A vehicle for reconciliation, paying tribute to veterans
Naming of new Armed Forces vehicle in Syilx language highlight of WFN service for Aboriginal veterans
Members of the community and Westbank First Nation, along with local schoolchildren, gathered at the WFN veterans monument Thursday morning to mark National Aboriginal Veterans Day and see the B.C. Dragoons unveil the name of one of their new tactical armoured patrol vehicles bearing the Syilx translation of the name.
The ceremony included prayer, song and reading the names of 20 Aboriginal veterans from the Okanagan Nation.
The armoured vehicle is the most recent addition to the Canadian Armed Forces, with one of the most versatile modern platforms. While its primary role is reconnaissance, Maj. Kevin Mead of the Armed Forces assured the crowd it is equipped to fight.
The Dragoons are rooted in cavalry and have a tradition of naming their horses.
The tradition has evolved with every armoured vehicle, whether in service or a monument, bearing a name representing honour, purpose and achievement that can endure through history.
“This may be the first time that an Aboriginal name will be given to a Canadian Armed Forces vehicle,” said Westbank First Nation Coun. Thomas Konek.
The naming goes a long way toward reconciliation as well as recognizing and honouring veterans for their service, he added.
The vehicle was formally named Dragoon and features the Syilx translation of the word. In English, Dragoon means a cavalry man, while in Syilx, the name translates to a soldier who rides a horse.
“In either language, (it’s) a warrior deserving of respect and reverence on the battlefield and off,” said Mead.
Konek, a veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force from 2001 to 2005, said the Okanagan language name of the vehicle is important because it recognizes all the Aboriginal veterans who have served in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Konek added the Syilx name for the vehicle speaks volumes in terms of recognizing the traditional territory occupied by the Kelowna detachment of the B.C. Dragoons.
Mead said a number of First Nations people have served with the regiment, working together as part of the greater community.
He mentioned Pte. Julian, a First Nation solder who recently joined the regiment, and Capt. Joshua Trowsse-Freeman, the brigade’s Aboriginal and First Nations liaison and project manager for B.C.
More than 7,000 First Nations members served during the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War, as well as an unknown number of Inuit, Metis and other Indigenous people.
The inaugural National Aboriginal Veterans Day took place in 1994 in Winnipeg and has spread across Canada.
Westbank First Nation Coun. Thomas Konek addresses those attending the WFN’s National Aboriginal Veterans Day ceremonies Thursday morning.
Westbank First Nation Coun. Thomas Konek, left, shakes hands with Maj. Kevin Mead of the Canadian Armed Forces after unveiling the Syilx translation of the name of the B.C. Dragoons’ new armoured vehicle.