“If ye break faith with us who die, We shall not sleep.” The words from Lieutenant-Colonel John McRae’s famous poem, In Flanders Fields, are known to almost every Canadian and yet, faith was broken with Indigenous veterans from the moment they returned from fighting in the Great Wars. Shut out of benefits provided for returning soldiers, they faced poverty and persecution, and often couldn’t afford even a headstone to mark their heroism at the end of their lives.
However, thanks to the research department of The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, with help from The Last Post Fund, eight Indigenous veterans of the Great Wars who lie in such unmarked graves, now have their names etched in stone to commemorate their lives and service to their country.
Donald Maracle, Chief of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, shared, “On Remembrance Day we say ‘lest we forget’ but the reality was a lot of Indigenous veterans were poor, and their graves were not marked. And so we don’t know exactly where they’re buried, but we know what cemeteries [they] are buried in.”
Chief Maracle can remember attending some funerals in his childhood, “I remember… being in Christ Church and the flag, the coffins were draped with the Canadian flag… and so you knew that they were veterans… their graves are just not marked. Over time people forgot where they were, and their families passed on.”
He explained that in the past, the Last Post Fund (LPF) was run by each local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion and so funds in poorer communities were scarce.
However, at the start of 2019, the Last Post Fund National Office introduced the Indigenous Veterans Initiative (IVI), in keeping with the Canadian government’s efforts towards advancing reconciliation and renewing the relationship with Indigenous peoples based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership.
This initiative has two components. Indigenous Unmarked Graves provides grave markers to Indigenous Veterans deceased for over five years and lying in unmarked graves. Indigenous Traditional Name Marking adds traditional names of Indigenous Veterans to existing military grave markers.
Now, through the research team’s work with help from the LPF, markers exist for each man.
Buried in Tyendinaga Mohawk Pentecostal Cemetery:
- Private Francis Randall Brant, who served in both WWI and WWII with Division 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles. Born January 21, 1897 — died June 10, 1967.
Buried in All Saints Cemetery:
- Lance Corporal Burton Brant, Division 6th Battalion. Born November 26, 1892 — died June 8, 1960, and
- Private William Brant (Sero), Division 4th C. M. R. Born1897 — died 1965.
Buried at Christ Church Cemetery:
- Private Alfred A. Brant, Division 102nd Canadian Infantry Battalion. Born July 14, 1879 — died November 21, 1959.
- Private Charles Clinton Brant, Division 7th Company Canadian Forestry Corps. Born April 11, 1901 — died May 23, 1942.
- Stocker Burget Brant, Royal Navy. Born February 16, 1880 — died June 28, 1925.
- Private Joseph Corby, Division 155th Canadian Infantry Battalion, Born October 9, 1874 — died October 1922.
- Private Anthony Maracle, Division 153rd Canadian Infantry Battalion. Born October 1883 — died April 28, 1919.