War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

aboriginal soldiers

I love my country. passionately. the land. the people. the differences. the tolerances, e.g. at our local Fall Fair the Lebanese have a food booth next to the Jewish cultural centre’s, next to the German club’s, next to the Koreans, next to the Ukranians … well you get the picture … no food fights. I think it’s called Good Manners

but sometimes when I stumble upon intolerance, massive inanity, I’m mystified. at blindness. at unkindness. at blatant stupidity.

I just drove into the little village near where I’m staying and bought a coffee and read the paper. there was a story about a dumbass racist joke posted in some Legion’s newsletter. details unimportant here because there’s already enough chatter about it. let’s just say the butt of the joke were aboriginals. yup. unbelievable. I had to shake my head. because over the course of my time with the boys, I met many 1st Nations and Metis soldiers, some with multiple tours under their belts. one in particular signed up for another tour even though he was missing chunks of his leg from his 2006 tour. he was a good soldier. switched on as they would say. ready to go again. highly decorated.

another was a senior NCO. a Sgt. Major with sparkly eyes the colour of young bucks in the autumn forest. and his legs were as tall as the sky. beloved by his men. they’d follow him anywhere. he ran harder, sweated harder, gave a billion percent of himself so his boys could come home alive. gave the ruck off his back to a young officer heading outside the wire. came home himself more dead than alive.

and another was a Transport Cpl. 6’5” at least. 300 lbs. at least. the boys listened to him. (who wouldn’t at 6’5” and 300 + lbs!). he drove those bf trucks outside the wire. okay boys, don’t stop for ANYTHING, listened and was loyal to his 5’3” petite blond officer (the first woman and awesome cannot begin to describe her) and got the job done …

and we always had time for each other whenever we met, maybe because they could see my high cheekbones, my black hair, and recognize that we share ancestors – in my case Cree, Salteaux women who married à la façon du pays the first French soldiers to come to Canada in the early 18th century. those first soldiers, my ancestors, were members of the Regiment Carignan Salières
who had decided to stay on in the new world, homestead the narrow river lots of the island of Montreal, the North Shore, then onto the Red River with their dark-eyed women.

and my mother, who carried the dark, sparkly eyes of her ancestors, and their purple black hair, married a red-headed boy whose own family landed on these shores at PEI in 1790 as a religious refuge from the Outer Hebrides …

and the one thing we were taught over and over and over again as young ones at the dinner table, and that was tolerance, openness, acceptance of differences. now here’s an interesting deal though. within the ranks the boys say TERRIBLE things. politically incorrect up the ying yang. but, and this is a big but, it’s an equal opportunity deal. EVERYONE is the butt of jokes. and the unwritten code says, what goes on in camp stays in camp (and anthropologists and sociologists have much to say about group decorum, speech patterns etc. etc.).

in our home growing up, a love for our country was not optional, it was manditory. and we never heard a racist remark in our house. not once. more importantly, we were told to call bullshit on whomever made racist remarks. and so, here I am. whoever penned that dumbass joke in the Legion, I’m calling bullshit. go meet some of the boys. try your joke on the young vet missing a chunk of his leg who was injured while serving with our flag on his uniform. see how hard he laughs.

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled aboriginal soldiers. It was posted here on August 24, 2012.


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