The long anticipated unveiling of a new monument honouring First Nations veterans from the Nicola Valley took place in Shulus last weekend, with hundreds gathering to mark the occasion and pay tribute to those whose sacrifices often went unnoticed and unappreciated.
The day featured drumming, prayers, speeches, a military flyover, and a reading of veterans names in a ceremony that showcased the highly awaited monument by the Nicola Valley First Nations Veterans (NVFNV). The group began to plan the project more than three years ago, with it coming to fruition thanks to generous donations, government funding, and countless hours of organizational work by volunteers.
“We want to continue the legacy of our veterans in our communities and in our families, making sure our children and grandchildren know the history of the people that served,” Carol Holmes of Upper Nicola Band, a member of the NVFNV, told the Herald previously.
“We have quite a number of families that information hasn’t been passed on. Part of this project is collecting those stories. We’d like to put them into a book too.”
The organization came to be in 2003, when veterans Percy Joe of Shackan and Richard Jackson, Jr. of Lower Nicola Indian Band (LNIB) together recognized the need to honour and recognize the First Nations veterans of the Nicola Valley. The two searched for a large boulder, eventually finding one and moving it to Shulus where it became the organization’s first monument project. Four plaques were placed on the boulder, representing World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Joe noted that a number of local veterans, including Johnny Isaac and others, have contributed to the project and towards honouring the legacy of First Nations veterans in the Nicola Valley.
The original monument is now a part of the new monument, which includes three pillars inscribed with the names of 67 First Nations veterans from throughout the Nicola Valley’s history, along with five large feathers representing the five local First Nations bands. A fire bowl with an inscription that reads ‘Every Child Matters’ completes the monument.
A number of local chiefs and council members from the Nicola Valley’s five bands, along with surrounding bands such as Lytton, attended the ceremony and praised the NVFNV for their efforts in memorializing the veterans who were often left unrecognized and discriminated against despite their dedication and service. Other speakers included Sargeant Kayla Boston of the Royal Westminster Regiment, Valerie Charters, speaking on behalf of her brother, medic Earl Chambers, and RCMP Constable Delvin Hall.
The new monument is located next to Shulus Arbor and the Anglican Church, and can be viewed by the public at any time.