Metis Veterans Monument unveiled at Lac Pelletier

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The long overdue recognition of the efforts of Metis Veterans from the Lac Pelletier valley was finally completed with the unveiling of a Metis Veterans Monument at Lac Pelletier Regional Park this past Saturday.

The names of 16 Metis Veterans who served during World War I, World War II, and the Korean War are displayed on the newly constructed cenotaph, marking one of the few monuments to the service of Metis veterans.

"The Metis soldiers made incredible sacrifices for Canada's war efforts. This monument is long overdue for acknowledgement to these brave Metis men and women," explained Metis Elder Cecile Blanke, who was the driving force behind the monument.

"This monument really has a true meaning for all of us, including the young. Thousands of Metis citizens, bravely and selflessly, answered the call to serve during the world wars," Blanke said during Saturday's unveiling ceremony. "They enlisted freely without hesitation, wanting to fight for their country, Canada. Almost all of them went on front lines, and none got killed or wounded."

She grew up hearing stories from the soldiers when they visited her father during their return home on leave or after the wars.

"I knew all 16 of them that are inscribed on the plaque. I guess that's why it was so important for me to work so hard on this, and I am so glad to see it done today."

The monument boasts a central cenotaph inside of a design of a Red River Cart wheel, surrounded by 16 posts which contain the names of not only the veterans but Metis and homesteading families which contributed to the building of the lake over the years.

John Froese, past president of the Lac Pelletier Regional Park Board, commented during Saturday's ceremony that four corner poles in the monument represent important contributing aspects of Lac Pelletier. The posts represent various things including the Regional Park, St. Anne's Parish/Rectory, former local businesses that once provided much needed supplies and groceries, along with former schools which existed in the community.

"Our Parks are places where we protect and preserve the environment, as well as our cultural heritage. The four corners of any community carry the load and memories of the past and present and the future. If we can say that Lac Pelletier Regional Park's mission statement to protect, maintain and improve our park for the health and recreation of our local community, and provide a haven for our wildlife in a natural setting. Our Metis war veterans deserve a safe and natural setting as well," Froese commented.

"This monument is a significant asset to this Lac Pelletier Regional Park property," Froese added. "and will be maintained in the proper manner."

Metis National President Glen Charteau highlighted that the monument is an important recognition.

"This is a big step towards the recognition of Metis and hopefully we can do more of this throughout the Metis Nation," he said.

Charteau, who is originally from Buffalo Narrows, noted that they are also working to get a national monument at the Batoche National Historic Site.

"It hasn't been an easy time for our veterans," he said. "We hear these stories throughout the Metis Nation homeland. And we've been trying at the national level to try to get justice for our veterans. We haven't, I'm sad to say, moved far in terms of non-symbolic things."

They have been successful in ensuring recognition of Metis at the Juno Beach Centre, and continue to push the federal government to do the right thing in formally recognizing the contributions of Metis veterans.

"This is a testament of how our community, how our families feel about our veterans, and this will forever be a symbol of the greatness that we as Metis have for each other and for our people in this case, particularly for the Metis Nation veterans that served in the three wars."

Charteau also singled out the determined efforts of Blanke in making this monument a reality.

"She didn't just dream of doing something, she actually did it. That is something very great and that is something we will always appreciate."

Organizations: Lac Pelletier Regional Park Board

Geographic location: Lac Pelletier Regional Park

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