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A Dream Coming True

Lawrence Weenie, SIVA Advisor, 2LT Beebe, MTC Dundurn Assistant, Public Affairs Officer

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SUMMER EDITION 1991      v20 n03 p13  
As he faced the recruits on the first morning of their Basic Military Training (BMT) course, are veteran Grand Chief Ernie Crowe of the Saskatchewan Indian Veterans Association (SIVA) told them about his dream, the dream he has had ever since he fought in the war - a dream to see his young people in uniform, as peacekeepers, upholding the unwritten law of order. During his talk to the Indian recruits involved in the first Saskatchewan Indian Summer Training Program at Militia Training Center (MTC) Dundurn (about 30 km south of Saskatoon, Sask), he emphasized that all recruits present were laying the foundations for the future of their younger brothers and sisters. Since that day, the recruits from the Royal Regina Rifles and the North Saskatchewan Regiment have been experiencing the same training that Canadian soldiers have undergone since WWII, from drill on the parade square to infantry tactics in the field.

Proposed by the Sask Indian Education Commission and sponsored by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) and SIVA, this pilot program's military training is funded by the Canadian Armed Forces, while FSIN is providing funds for the coordinator, the two SIVA Advisors and the special guest lecturers.

The aim of this pilot program is to provide Indian youth of Saskatchewan with an opportunity to build and enhance self-esteem and self-confidence. This is accomplished through participation in a basic military training program which integrates Indian cultures with military knowledge and skills.

The overwhelming interest in this program was reflected in the more than 250 applications which were initially received for the 67 positions available. The recruits had to first successfully pass the standard militia recruit entrance test, and secondly, be selected by FSIN to represent total provincial participation.

The recruits, 18 females and 49 males, started their BMT course on July 2, with the swearing-in ceremonies being held in Regina and Saskatoon armories. For the first three weeks, the recruits were instructed in drill, weapons handling, navigation, fieldcraft, general military knowledge and first aid.

Inspection of Platoons 4 & 5, Graduation BMT, MTC Dundurn
Inspection of Platoons 4 & 5, Graduation BMT, MTC Dundurn

A culture camp weekend on July 20-21 was organized by Angus Esperance of the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Center. Elders from various bands in Saskatchewan shared their wisdom and experience of Indian culture and spirituality with Indian and non-Indian participants during the Pipe ceremony, Sweat Lodge Ceremony, lectures and discussions.

The first phase of training completed on July 24 with the course graduation parade inspected by Brigadier General Richardson, Chief of Staff, Reserves. Over 200 families and friends from across the province joined in sharing the pride of the successful recruits. They were obviously impressed with the high standard of drill and marching learned in such a short time. The top platoon candidates for the course were Pete Swindler UD from the Sweetgrass Band and Pete Gardipy SB from the Beardy's Band.

The Commandant of MTC Dundurn, Lieutenant Colonel RA Sajtos, credits the success of the recruits to the expertise and commitment of the course instructors, the cultural and moral support of the in-camp SIVA Advisors (Gorden Ahenakew and Lawrence Weenie), and the co-ordination of the cultural program by Graham Murdock and the FSIN.

By applying the confidence and experience gained on the first course, the new privates have entered the next phase of their training and are looking forward to their next graduation on August 15...The dream is becoming a reality for Grand Chief Ernie Crow.