The Nicola Valley First Nations Veterans (NVFNV) is a local organization looking to educate and inform locals on the often overlooked and unrecognized sacrifices made by First Nations veterans in the valley, and across the country. While their main focus is currently the new monument project, a major upgrade from the two large boulders currently at the memorial site, the organization continues to educate through a plethora of resources and their annual Remembrance Day ceremony.
The organization came to be in 2003, when local veterans Percy Jackson of Shackan and Richard Jackson, Jr. of Lower Nicola Indian Band (LNIB) together recognized the need to honour and recognize First Nations veterans in the Nicola Valley. The two found a large granite boulder, moving it to Shulus to become the NVFNV first monument. Four plaques were placed on the boulder, representing World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The NVFNV have taken on numerous projects in the past, such as their collaboration with the Last Post Fund’s Indigenous Veterans Initiative. Funding through this initiative has allowed the organization to place over 20 military markers honouring Indigenous veterans.
“The goal of the organization is to pay respect and honour to our veterans, which is what’s most important,” said Carol Holmes of Upper Nicola, member of the NVFNV.
“When we take a look at the history of Indigenous people, we are not recognized for how we’ve contributed to Canada. Our veterans served, and many of them volunteered, but they were never recognized. There was very little recognition, so it’s important for us to make sure that our veterans are being honoured and recognized, and that their stories are being told.”
The veterans hope to continue collecting and disseminating these local stories of bravery and courage in serving the country, with many local First Nations serving throughout Canada’s history. At least two First Nations veterans residing in the valley have been killed in action. Those who did return were often mistreated, and given far less support and recognition than their non-Indigenous counterparts, if any. Holmes adds that there is a personal onus on Canadians to research and educate themselves on Canada’s history with Indigenous veterans, but hopes that her organization can help to bridge the gap.
Those looking to support the NVFNV can share their own or family’s stories of serving, or donate to the new pillar monument’s progress through the LNIB office, with a notation it is for the Nicola Valley First Nations Veterans. The organization hopes to erect its new monument by March of 2023, having raised a significant amount of funding through Veterans Affairs, donations by businesses, and community fundraisers.
“Going off to war was an immediate response, so there were minimal places to actually document and to research,” added Holmes.
“With First Nations there was very little. It was left up to the Indian Agent, and in most cases they didn’t keep track or really care. We need that information shared and known, not only for our people, but for Canadians to know that this is our country and we continue to contribute to our nation.”
The NVFNV annual Remembrance Day ceremony is back this year after a two year hiatus, and will see participants gather at the Anglican Church in Shulus before parading to the Catholic Church, which is the site of the current monument. A ceremony will then take place at the site, marking the last ceremony there before the organization moves the event to the new monument location in 2023. All are welcome, and participants are asked to gather at the Anglican Church by 10:20AM.
For more information, or to have your or a family member’s name on the new monument, contact Carol Holmes at 250-378-7809. The deadline for submission of a veteran’s name to be included on the monument is November 15, 2022.