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The issue, according to Indian veterans, is whether the federal government will honor commitments and responsibilities to Indian people who served on behalf of their country in time of war. The delivery of veterans' benefits handled by the Department of Indian Affairs was not on a par with advantages offered non-Indian veterans under the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Canadian Indians contributed among the largest percentage of people from any ethnic background as members of the Armed Forces during the two World Wars and the Korean "Conflict", according to the Canada Research Institute in Ottawa. Some of Canada's most outstanding heroes were Indian people.
Although nominal rolls of battallions did not list this information, it is known that the total enlistment of Indians numbered over 4,000. Out of 3,090 enlisted Indians in the Canadian Army during the Second World War, 213 were killed in action and 93 were wounded.
Heroic contributions of voluntary enlistments to the Allied Cause by Indian people were not only in manpower but contributions of furs and other commodities were made to the Canadian Red Cross as well.
David Whitford of the Sweetgrass Reserve was killed in action overseas. The band has honored his memory by naming its band hall after him. The facility now houses many community activities and functions. Sweetgrass is 20 miles west of North Battleford.
Four young lads, Maurice Arcand, Joseph Okemasis, Willy Daniels and James Luke Baldhead, all under 16 years of age, ran away from the Duck Lake Residential School in 1939-40 to enlist in the army. Only Maurice Arcand came back alive.
All the other seven brothers in Arcand's family also enlisted.
Louis Arcand of Muskeg Lake enlisted in the two World Wars. He still resides on the reserve today.
Lt. Dave Greyeyes of Muskeg Lake Reserve is another Saskatchewan hero. His decorations and awards are varied. They include the Greek Military Cross, 1939-45 Star, the France and Germany Star, the Defence Medal and the Canadian Volunteer Medal. Greyeyes enlisted in June 1940 and went overseas the same year. He was posted in England on the instructional staff of his unit. He rose from private to sergeant in the performance of his duties as a trained infantry officer in machine gun and rifle during this time. He returned to Canada in 1943 to attend Officers' Training School and went back to England a full Lieutenant.
Dave Greyeyes served in the central Mediterranean area and continental Europe. He was a platoon commander in the actual war zone and also served as an infantry battallion intelligence officer with the Army of Occupation. He was released in July, 1946. Greyeyes' sister, Mary, was first Indian woman in Canada to join the Armed Forces. His wife Flora was one of the first Indian woman in Canada to join the Air Force.
The Saskatchewan list of Indian veterans certainly doesn't stop there ... but delivery of benefits to them did.
The Department of Veterans Affairs gave each Canadian veteran 1/4 section of land in the post war period. The Department of Indian Affairs also gave 1/4 sections of reserve land, land they already owned! to Indian veterans.
The wars are a memory to a lot of people today. Should the war effort also be a memory?
Not according to the Saskatchewan Indian Veterans Association.