It’s taken longer than he’d hoped, but John Dorion is finally getting the recognition he deserves.
Dorion was 18 years old when he left his home in Cumberland House and travelled to The Pas, Man. where he joined the Canadian Army at the height of the First World War. When he returned home, his military service was often forgotten.
Now, his grandchildren have led a campaign to get their grandfather recognized for his efforts, their first successful effort saw his named added to the new memorial for Metis Veterans unveiled this year at Batoche.
“We owe it to him,” said Dorion’s grandson, who is also named John. “He brought us up. He looked after us when we were small. I think we owe him a big, I don’t know if you could call it a favour, but it’s our turn to fight for him.”
The younger Dorion said they had plenty of help in getting their grandfather’s service recognized. The list of supporters includes university professors who put together lists of Indigenous veterans, and members of the Metis Nation Saskatchewan who advocated for the elder Dorion’s cause.
The younger Dorion said he doesn’t know why his grandfather was initially excluded from memorials and roll calls, but he’s grateful to see the tide turning.
“Maybe some people didn’t like him, but he should get the same recognition as other veterans,” he said.
The elder Dorion signed up on Nov. 18, 1916, then shipped off to Europe. He rarely spoke about his war experiences when he returned, and instead put all his energy into helping his daughter raise his grandchildren. For the next few decades, he taught them everything he knew about hunting, trapping, and fishing, but the talk rarely turned to the First World War.
“He never said anything,” the younger Dorion remembered. “The only one he talked to was my older brother, so whenever we need information, that’s who we call.”
Dorion said his grandfather isn’t the only Indigenous veteran who isn’t getting the recognition he deserves. He’s hopeful that will change in the future.
“It’s up to us to straighten out the story,” he said.
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