Our Home and Native Braves

Andrea Hotomanie, Principal, Glenda Speight, Constable Erin McAvoy

Andrea Hotomanie, Principal, Glenda Speight, Constable Erin McAvoy

 As Remembrance Day approaches, I am reminded of how profoundly I was moved by the Remembrance Day assembly at my son’s school last year. I found it particularly poignant for two reasons.

What I found initially striking was that the ceremony was presided over by all women, something I’d never seen before.  This brigade of impressive feminine force were school Principal, Glenda Speight, RCMP Constable Erin McAvoy in Red Serge, and Andrea Hotomanie, the district Aboriginal Support Worker.

Andrea Hotomanie was the second reason of note.  She stood up in recognition of the Indigenous peoples who serve and have served in the Canadian military. She wore a magnificent button blanket, borne of the Northwest Coastal tribes, around her shoulders. It was the first time I had seen this kind of Indigenous inclusion at any school remembrance assembly and it brought me to tears.

It moved me so deeply because it was the first time I felt my grandfather and uncles included in these remembrances in a way that they hadn’t before.  It brought them, Cree warriors from northern Alberta, faded from history for so many decades, up to the front too.  I felt they were being honored for the first time as servicemen and not as guests held only in my mind, while all the other heroes were noted up on the screens and in the speeches. Between Andrea’s presence and my son nearby, this acknowledgement brought it all fully home to my heart.

All those many years ago, there was never any doubt that at least three of my uncles would join the military from the time that, as young boys, they stared admiringly at the one photo of my grandfather in his uniform until they were all signed up and fitted into their own.

photo compilation by Robyn LawsonAlong with pride of their homeland and reverence for the uniform, there was another underlying and stirring reason to join up. Uncle Philip finally expressed it after I asked him why he always declared that his favorite job was being in the Canadian forces.  He said, “Respect”.  While he wore that Canadian uniform, it was the first time in his life that he was treated with honest to God respect, and it didn’t matter where he was in the world.  It was his greatest time of honor and pride.  I can’t say so for my grandfather or the other uncles, but I suspect they felt much the same.

Their presence at the Remembrance Day assembly that day was palpable to me, and I have no doubt that they were all there in full uniform.

There is a lot of history about Indigenous participation in the military and the details are available more than ever.  I would encourage anyone to look up that history sometime for some very interesting and enlightening reading.

For now, I would just like to say thank you to my family for their courage.  We will always be proud.  We will always remember.

In remembrance of:

Military family

John Gray-WW1, Frank Gray-WW2, Phil Gray-Korea, Larry Gray-CDN post Quebec


readers digest logoOur Home and Native Braves was published October 30, 2013 on the Reader’s Digest community website: http://www.readersdigest.ca/our-canada/community-blog/our-home-and-native-braves

Recommended link for Native military history:
A Commemorative History of Aboriginal People in the Canadian Military:

19 thoughts on “Our Home and Native Braves

  1. I think back to my father and my uncles whose contributions to the military were large. When they challenged the Vietnam war, I had to listen, as they knew it well. They were brave, remarkably gentle men who mostly hid their Indigenous heritage so as to make it in the racist world of the US military. Yet at home, they were proud, and we can see them as part of a long lineage of warriors. Thank you for this moving post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Michael! Especially for sharing some of your family history too. I just read an article today about a man who set up an Indigenous regiment in WW1 just to help shield those men from the everyday racism at home and within other regiments. So, much insanity in this world. Take care.


  2. Aww, what a sweet tribute you brought to Remembrance Day! Your grandfather and uncles would be so proud! On a side note, I’d like to know more about that amazing button blanket… It’s beautiful! Does each button have a story? Do the Indigenous women get together to sew them? Are they something from the way back? I’ve missed you, my kindred sister! ❤ xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kindred. Been a little sick lately, so slow to respond. The blanket buttons are only used to create the spirit or animal shape on on the blanket. They are all sewn as a group, however many schools have now started doing them as very special projects for specific groups of kids. Those who are usually in some kind of trouble and who benefit from hearing about the legends and the history and purposes of the blankets, etc. They essentially get to create their own ‘legend’ story. When it’s finished, they get to present it formally to the school in a beautiful ceremony. I don’t know why, but it seems to reach these kids in some pretty special ways.
      If you really want a little more detail, I just threw you over to Wiki 🙂 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Button_blanket

      Big hugs xoxox ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My personal salute to the courage of all the service men and women who have served in the Canadian forces. The Canadian contribution in both the World Wars and in actions since can never be underestimated.. The bravery of the Indigenous people or the latecomers to Canada will never be forgotten by their allies.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is an incredible article.

    Thank you for the knowledge, and I wish we in America had a day of recognition of the indigenous people. I read your posting from last Sept, and I understand people who lack knowledge of the First Nations People.
    I can only hope they take the time to visit the Smithsonian Native American Museum in Washing DC. I have toured the museum twice and where the tour begins I have witnessed many, many people break down in tears when the programs explain’ the history of the First Nations People.
    There is a section of the tour that lists the names of the tribes, villages and first nations who are no longer upon the arrive of Europeans.

    Great posting. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, so much, for your kind review and for the interesting note about the Smithsonian Native American Museum. I had a chance to have a look at the website and there certainly is a great deal of interesting detail to look through. Thanks for that too. I agree with your point about people visiting it, but we also work to have the history of the continent taught in schools as it really was. That would be a significant step in being able to address ongoing issues for the Indigenous.

      Liked by 1 person

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