Indigenous veterans commemorated with headstones: ‘Canadians need to honour them’

Cheryle Maracle is often at her family’s burial plot in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, visiting family members, or picking hickory nuts and medicines nearby.

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Now, there’s a new headstone for her to visit honouring her great grandfather — a veteran of the First and Second World Wars.

“We didn’t know that we were getting it,” says Maracle, the great-granddaughter of veteran Francis Randall Brant.

“It was a nice surprise to receive such a gift. It’s important that our people that fought in the wars, that they’re recognized. So it was nice to have it.”

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Previously left unmarked, the gravesite for Pvt. Brant is now remembered with a headstone bearing the Wolf Clan emblem, as part of a project led by the federally-backed Last Post Fund.

“We played major roles in the war,” says Maracle.

“Code talking, and our people are known for being fearless. I’m sure that their times at the war were very, very important. I think, for those reasons, it’s important to commemorate.”

The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte say that eight veterans of the First and Second World Wars now have proper headstones marking their military service.

“Our people participated in all the major battles, both at Vimy Ridge, at Passchendaele and Hill 70 during the First World War,” says Chief Don Maracle, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte

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“I think it’s very important to give equal honour to all of the veterans who served, and that includes the Indigenous people.”

According to Chief Maracle, 104 members of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte served in the First World War and 213 in the Second World War, adding that many continue to serve.

“Many of those people made the supreme sacrifice of their lives,” says Chief Maracle.

“So Canadians need to honour them.”

The project to provide grave markers for Indigenous veterans launched in 2019, and has so far provided 165 grave markers nationwide.

But it’s only scratched the surface of the ongoing commemoration efforts, as so many of the Indigenous veteran’s graves have yet to be located.

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