Kahnawake showed up in droves for the annual Remembrance Day parade on Saturday, with veterans, members of the military, and supporters gathering at the Royal Canadian Legion Mohawk Branch 219 of Kahnawake before proceeding to the Kahnawake cenotaph.
“I’m here in support of my husband’s grandfather,” said attendee Sharon Lazare. “He was in the war, Vimy (Ridge), so (my husband) is here to place a wreath for his grandfather, and he’s also placing a wreath for the Knights of Columbus.”
In attendance was Indigenous advisor to the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), chaplain general Patrick Stevens, who brought with him the Department of National Defense and CAF Eagle Staff, a symbolic emblem representing all Indigenous military members.
“The Canadian Armed Forces, DND Eagle Staff has an Anishinaabe origin,” said Stevens. “It currently rests in Ottawa. It’s traveled all over Canada and many places overseas. It’s been in service now for over 22 years.”
During the procession, the Black Watch Bagpipers played “Taps” and “The Last Post” as the parade marched towards the Cenotaph, where the proceedings commenced with the Canadian and American national anthems followed by opening prayers.
Robert P. Sanders, the newly-appointed US Consul General for Montreal, was among those invited to say a few words. “I’m amazed at the deep connections between the United States and Kahnawake, from the Mohawk Skywalkers’ role in raising the Manhattan skyline to the support in the aftermath of 9/11,” he said.
Since last year’s ceremony, three Kahnawake veterans have passed away – Gordon Day, US Army, Vietnam veteran; Leonard Rice, US Army; and James Vance Goodleaf, United States Marine Corps – to whom Ray Deer, president of the Mohawk Branch 219, paid tribute.
“They are here in spirit and will never be forgotten. Let us remember those who lost their lives while serving in Canada and the United States in past wars. Let us keep in our thoughts those deployed around the world, away from their families and loved ones. We pray for their safe return home,” said Deer.
Following the speeches, the Red Tail Singers performed for the veterans, wreaths were laid at the Cenotaph, and the Mohawk Branch 219 rifle squad conducted a rifle salute in honour of the fallen.
“I think it’s so important to honour, obviously, the veterans and all of the number of people who have served both Canada and the United States military from Kahnawake,” said Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) grand chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer, who attends every year. She added that two MCK chiefs, Lindsay Leborgne and Ryan Montour, have served in the armed forces.
“It was a beautiful day. I’m just honoured to be a part of it,” she said.
After the parade, community members gathered at Mohawk Branch 219 for more festivities and an evening supper.
“We were honoured that we had so many guests and a lot of people that wanted to pay tribute to the Aboriginal veterans,” said Deer, adding that many attendees came from neighbouring communities.
“It was a huge success.”
This article was originally published in print on Friday, November 10, in issue 32.45 of The Eastern Door.