The socio-political influence of the Second World War Saskatchewan Aboriginal veterans, 1945-1960
Innes, Robert Alexander
It has been accepted in the historical discourse that a direct link existed between the participation of Aboriginal people in the Second World War and a new political consciousness of Aboriginal people in Canada generally, and Saskatchewan specifically, immediately after the war. This conclusion has been based on the fact that as soldiers, Aboriginal veterans had gained much experience. They had traveled to various parts of the world, had been treated as equals while fighting alongside non-Aboriginal soldiers and had been celebrated as liberators of Europe. On the return to Canada, they found that the situation of Aboriginal people had not changed. Unwilling to accept the substandard treatment for themselves and their people, it is argued, that the Aboriginal veterans became the focal point for Aboriginal rights' movement. There is in fact no evidence to support the notion that the Aboriginal veterans had a direct role in igniting Aboriginal peoples' political consciousness immediately after the war. In the first five years after the war, Aboriginal veterans were more concerned with readjusting to civilian life. They were young men who possessed few adult civilian life experiences and virtually no political experience. The emphasis on Aboriginal veterans as the political leaders after the war ignores the efforts of the existing leaders who had been involved in politics for many years. Although Aboriginal veterans did not directly influence the political climate, their existence as a group was crucial to the shifting attitude of the Canadian public toward Aboriginal people. The portrayal of Aboriginal veterans by the news media as "progressive Indians" due to their contributions to the war effort, impressed upon Canadians the need for change in the relationship between the Canadian government and Aboriginal people. By the 1950s, as the more socially, economically and to a certain extent, geographically mobile the veterans became the more socially and politically active they became. It is the contention of this research that the impact of their war experience is discernible in two ways. First, immediately after the war, the presence of Aboriginal veterans led to Canadian's re-evaluation of the relationship between Aboriginal people and Canadian government. Second, in the post-war era, Aboriginal veterans became active agents of social and political change. In sum, Aboriginal veterans became, first passive catalysts and, later, engines for social and political change.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
SupervisorMiller, James R.
CommitteeWaldram, James B.; Stevenson, Winona; Laliberte, Ron
Copyright DateSeptember 2000
aboriginal war veterans - political influence
World War II - native war veterans - Saskatchewan
aboriginal peoples - social status
aboriginal rights movement