Prayer for Métis Veterans
As Métis we are standing
We’ll bow our heads in prayer
God Bless those Métis Veterans who
Saw war and who fought there
There are many of them buried
In far off foreign lands
So proud to serve because of them
Now Canada’s freedom stands
In prayers we will remember
The awful price they paid
They gave up their tomorrows
For us to live today
Since their beginnings as a people, the Métis have been involved in both regular and
irregular military activity. They were traditionally guerrilla warriors par excellence. After 1885, the Métis ironically began joining the very army, which had defeated and oppressed their ancestors.
The Métis have served their country in many wars: the first was with the battle of the Nile Expedition in 1884-85; the Boar War; the First and Second World Wars; and, the Korean conflict. Métis enlistees took part in the bloody fighting at the First Pyres (April 1915), the Somme (August 1916), Vimy Ridge (April 9, 1917), Ascendable (October-November 11, 1917), and the famed “One Hundred Days” (August 8 until November 11, 1918).
The Métis had an even more prominent role in the Second World War. Such regiments and battalions as the South Saskatchewan Regiment, the Regina Rifles and the Royal Winnipeg Rifles had large numbers of Métis soldiers. The Métis were really forgotten “warriors” in this war. Some such as the late Métis Nation of Saskatchewan Senator Vital Morin languished in a German prisoner of war camp for several years.
Métis soldiers took part in the Defence of Hong Kong in 1941, the Dieppe Raid (1942), the battle for Ortona (May 1944), D-Day (June 1944), the Falaise Campaign (August 1944), the Battle of the Scheldt (1944), the Rhineland Campaign (February 1945), and the Liberation of the Netherlands in March, 1945.
Métis communities were greatly effected when the men left for war since many Métis women were forced to take over for their families’ survival. Moreover, many Métis returned emotionally scarred from war. When Métis veterans were discharged, they became influential leaders because they had gained self-confidence, and brought new skills and abilities to their home communities.
History indicated that men, and women (as nurses and support personnel), enlisted for a variety of reasons including: a sense of adventure, because their “chums” enlisted, patriotism, steady pay and health care, and the ability to acquire a trade or skills.
Nobody knows for sure how many Métis served in the two world wars. It has been estimated that 20,000 Aboriginal men and women served. They enlisted at a much higher rate proportionally than the Canadian average.
Within Métis communities, veterans are accorded great respect. However, after both world wars and to the present day, Métis veterans have struggled to receive benefits to which they were entitled, and have more often encountered racism from the wider society and neglect from Veterans Affairs Canada. Métis Veterans Associations, like the one in Saskatchewan are lobbying against these injustices.
Many Métis made the supreme sacrifice. Métis continue to serve with distinction in the
Canadian Armed Forces.
The veterans pictured below are:
(back row, left to right),
Frank Tomkins, Leon Ferguson, Claude Petit, Cliff Hessdorfer and (front row, left to right) Vital Morin, Joseph Fayant,
Leo Belanger, Charles Umpherville and Edward King.