a Korean vet­eran. Wal­ter Di­eter went on to be the first leader of the Na­tional In­dian Brother­hood; his vi­cepres­i­dent was Omar Peters, who was also a vet­eran.

But they also left com­rades be­hind in graveyards across Eu­rope, and many vet­er­ans re­turned home with both men­tal and phys­i­cal wounds.

Many young men would not grow old and re­turn to their home fires.

Thomas Bear, from the Fly­ing Dust First Na­tion at Meadow Lake, was killed in Italy and is buried in the Ravenna War Ceme­tery along with other Cana­dian and al­lied sol­diers. The Ital­ian cam­paign be­gan be­fore D -Day and saw some of the most bit­ter fight­ing of the war.

The Cana­di­ans had to pur­sue the Ger­man army, and fol­low­ing the sur­ren­der of the Ital­ians, the Ger­mans fought town to town, street to street and build­ing to build­ing.

Fusilier Bear, with the Princess Louise Fusiliers, was killed in ac­tion dur­ing the win­ter of 1945. He was 26 years old, and his par­ents were Ma­gloire and Mar­guerite Bear.

Sargeant Har­vey Dreaver, from Mistawa­sis First Na­tion, was with the Regina Ri­fles and was killed in ac­tion at the bat­tle for the Leopold Canal in Bel­gium.

Fol­low­ing the D -Day land­ing, the al­lies re­quired a deep­wa­ter port to sup­ply their armies. The port of An­twerp was the clos­est, and the Cana­di­ans were dis­patched to se­cure this im­por­tant tar­get.

Sargeant Dreaver was killed by a sniper and is buried at the Abegem war ceme­tery in Bel­gium. His par­ents were Joseph and Eve­lyn Dreaver. His fa­ther, Chief Joe Dreaver, was a dec­o­rated vet­eran of both world wars. His un­cle, Frank Dreaver, was killed in ac­tion in 1917, and his name is in­scribed on the Vimy Memo­rial as one of the 11,000 Cana­di­ans who died in France with no known grave.

Trooper John Don­ald Du­mont, of Peepeek­i­sis, was cap­tured and along with 17 Cana­dian POWS ex­e­cuted in cold blood by the Ger­man 12th SS Panzer Divi­sion.

Dur­ing the Bat­tle of Nor­mandy, Cana­dian troops suf­fered some of the worst war crimes com­mit­ted by the Nazis. Ger­man SS troops mur­dered 156 Cana­dian troops.

Fol­low­ing the war, the Ger­mans were tried for war crimes, and Colonel Kurt Meyer, of the SS Com­man­dos, was charged for in­cit­ing his troops to kill un­armed prison­ers of war. He was tried and found guilty and sen­tenced to death. The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment com­muted his sen­tence to life in prison.

John Du­mont was a trooper in the First Hus­sars and was mur­dered at age 28. He was the son of Fran­cis and Agnes Du­mont. It has also been sug­gested that he was a de­scen­dant of Gabriel Du­mont.

Our peo­ple took up the war ef­fort along­side the rest of the coun­try. The Cana­dian armed forces came from the farms, fac­to­ries, fish­ing boats and

First Na­tions across the na­tion. To­gether they fought for the free­dom of oth­ers and the prom­ise that tyranny could be de­stroyed.

To­mor­row we will come to­gether as the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of a gen­er­a­tion that gave of them­selves, so we could live in free­dom.

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