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Native military contribution on display (Museum of the Regiments in Calgary).

Windspeaker Contributor


"Aboriginals in the Service of Peace," an exhibit commemorating Indigenous people who served in the Canadian military, is on display at the Museum of the Regiments in Calgary.

The exhibit opened on April 30 and will be on display until Oct. 30. It traces the history of Aboriginal military involvement from colonial times to the present. Clothing, medals, photographs and documents help showcase the great commitment of Aboriginal people to Canada's armed forces.

The display was originally created at the regiments gallery more than two years ago. George Kaminski was the young Aboriginal man who put the display together for the Department of National Defence. He died in Moosejaw, Sask., on Mar. 10. He was 31.

"It was put together here, then shipped to Ottawa, shown for a very special event, then put away," said museum director Col. Ian Barnes.

Just over a year ago, Kaminski began talking to the museum staff about bringing the display back to Calgary.

Kaminski's dedication to the display was remembered at the exhibit's opening night in Calgary. The large crowd included veterans, government officials and Native performer Tom Jackson.

The opening of the display provided an opportunity for Aboriginal veterans to swap some stories and explain some of the items on display.

Master Corporal Phil Tobicoe, a volunteer at the museum, proudly displayed the medals he received for his service in Canada's contingents to United Nations peacekeeping forces in Cyprus and the former Yugoslavia.

"Probably the most prized one is [the medal for his service in] Yugoslavia," Tobicoe said. "In my platoon there were three Natives."

Tobicoe said he experienced "moments of pleasure, to seconds of sheer terror" during his military service.

"When you came back to Canada, it made you appreciate what you had," Tobicoe said. "I toured 14 countries while I was on leave during the two tours I've had, and there's nothing like Canada."

Tobicoe said the only time he ever had any real problem in the army was during the Mohawk standoff with the Quebec provincial police and the Canadian army in Oka, Que. in 1990.

"It was the toughest year in my life," Tobicoe said. "I was training to be an NCO (non-commissioned officer), and I was torn between loyalty (to the service) and family.

"That was the hardest thing."

Tobicoe's peacekeeping uniform is on display in the museum.

Clarence Wolfleg, Siksika Nation councillor and former serviceman, said he appreciated the good intentions of the museum and the exhibit, but the ones who would have truly appreciated it, the veterans, are almost all gone.

He said that there are only three veterans of the wars left on the Siksika Nation: his father, Mark Wolfleg Sr.; Frank Turning Robe Sr. and Lawrence McHugh.

"It's fifty-three years too late," said Wolfleg.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Tallow, Paul Melting
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Jun 1, 1998
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