Allies no more

Crown and Canada now enemies of First Nations, says chief at War of 1812 ceremony

APTN National News
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.

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  • KootenayCoyote

    Note this: first, it’s true; second, it was said to Harper at a time & place that demand our attention, Indigenous or Euro&c-Canadian.

  • Claude Vallée

    But the Americans also used aboriginal forces against the british and canadian troops…That means that aboriginals fought against each other for other interests than their own…Correct me if I’m wrong in thinking so…

  • Chief Day

    Good content…..poor title for the article….especially if words in a title written were not said. Media interpretation should respect the political and diplomatic work of leaders. APTN, I respect your work…please respect mine. In light of the presentation of the sacred items; please allow me to suggest that we are formally prompting the Crown and the Federal government based on the principle of “obligation” to treaty and to historical protocols. I think it is also important not to take lightly, First Nations veterans and their contributions in the passed and those that serve in the military today. We live in a world of titles….we struggle with what we call “coloured title” which in legal terms means land title that really isn’t legal – the basis for most FN treaties in this country. These are one of our central struggles. The titles that colonial men hold; PM and GG, these are also significant and require close consideration…APTN, please note that I chose to put my weight on the expectations of clear and firm diplomacy – the way that our Ancestors at Treaty did….again….the context and story; very accurate…the title…..well, lets just say one word can mean 10,000 perspectives!

  • Adam

    I am not an aberration of the original.

  • Darryl Paquette

    War of words is what it is today