News and Comment
Turtle Island Native Network
Now you can call them Ravens. They are "the summer warriors" who someday may embrace a military career.
Even if they don't go that way, they take with them the thrill of a new experience, memories of tough tasks, and the fun of youthful but disciplined comaraderie.
Today they were honoured at a graduation ceremony on Vancouver Island at CFB Esquimalt.
Hundreds of families, friends, First Nation chiefs, community leaders and dignitaries gathered for the Maritime Forces Pacific RAVEN Aboriginal Youth Training Program graduation parade.
It began with help from the colourful ceremonial movement of the Esquimalt Nation Dancers - along with an Aboriginal military Flag Party of Aboriginal Veterans and Aboriginal serving military members who marched in, and stood at attention as the Tommy Prince Platoon - RAVEN youth marched into parade formation.
The Rear Admiral, Jean Yves Forcier arrived and took a salute and so did the provincial Lieutenant-Governor, who inspected the Platoon.
After the inspection, the Platoon of Aboriginal youth, wearing army fatigues and carrying rifles against their shoulders, proudly marched by the dignitaries.
As the honour and respect continued, the Lieutenant-Governor presented 4 awards to the 5 top students. All of the 37 graduating RAVENS aged 16 to 29, received their framed certificates from her honour Iona Campagnolo.
"Raven is a timeless symbol. Sometimes known as a trickster, sometimes as a saviour, ravens are long-lived, resourceful, faithful and dynamic and are representative some of the great clans and families of the peoples of this coast. For today's ravens, this is an important day of celebration and achievement. I commend Maritime Forces Pacific, Canada's navy for taking this bold initiative."
Private Erin Lapointe receives his certificate
from Lieutenant Governor Iona Campagnolo
"For those of you who have completed the Raven Programme today, we all proudly commend you for having shouldered the duty, the service and the hard work of these intensive five weeks of training. Those of you who have persevered to reach this target have gained some very valuable knowledge of your own strengths and capacities. As you have worked here, you have no doubt also gained one of life's most precious lessons: that each one of us is in command of our own lives and that each one of us is capable really can reach our goals and dreams. Through discipline, skills and courage each one of you can set a life-course to become our own best selves. This is a precious gift of knowledge is one that can only be gained through being in command of ourselves so that we can become autonomous, self-governing individuals who are wise and capable enough to serve all the many communities that are part of our lives.
Coming as you do from First Nations and Aboriginal heritage you bring many gifts of knowledge to the society that we now all share. Rich in understanding of this special land that now harbours us all, you are also blessed with an ancient and unique set of cultures that are strongly rooted in the natural world. There is justifiable pride in your many languages, spiritual beliefs, customs and arts that are immensely valuable in Canada's cultural mosaic of being a nation that is itself the home of all the world's peoples. All Canada's institutions are challenged to reflect the reality of our peoples, to be inclusive of the many distinctions that create our rare and prized diversity.
Although not all of you will chose the military life, there is no doubt that the Raven Programme has made whatever direction you may take, easier to achieve. As a result of this experience, you are stronger and better equipped to shoulder the burdens of a consciously lived life. Should you chose a life in Canada's Armed Forces, you not only serve the common good of our whole society, you also join an honourable tradition of First Nations men and women who have served Canada through many generations in both war and peace. Representing such an inclusive nation is an important trust, because Canada can make meaningful and much needed contributions to this troubled world, but only if people like those of you in Raven are willing to keep on learning and growing and are unafraid of the hard work hard that it takes to join the ranks of Canada's many opportunities of the professional military forces.
To the proud families here today, I am aware that it is always difficult as parents to set our children free to seek their own dreams and I commend you for the support and affection you have given your children in achieving through this programme. Your rewards are in the happy smiles of accomplishment and success that I see on the faces of today's graduates. All of us share your pride in these fine young people who have 'made the grade' as part of the Raven Programmed!
As representative of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen of Canada here in British Columbia, I salute the graduates of Raven today, and thank Admiral Fraser, the officers, members and training and support staff of Canada's navy with our new Admiral Forcier who have all taken 'on board' the challenge of inclusiveness and made this positive contribution to 37 young lives and the lives of their loved ones, too. Congratulations one and all! You have set in motion the beginnings of a better, more respectful time for all of us!"
Esquimalt Nation Chief Andy Thomas acknowledged the young warriors and how they had accomplished so much this summer, and "how important it is for First Nation's youth to experience these successes".
Norman George spoke on behalf of the Songhees Nation. He told the Ravens how good he felt "being here and seeing you here with the Aboriginal veterans". It was a scene that prompted him to reminds us of the military role Aboriginal people have played and continue to share in Canada.
He told the Ravens that he was proud of what they have accomplished during this life experience to help get them "on the right road". He told them the discipline and teamwork they have learned "will be with them always on the right road".
The youth received a standing ovation from the hundreds of onlookers, who included; Lydia Hwitsum of the First Nations Summit, Chief Vern Jacks for the T'seycum Nation, Karen Harry representing the T'sawout Nation, Alex Sam for the T'sartlip Nation, Chief Bill Cramner for the Namgis, Curtis Henry for the Paquachin, Henry Chips for the Beecher Bay First Nation, distinguished Elders and Aboriginal Veterans, Dr. Keith Martin, Member of Parliament and proud families and friends.
After a reception, at which the Esquimalt dancers helped celebrate the special day for these Aboriginal youth, they mingled with their families and friends, and ate up more of the admiration.
Later, the RAVEN youth were bussed to the Tsartlip Nation, where they marched in the Grand Entry of the Yellow Wolf Pow Wow.
Then they were returned back to their communities, at the powwow where they could loosen up, rid themselves of army green, and tell their tales of life at military boot camp.