Approximately 7,000 Indigenous People participated in the First World War (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945). This number does not include Inuit and Métis who also participated in the war. Indigenous soldiers were known to be good snipers and scouts to infiltrate enemy lines. National Indigenous Veterans Day in Canada is on November 8th.

Many Mi’kmaq from Maria, Restigouche and Gaspé enlisted during the two world wars and fought in Europe. They volunteered to serve for a variety of reasons: their sense of duty, their desire for adventure or guaranteed income. Some were awarded medals for their bravery. Others lost their lives or were injured.

Joe Vicaire, a Mi’kmaq veteran

Joe Vicaire was only a teenager when he joined the Canadian Army during World War II. This young Mi’kmaq from Restigouche came from a family of soldiers. His father had served during World War I as a sniper and his brothers had also gone to war. Joe was at the front as an attacker on armored tanks.

Margaret Labillois, photographer

Many Mi’kmaq women, such as Margaret Labillois from the village of Ugpiganjig (New Brunswick), also participated in the war as nurses or in other areas of expertise. In 1941, at 18 years old, Margaret Labillois decided to enlist in the army to help support her mother, who lived alone with five children. She became a photographer for the Canadian Air Force.

After the war, she married, had children and became involved in politics. As the first woman elected to head Ugpiganjig, she worked to revitalize the language and culture of the community and encouraged partnerships between Idnigenous and non-Indigenous people. Recently, her contribution was recognized when she was awarded the Order of Canada and the Order of New Brunswick.

Author: Service national du Récit de l’univers social. Adpaptions by LEARN.

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