Remembrance ceremony on Six Nations honors Indigenous soldiers

Published: 17 October 2022

By J.P. Antonacci
via the The Hamilton Spectator newspaper (CA) web site

Six Nations event 2022


Six Nations Veterans Association pays annual tribute to Haudenosaunee who fought and died for freedom

Of the several dozen wreaths carefully placed at the foot of the cenotaph in Six Nations Veterans Park during Sunday’s remembrance ceremony, one stood out.

Resembling a dreamcatcher with black netting stretched between its tan frame, the wreath was festooned with red and white stars, a pair of leather-laced miniature foam army boots, and a hand-stitched ribbon shirt crossed by the white and purple emblem of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

The homemade wreath honouring Williams Staats of Six Nations, a sapper in the First World War.

The homemade wreath honouring Williams Staats of Six Nations, a sapper in the First World War. The wreath also honoured  his son John Staats, a US Navy engineer, and his two sons who continued the family tradition, serving in the US Navy and Marine Corps.

“The freedoms. The freedom to speak. The freedom to live. The freedom to enjoy every day,” Leslie Staats said of her ancestors’ motivation to leave their home territory and fight overseas. “That’s what they fought for — the freedom to be free here and speak. And they also kept the conflicts off our lands.”

The remembrance ceremony, held annually on the third Sunday of October, was organized by the Six Nations Veterans Association, and it was veterans who led the procession from the community hall to the park in downtown Ohsweken.

“I know that within the ranks of all these military men and women, there’s a comradeship among them. Doesn’t matter where they are in the world. It’s the same with Indigenous people as well,” Staats said.

“To look around, the faces have not changed. The community is so vibrant.”

Soldiers from Six Nations have fought with Canadian, American and British regiments in conflicts dating from before Confederation to the present day. A centrepiece of the ceremony was the roll call, a reading aloud of the names of the 61 Haudenosaunee who died fighting in the world wars, as well as six who died in Korea, Vietnam or Iraq.

There are over 2,700 Indigenous service members in the Canadian army today, noted Lt.-Col. Patrick Pitt of the Brantford-based 56th Field Artillery Regiment, whose soldiers assisted with the ceremony and provided a booming artillery salute that startled some attendees.

Pitt said Canadian army personnel are “tremendously proud” to have served with Indigenous troops past and present.

“Canadian armed forces have been your comrades in arms for hundreds of years,” Pitt told the crowd, referencing the Haudenosaunee’s allyship in the War of 1812 and the outsized volunteer contribution from Six Nations during the First World War.

Read the entire article on the The Hamilton Spectator web site.
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