'He's finally recognized': Indigenous veteran honored with military tombstone in N.W.T.

The Last Post Fund marks the graves of veterans across Canada

A gray tombstone stands out in the freshly fallen snow at Lakeview Cemetery in Yellowknife.

It belonged to Augustin Beaulieu, a Second World War veteran originally from Fort Resolution, N.W.T., who served with the Scottish Canadian regiment.

This is the first National Indigenous Veterans Day where his grave will be marked with a military headstone, courtesy of the Last Post Fund, a non-profit organization that works to ensure that no veteran is denied a dignified burial.

Before the gravestone, Beaulieu's final resting place is marked with a wooden cross. It had decayed over the years, leaving his grave unmarked and unknown.

Through research by Floyd Powder, Beaulieu's grave was discovered and restored. Powder, a veteran himself, volunteers with the Last Post Fund to identify the grave site. He helped to locate unmarked veterans' graves throughout the Northwest Territories, then worked with families to arrange military gravestones to commemorate their service.

"We are so grateful that she was finally recognized," said Adele Tatti, Beaulieu's granddaughter. He said his family knew he was buried in Yellowknife but did not know where.

Tatti lives in Hay River, N.W.T., and says the next time he visits Yellowknife, he plans to place opium near his grave.

"He brought a lot of our family, who were a bit cut off for a long time, back together," said Tatti.

The Last Post Fund was created in 1909 for all veterans, but it wasn't until 2009 that the fund began to focus on Indigenous veterans. In 2019, he founded the Indigenous Veterans Initiative to mark Indigenous graves and add traditional names to existing graves.

Since April 2020, Powder says the program has installed 30 headstones across the region.

He said he has about a dozen others he hopes to have next summer.

"In the end, yes, it's for the benefit of the family, but more importantly it's for the deceased veteran," Powder said.

That included veterans such as Métis pilot Robert "Bobby" Douglas, who served two tours in the Second World War. He, like many Indigenous people, had to give up his covenant status to serve in the war.

One week before he died in October 2020, he got him back, his son Sholto said. Douglas is buried in Behchokǫ̀, N.W.T. His grave has also been marked with a military headstone, along with the infinity symbol — the Métis symbol.

"They may never know my father. But they will see that he served this country," Sholto said during a visit to the funeral last month.

Sholto said his father, like many Indigenous soldiers who served, felt obligated to defend their homeland, despite widespread racial discrimination and prejudice at the time, opinions that persisted after the war.

Many Indigenous veterans have never been treated the same as other veterans returning to Canada.

"Indigenous veterans, when they retired from their service and after the First and Second World Wars, and even the [Korean War], they were not given benefits," Powder said.

That's why, in addition to his work researching and identifying graves, he maintains a list of veterans in the N.W.T. to provide them with information about current benefits for things like medical programs they may be eligible for.

Sholto credits the work Powder is doing for Indigenous veterans.

"They are forgotten Canadian soldiers. Forgotten veterans," he said.

"Whether it's a Métis or whether it's a First Nation person, they do all the other things that other people do. They're no different." This article was written by EDUKASI CAMPUS.

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