Aboriginal people have responded to the call of war, time and again. To remember and celebrate this commitment, the National Aboriginal Veterans Association raised funds for and commissioned a monument that honours First Nations, Metis and Inuit people who volunteered in the First World War, Second World War, Korean War and all subsequent peacekeeping missions. The six-metre (20-foot) bronze and granite sculpture stands tall and proud in Confederation Park, a central gathering place in the heart of Canada’s Capital. The monument reminds us that Aboriginal Canadians fought and died for our country, even at times when society did not recognize many of their basic human rights.

The National Aboriginal Veterans Association was formed in 1981 to promote the unique accomplishments and interests of Aboriginal veterans in times of war and peace. Aboriginal soldiers have served Canada for hundreds of years, and are renowned as snipers and reconnaissance scouts, utilizing the traditional skills they employed as hunters and warriors.

Artist Noel Lloyd Pinay of the Peepeekisis First Nation in Saskatchewan was inspired by the dedication and sacrifice made by his fat Read More
Aboriginal people have responded to the call of war, time and again. To remember and celebrate this commitment, the National Aboriginal Veterans Association raised funds for and commissioned a monument that honours First Nations, Metis and Inuit people who volunteered in the First World War, Second World War, Korean War and all subsequent peacekeeping missions. The six-metre (20-foot) bronze and granite sculpture stands tall and proud in Confederation Park, a central gathering place in the heart of Canada’s Capital. The monument reminds us that Aboriginal Canadians fought and died for our country, even at times when society did not recognize many of their basic human rights.

The National Aboriginal Veterans Association was formed in 1981 to promote the unique accomplishments and interests of Aboriginal veterans in times of war and peace. Aboriginal soldiers have served Canada for hundreds of years, and are renowned as snipers and reconnaissance scouts, utilizing the traditional skills they employed as hunters and warriors.

Artist Noel Lloyd Pinay of the Peepeekisis First Nation in Saskatchewan was inspired by the dedication and sacrifice made by his father, Noel Joseph Pinay, who was a paratrooper during the Second World War. Using traditional symbols, Pinay brings the essential Aboriginal value of harmony with nature to the forefront. All animals, plants and humans exist in an interrelated circle of life and death under the auspices of the Creator. The spirits of living things must be honoured and respected.

Translating these traditional values into metal and stone was no easy feat. Noel Lloyd Pinay, an experienced caster of bronze statuary, worked long and hard in his prairie workshop to create the complex piece. The statue was then shipped by rail to the Capital, where the artist assembled and joined the pieces. The statue was unveiled in a special Aboriginal Day ceremony on June 21, 2001, with the Governor General in attendance.

The number four figures prominently in the spirituality of many Aboriginal peoples: four seasons, four directions, four stages of life — and Pinay has used the number extensively in his sculpture. Four animal spirits — wolf, buffalo, elk and bear — guide warriors in their pursuit of victory and peace.

Four human figures stand facing the four cardinal directions. They represent the vast diversity of Aboriginal people in Canada, and include people from the Plains, the West Coast, an Inuit person from the North, and a Metis figure. Two of the figures are male and two are female, signifying the contributions of Aboriginal men and women to Canada’s wartime efforts and peacekeeping activities. In their hands, they hold both weapons and spiritual objects, such as an eagle feather fan and a peace pipe.

Finally, a thunderbird perched atop the monument symbolizes the Creator, who unites and guides those below. By using images and symbols, Noel Lloyd Pinay has created a monument to Aboriginal Canadians that tells an important story of peace, balance, victory and wisdom.

© National Capital Commission. All Rights Reserved.

Photo of National Aboriginal Veterans Monument (detail), 2007

Beneath the guiding Creator (symbolized by the eagle with wings spread outward), a warrior is flanked by a howling wolf and bellowing elk.

National Capital Commission
c. 2007
© National Capital Commission. All Rights Reserved.


Photo du monument des anciens combattants autochtones, 2004

Asset Blurb:Noel Lloyd Pinay’s richly symbolic commemoration as it stands in the heart of Canada’s Capital

National Capital Commission
c. 2004
© National Capital Commission. All Rights Reserved.


Research the role of Aboriginal Canadians in conflict and in peace. Choose one veteran and discuss his or her contributions, sacrifices and achievements. How was being part of Canada’s armed forces important to this veteran? What barriers did the veteran overcome to reach his or her goals?
Research the role of Aboriginal Canadians in conflict and in peace. Choose one veteran and discuss his or her contributions, sacrifices and achievements. How was being part of Canada’s armed forces important to this veteran? What barriers did the veteran overcome to reach his or her goals?
[Note: The Veterans Affairs Canada website has some very good profiles.]
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“The war proved that the fighting spirit of my tribe was not squelched through reservation life. When duty called, we were there, and when we were called forth to fight for the cause of civilization, our people showed all the bravery of our warriors of old.”
— Mike Mountain Horse, First World War veteran

Using the above quote as a jumping-off point, design a poster to highlight and honour Aboriginal contributions to Canada’s armed forces.
The war proved that the fighting spirit of my tribe was not squelched through reservation life. When duty called, we were there, and when we were called forth to fight for the cause of civilization, our people showed all the bravery of our warriors of old.
— Mike Mountain Horse, First World War veteran

Using the above quote as a jumping-off point, design a poster to highlight and honour Aboriginal contributions to Canada’s armed forces.
[reference: www.vac-gc.ca. Mr. Mountain Horse was a member of the Blood Band in Alberta. The quotation is an excerpt from his book My People: The Bloods, p. 144.]
© National Capital Commission. All Rights Reserved.

Noel Lloyd Pinay’s monument tells a story using symbols. Often, depicting abstract ideas such as “harmony with nature” or ”peace and freedom” requires artists to use concrete images and symbols. Sometimes, different cultures have different symbols. Other times, symbols can be highly personal and not easy to decode for an average viewer. Imagine that you are creating a statue to mark the entrance to your home or school.

Option 1: Entrance to your home
The statue must represent your family. What symbols would you use? How would visitors make sense of your symbols? Design your statue and present it to your class. Can everyone understand the symbols you have used?

Option 2: Entrance to your school
In a small group, brainstorm what abstract ideas are appropriate to represent your school (education, play or pride, for example). What symbols best represent these ideas? Present your group’s statue design to the rest of your class.
Noel Lloyd Pinay’s monument tells a story using symbols. Often, depicting abstract ideas such as “harmony with nature” or ”peace and freedom” requires artists to use concrete images and symbols. Sometimes, different cultures have different symbols. Other times, symbols can be highly personal and not easy to decode for an average viewer. Imagine that you are creating a statue to mark the entrance to your home or school.

Option 1: Entrance to your home
The statue must represent your family. What symbols would you use? How would visitors make sense of your symbols? Design your statue and present it to your class. Can everyone understand the symbols you have used?

Option 2: Entrance to your school
In a small group, brainstorm what abstract ideas are appropriate to represent your school (education, play or pride, for example). What symbols best represent these ideas? Present your group’s statue design to the rest of your class.

© National Capital Commission. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • learn more about the contributions of Aboriginal people to Canada;
  • use visual and text elements to create a compelling poster;
  • decode symbols in a local monument;
  • create a personal lexicon of family symbols.

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