When Canada declared war on 10 September 1939, Canadian Natives responded with a patriotic fervour that equalled and, in some cases, exceeded that of non-Native Canadians. Indians who "joined up" amounted to a greater proportion of the population than any other group, and totalled some 6,000. The war and Native participation in it brought a number of issues to the surface. Many volunteers were initially rejected for reason of poor health or inadequate education, a revealing statement on the conditions in which they lived. The compulsory enfranchisement regulations that had been implemented following the First World War and had been particularly directed at veterans led some to fear that participation might lead to a loss of status or rights. Some Natives, particularly the Mohawks, reiterated their independent national status and protested being treated like Canadian nationals. Such concerns did not impede the Native war effort, as individual Natives and Native organizations saw no contradiction between recruiting and fundraising on the one hand and asserting and guarding treaty and other rights on the other. In 1944, the government relented on the issue of whether treaty promises had guaranteed that Natives would not be called to fight Canadian battles, and signatories of Treaties 3, 6, 8, and 11 were, if they so chose, exempted from serving overseas. Native veterans were frequently refused benefits, most notably land distributed by the Veterans Land Administration.

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Chinook Multimedia


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