Sunday, March 3, 2024

Cree Nation Red Pheasant Veterans Recognized with Memorial Plaque in Belgium

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remembering their sacrifices

More than 4,000 indigenous soldiers fought in World War I. While Decoteau is a prime example of this, the shield also serves to honor others who wear the uniforms of countries they were told they did not belong to. Uriel said he was surprised when he learned about the Indigenous service members, as most of Canada’s troops were of British Isles descent.

“I thought I could open it up to the public, and these people came back because they fought here, but a lot of them didn’t come back,” he said.

“This was a story that didn’t get a lot of attention. I think it’s a little unfair because everyone who worked in the war to liberate your country deserves the same recognition.”

Paula Zadko, president of Battlefords Corps Branch 9, said it was “a great honor” for soldiers from nearby communities to be recognized overseas.

“This should be even more poignant. We’re all fighting for the same thing,” she said.

The man behind the plaque bearing his name has accomplished a lot in 29 years. Red was born in Pheasant in 1887 and attended day school and then Battleford Technical School. Once he moved to Alberta, he first found work as a blacksmith, then joined the Edmonton Police Service in 1909, becoming Canada’s first Indigenous police officer, and was promoted to sergeant five years later. In 1912, he competed in his 5,000 meter race at the Olympics, and by 1916 he was in World War I. By the time he was sent to Belgium, he was attached to the 49th Canadian Expeditionary Force Battalion.

The proposed plaque would include his name, age, affiliation, place of birth, Olympic career, date of death, and include the words: “Killed in these fields on the way to Passchendaele.” It’s planned.


Zadko said he doesn’t remember his grandparents talking about the indigenous soldiers who fought in the war, so it’s great to see a local man being recognized in this way.

“I see this as an opportunity to open more eyes,” she said.

The grassroots organization’s journey to this moment began in 2005, when a delegation of indigenous people traveled to Belgium to perform a ritual to bring the souls of their loved ones home. According to Colin McClellan, owner of Colin McClellan Communications, facilitator, volunteer and honorary lieutenant colonel with the Halifax Rifles, the Belgians have been able to “create a level of Canadian experience that we want all Canadians to experience. He said he has “respect for service.”

Mr. McClellan first met Mr. Ulir during the centenary period from 2014 to 2018, during which time he traveled to Flanders with delegations to attend ceremonies over the course of four years, and over the course of four years, Mr. I witnessed a particularly memorable experience during the “Run, Walk, Wheel” memorial event for Alex DeCoteau. – Held in 100th anniversary of the battle. When she discovered this project, she wanted to get involved.

“I do a lot of work in the Assembly of First Nations, so as soon as people understand, ‘Oh, okay, wait a second. This other country has this… incredible historical figure… We want to recognize someone who has made a tremendous contribution on many levels.”They said, “Yes.”

Uriel, who was awarded the Order of Merit by the Governor-General of Canada in 2021 for his efforts to preserve the memory and legacy of Canada’s service to the Motherland, said the project will cost approximately €4,000.

“I’m so glad we were able to do this, even if it’s a small project.”

Zadko said she had never heard of Decoteau or his accomplishments before learning about the initiative. It’s monumental to know that a small organization in another country is starting to create something for a local man who died over 100 years ago.

“It’s exciting for the Corps,” she said in a personal note, saying she was grateful he was being recognized.

McClellan said while Indigenous education in general has improved, Indigenous military history needs to be celebrated. She said the people of Flanders respected names like Sam Grove and Francis Pegamagabou and worked hard to ensure they were never forgotten – they were the ones protecting their town. .

“These are people who have risen to almost mythical status,” she said.

The story of what happened in the small village just east of Ypres may be distant in time and space to Canadians, but to Belgians its history is still palpable.

“It means a lot to them that this is in their backyard.”

Local heroes, athletes and officials

This project is still in its early stages. Still, the association is working to invite an Indigenous delegation to the unveiling ceremony, and is reaching out to Decoteau’s family to invite them to participate in the preparations and ceremony.

Back in the Battlefords, Zadko said he was horrified to think that a plaque with a local man’s name would be hung near his grave in the hallowed Flanders Fields.

“It gives me goosebumps,” she said.

“For me, the fact that someone so close to me is in Flanders is a source of great pride and gratitude for his contribution that cannot be expressed in words.”

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