‘Everybody deserves a marker’: Organization looking to identify more unmarked Indigenous veterans’ graves

WINNIPEG –

A Canada-wide organization is trying to identify more unmarked Canadian Armed Forces graves so they can receive a proper headstone, including Indigenous veterans.

Last Post Fund was started in 1909 with the goal of ensuring no veteran was denied a funeral and burial as well as a proper military gravestone.

In 2019, the organization started the Indigenous Veterans Initiative, noting more than 12,000 Indigenous people have served in the Canadian Armed Forces.

The program offers two services: placing a military marker for any veteran who has been buried for more than five years who doesn’t have a tombstone, and making sure traditional Indigenous names and proper symbols are on existing tombstones.

“They’re not less of a soldier or less of a veteran because they are Indigenous,” said Ralph McLean, who is a member of the Manitoba Chapter of the Last Post Fund.

He said the organization realized that Indigenous veterans were underrepresented and they wanted to ensure they were recognized properly.

“A lot of Indigenous communities might have a veteran buried in their cemetery, but it’s possible they’re unmarked graves. They might just have a funeral home marker, or a wooden cross.”

McLean said if the family of the veteran brings up the situation to the organization, the Last Post Fund will research the veteran, create a tombstone and place the marker at no cost to the family.

Even if the family doesn’t know the exact spot where the person is buried, McLean said they will indicate the person is in the area.

“Everybody deserves a marker,” said McLean, “to mark the service of those Canadians that served our country in war time and in peace.”

To date, the Last Post Fund has identified over 270 Indigenous veterans’ graves and 130 grave markers have been ordered or placed.

In Manitoba, eight unmarked graves from Indigenous communities have been submitted and two grave markers have been placed.

McLean said if anyone wants to report an unmarked grave, they can find more information on the Last Post Fund’s website.

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