by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services
NNSL (NOV 08/96) - Aboriginal navy, army and air force veterans across Canada are getting recognized for their contribution to the war effort.
The government announcement this week of a monument to be built in Ottawa has given first-time acknowledgement to aboriginal sailors, soldiers and flyers.
While at least one former soldier doesn't like the idea of segregating the aboriginal contribution, most see it as long overdue.
Tom Eagle, a retired member of the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada who helped start the National Aboriginal Veteran's Association in the late 1960s, said the monument is very important to remembering the vets.
"I would like to have seen this monument put up a lot quicker because some of the veterans are dying," he said. "Some won't even get to see a picture of the monument."
Eagle said the National Aboriginal Veteran's Association has worked on getting the monument for 10 years.
"We communicated with aboriginal groups across the country about what it should look like," he said.
Designed by internationally recognized artist Lloyd Pinay, the monument will be erected in a park in the downtown core of Ottawa in 1998.
The monument will have four bronze panels representing the two World Wars, the Korean conflict and peacekeeping.
Four figures represent the aboriginal people of Canada, two holding weapons and two holding spiritual items.
The strength of their beliefs are drawn from spirit guides represented by the wolf, bear, elk and cougar.
A $1-million scholarship fund has also been set up for those aboriginal students enrolled in post-secondary education. It will be available in September 1997.
The designing of the monument and the scholarship is the first of a three-phase project. The second phase will seek financial assistance from the public for the construction of the monument.
But Bill Lafferty, a veteran who served in Korea and as a peacekeeper in the Middle East, doesn't agree with a separate monument for aboriginals.
"There's no reason to segregate aboriginals," he said. "Japanese, Chinese and others fought in the wars and they haven't received special treatment."
"This is just political crap that has come about in the last 30 years," he added.
Lafferty said that an aboriginal military group has never existed, therefore, there shouldn't be a monument for aboriginals.