Students visit indigenous veterans’ exhibit

Sam Odrowski

St. Francis students visited the Fort Frances Museum on Friday to learn about the history of indigenous veterans from the area.
The Grade 5/6 native language class and Grade 5 class viewed the display and learned about those from the area who served in either world war.
St. Francis teacher Karen Papineau was notified of the exhibit by Michelle Tympkin, the indigenous education lead, and thought it was a good opportunity to take her students’ learning an extra step further.
“I think it’s important for the students to know, for their self-identity, how their ancestors or how people of Treaty #3 contributed during the war,” she reasoned.
Many of the students who went on the field trip were indigenous and recognized many of the names of those who served from this area when viewing the exhibit.
The exhibit started out with 150 names of local indigenous veterans but constantly is being added to, noted museum staffer Laura Gosse.
“As time goes on, we will hopefully have more people of Treaty #3 come forward and share their collective history within our community,” she remarked.
During Friday’s field trip, the students had a chance to view artifacts, ask questions, participate in a related craft, and deepen their knowledge of those who served.
They learned how indigenous women also fought in the war and that upon the veterans’ return, they were not treated in the same way as non-indigenous veterans were.
“They were discriminated against still even though they served,” said St. Francis teacher Artina Gurski.
“When they came back from the war, they were back to being treated the way they were pre-war,” she noted.
“The discrimination was terrible.”
Papineau, meanwhile, is grateful to have such a great resource right here in Fort Frances.
“I’m really happy that people in the community have this knowledge and can share it with us,” she lauded.
Gurski was thrilled with the museum’s tour guide, Gosse, who led the student field trip.
“Our presenter today was really great,” Gurski said. “She knew her stuff, was engaging with the kids, and really brought the museum alive for them.”
Moving forward, the classes will be learning more about indigenous peoples’ involvement in both world wars.
Gosse would encourage anyone interested in learning a little more about indigenous veterans, and the indigenous communities’ involvement in the war, to stop by the museum and ask.
“Everyone is welcome and I’m more than happy to answer questions,” she smiled.