Crown and Canada now enemies of First Nations, says chief at War of 1812 ceremony
APTN National News
OTTAWA–While they were once allies during the War of 1812, First Nations and the Crown now find themselves as adversaries on the battlefield of Canada, according to Serpent River First Nation Chief Isadore Day, who spoke during a special ceremony honouring the contribution of Indigenous warriors in the pre-confederation battle against the Americans.
The federal government on Thursday presented medals and military banners to representatives from First Nation and Metis communities that fought alongside British forces against the Americans during the War of 1812.
The ceremony was held at Rideau Hall and attended by Gov. Gen. David Johnston, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk and Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan.
Day, however, said the alliance has since been shattered because the Crown and Canada had broken its treaty agreements with First Nations.
“There was a history of surrounding the great battle called the War of 1812 where our people would offer as gifts to you weapons, our weapons, our war clubs, in peace and alliance,” said Day, whose community is in Ontario. “We cannot do this at this point in history. It is now you that we struggle against, the Crown, in many cases, and the federal government. It is you we now fight in order to eliminate poverty and pain in our people.”
Day, speaking on behalf of the Anishinabek Nation, offered Johnston a gift of a sacred pipe and Harper a gift of cloth and tobacco while urging them both to seek the knowledge of Elders to rectify the injustices their institutions had committed against their former military allies.
“We as chiefs and warriors of our representative First Nations, petition you to recognize this ceremony as a formal request to polish the covenant chain,” said Day.
The ceremony honoured representatives from 48 First Nations and Metis communities linked to the War of 1812, which celebrates its 200th anniversary this year. An estimated 10,000 First Nations and Metis warriors fought alongside British forces against the Americans. The war predated Canada which was still a British colony at the time.
The Canadian government also recently announce plans to award battle honours to Canadian military regiments with roots in the militia units that fought the American invasion.
Harper said First Nations and Metis warriors played a defining role in the three-year battle to repel the Americans.
“Had Canadians, Aboriginal, French, English and others, not repelled an American invasion during the three-year struggle that we remember today as the War of 1812, our country could not have come into being,” said Harper.
“Today we gather in historic Rideau Hall to commemorate the First Nation and Metis warriors who fought so gallantly alongside the English and French militias as well as British regiments. They did so from the very beginning and they fought to the very end. In doing so your ancestors made a great and critical contribution to Canada, one in which events may well have ended very differently…Canada’s Aboriginal people were in every sense key to the victory that firmly established Canada as a distinct country in North America,” the prime minister added.