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War Memorials: Métis Veterans’ Monument

May 27, 2014

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A brief look at the history of war reveals that ‘war memorials’ were often erected to commemorate victories. Remembering fallen soldiers was rarely the main concern. For example, in Napoleon’s France (1769-1821), dead soldiers were buried in unmarked mass graves. Even England’s Nelson’s Column does not have names of fallen soldiers.

 

It was not until late 19th Century that the Royal Army started to erect monuments to commemorate their comrades who had died overseas in the British Imperial Wars. The monuments listed the names of the fallen soldiers. This became a common practice in Britain in early 20th century as communities built memorials to commemorate soldiers from local communities who had died at war.

 

As Europe experienced big losses during World War I, memorials that listed the names of soldiers who had gone to war but never returned home became more common.

 

But war memorials have sometimes been polemical. A memorial at Gentioux-Pigerolles France depicts an orphan and the words ‘Maudite soit la guerre’ (Cursed be war). In Australia, a memorial was erected in 1984 to commemorate Aboriginal people who resisted European settlers. The memorial was “frequently shot at” and “eventually blown up” (see Reynolds, H., 1999, Why Weren’t We Told?). At Hartlepool War Memorial in the UK is the inscription ‘Thine O Lord is the Victory.’

 

Today, the main goal of war memorials such as the Métis Veteran Memorial currently under construction at Batoche is to acknowledge and honour those who have died – it is not to glorify war. Some memorials have space left for names of soldiers who have not died yet. Such is the case of Northwood Gratitude and Honour Memorial in California that has space for additional 8,000 names. In the UK, the National Memorial Arboretum displays over 16,000 names of fallen soldiers with more space available for future fatalities. (For more discussion please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_memorial).

 

It is thus important to Métis people across the homeland to build Métis Veterans’ Monument at Batoche Grounds to remember and celebrate the contribution and sacrifice of Métis men and women who proudly and fearless fought for our freedoms and gave their lives so that we can be free. To date, GDI has raised over $235,000 towards the monument. The Métis Veterans’ Monument will be unveiled and presented to the public in July. Long live Métis Veterans’ as you rest in peace.

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Gabriel Dumont Institue

GDI is a Saskatchewan-based educational, employment and cultural institute serving Métis across the province

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