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Aboriginal Canadians Essay

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The Aboriginal peoples were the first people on this land, and yet they have always been treated as second-class citizens. The Canadian government forced Aboriginal Peoples onto reserves and trying to convert them to a more European lifestyle, thus destroying their way of life. Although Aboriginal Canadians made significant contributions during the First World War, they were often discriminated against and did not receive fair or equal treatment. Firstly Aboriginal men and women made important contributions to the war both on the battlefield and on the home front. Secondly Aboriginal soldiers were often discriminated against while serving in the war and not treated equally to their European allies. Lastly, after the war and despite all the heroics of Aboriginal men and women, they were still treated as second-class citizens with no progress towards equality.
The contributions made by Aboriginal men and women during The First World War had a significant impact on the outcome of the war and were not recognized by Canadians. By the end of the war, Aboriginal men and women had served throughout the army. The percentage of Aboriginal men who enlisted was equal to the rest of the country, and even higher in some areas. For instance, “Every eligible male from the Mi’kmaq reserve near Sydney, Nova Scotia, volunteered.” In the New Brunswick reserves, 62 of 116 men joined the army, and in the Algonquin of Golden Lake band all but 3 eligible men enlisted In total over 4000 Aboriginal men fought in the war. The achievements of Aboriginal men during the war were very impressive, and they had a significant impact in most battles. Many Aboriginal men became platoon leaders and combat instructors, and some men even became officers. During the war over 50 Aboriginal men were decorated for their bravery on the battlefield. “Many acquired near-legendary status as scouts and snipers, drawing on pre-war hunting skills and wilderness experience.” One soldier received the Military Medal and two bars for his bravery and effectiveness as a sniper. Another man was credited with 115 kills. The accomplishments of Aboriginal Soldiers on the battlefield demonstrated their bravery, skill, and contribution to the war effort. Men and women at home also contributed greatly to the war effort. Their donations were even used by the government as a source of propaganda, in order to get the rest of the country to increase their donations. The posters suggested that the aboriginal people were more generous that the non-Aboriginal people. Some native communities donated as much as $8,000. “The Sioux of Oak River sent their donation of $101 directly to the King stating ‘nobody asked us to do this we are doing this with our free will this is not much but we are doing it with all our hearts.” Between their extremely high enlistment rate, their impressive accomplishments made by both men and women, and the generous donations made by their communities, it is impossible to overlook the huge impact of Aboriginal Peoples of Canada had on The First World War. Unfortunately, Canadians did not recognize their patriotism.
Aboriginal soldiers faced discrimination and unique challenges while serving at the front. These challenges included a language barrier between them and the other soldiers, a difficulty dealing with unfamiliar military discipline system, and mostly importantly the constant racism they faced from fellow soldiers. Canadians often overlook these challenges. When Aboriginal men first joined the army, they often could not speak any English. This made communication very difficult. One soldier, William Semia, did not speak any English or French when he joined the army. He had to learn to speak English from one of the other Indian volunteers. Most Aboriginal Peoples people grew up in a culture that taught individuality. This made it very hard for them to adjust to the rigid military hierarchy and caused many disciplinary problems. “For example, George Strangling Wolf, a member of the Blood Nation, presented himself during inspection wearing elk teeth earrings and necklace and a red handkerchief around his neck. He had also cut off the front of his hat.” However the biggest challenge that Aboriginal soldiers faced was constant racism and discrimination from officers and other soldiers. Local commanders had the right to refuse any Aboriginal soldiers, because as one official said, “it is not thought desirable, either in the interest of such men themselves or the Canadian Forces, that commanding officers should be forced to take them”. This racism did lessen a bit as the war went on, as the other soldiers saw what Aboriginal men were capable of doing. However it never went away completely. Aboriginal men and women faced many challenges during The First World War. They had to deal with a language barrier, adjusting to the military lifestyle, and dealing with discrimination from other soldiers and officers. The problems only strengthen their accomplishments and make them even more impressive.
Unfortunately the impressive achievements and bravery shown by Aboriginal men and women on the battlefield was almost completely overlooked and forgotten when they arrived back home after the war. They expected things to have changed while they were gone, especially after all they had done for Canada. However, when they arrived home they soon realized that nothing had changed. All the Racism and prejudice continued for long after the war had ended. Aboriginal soldiers did receive post-war benefits, but they weren’t nearly as much as white soldiers received. Many Aboriginal soldiers, including Francis Pegahmagabow, became politically active in order to gain equal benefits and protection for their community, although generally they were unsuccessful. Unlike the rest of the country, Aboriginal communities made almost no progress politically, economically or socially. Aboriginal veterans did finally receive some sympathy during the years between wars. The Royal Canadian Legion acknowledged that native veterans weren’t receiving fair treatment. They even demanded that status-Indians receive equal benefits. However it wasn’t long before the next war began and Aboriginal Veterans never got the benefits and recognition that they deserved. The Aboriginal community made almost no progress towards social or financial equality, their veterans did not receive fair benefits, making it very hard for them to support their families, and none of the contributions made on or off the battlefield by Aboriginal people were recognized by the government or by society.
Despite the significant contributions made by Aboriginal Canadians during The First World War, their efforts are often overlooked and they were constantly discriminated against. Canadian Aboriginal men and women had a significant impact on the outcome of the war. They enlisted at a rate even higher than that of white people, despite being considered second class citizens. Their efforts on the battlefield and on the home front matched or even surpassed that of any other community. During the war Aboriginal soldiers did not receive equal treatment to their fellow white soldiers. They had to constantly deal with racist officers who didn’t want them in the war, and often didn’t care about the sacrifices that they were making. Then after the war, Aboriginal people soon realized that nothing had changed since they went away to fight. People still discriminated against them and their hard work was not properly recognized by the government or by society. Over 4000 Aboriginal men and women fought in World War One. They gave everything they could to help a country that generally didn’t even want them. Their contributions were very impressive, and deserve to be properly recognized. Although by now it’s far too late.
Aboriginal Canadians In The Great War

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