National Archives at College Park, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Hidden amongst the ubiquitous stories of white war heroes lay the unknown narratives of decorated Indigenous soldiers of both World Wars.
YOUR CONFLICT IS OUR CONFLICT is a feature documentary in early-stage development, with Leena Minifie as creator and producer.
This is a story about the bravery, prowess, and resilience of North American Indigenous people in historical Western Wars, inspired by the unknown stories of decorated First Nations war heroes from British Columbia, Canada. These stories are a powerful and significant aspect of the move forward through reconciliation and the acknowledgement of racialized and Indigenous peoples in Western history.
It has always been a duty of Indigenous people to protect or lands and communities, and to engage in conflict to defend these if necessary. Historically and across both World Wars, there were higher proportions of volunteers found in the North American Indigenous community than other minority cultural communities. During the World Wars, Indigenous men were found volunteering for conscription on either side of the Canada and United States border, regardless of not being included in the draft. Throughout the conflicts, these men rose quickly through the ranks despite the consistently racist and oppressive enrollment rules. They were a highly decorated and promoted group; many Canadians do not know of this rich and moving history.
YOUR CONFLICT IS OUR CONFLICT tells a hidden history, overlooked by Canadian history and not covered inside our education systems. This feature documentary will provide a new perspective, highlighting the North American Indigenous war experience. Through the retelling and reframing of these stories, we will enable our audience to relive the on-the-ground experiences, beyond the scope of numbers and into personal and colourful tales of battle and survival. We will correct the erasure of Indigenous peoples from the ‘momentous’ experiences of war and valor in Canadian history. This documentary will feature the real people and historians that are working hard to tell these stories, from a fresh, moving, and motivational perspective. There are untold stories of Indigenous soldiers being detained in POW camps in Japan and individual missions that had one soldier from the Okanagan single-handedly take on 60 German soldiers and capture 19 prisoners. As we unfortunately lose veterans and their family members each year to old age, the urgency of the project builds. With fewer and fewer veterans and elders here to tell their stories, their history needs to be recorded now, in real time.
Support for the project will facilitate new research about citizen wartime service in British Columbia, primarily focused on Indigenous men, which will form a baseline database that can be further expanded upon and dovetail with the work of academics in the province who are currently undertaking the same mission.