Canadian military and RCMP Aboriginal recruitment program

 By Kerry Benjoe, Leader-Post, July 28, 2012
In 1998, Evan Taypotat saw a poster for the Bold Eagle Program and decided to try it.
“I was one of those guys who couldn’t sit still for too long,” he said.  “I was 18 at the time, so away I went.”  It’s a decision he will never regret.
This year, Taypotat – now known as Capt. Taypotat – is returning to the Canadian Forces program, one of many aimed at aboriginal youth, as the officer in charge.
“This is our 23rd summer that Bold Eagle has run,” said Maj. Nolan Kemp, Bold Eagle co-ordinator. “The first course happened way back in 1990. It was a pretty small group, at that time, in the Prince Albert area. It has grown, since then, to include aboriginal youth from northwestern Ontario all the way out to British Columbia.”
He said the Canadian Forces was approached by First Nations to design a program that would instil confidence, team work, discipline, fitness and time management.
“It’s still true to that today, that’s what we try to aspire have them to leave with,” Kemp said.
Taypotat said before Bold Eagle, he had no ambitions of pursuing a military career.
However, he could not forget the summer of 1998. So in 2007, he left behind his teaching career and enlisted.  “I went the officer route,” said Taypotat.
He took the necessary training and rose to the rank of captain.
In 2009, he was posted to Edmonton and is part of the 1st Battalion Princess Patricia Light Infantry.
Although his military career has been short, it has been rewarding for Taypotat.
“I’ve seen all of Canada and part of the world,” he said.
Last year, he spent seven months in Afghanistan.
“It was an eye-opener,” he said about his experience. “It’s definitely a combat zone.”
While he was in Afghanistan, he took the Kahkewistahaw First Nation flag and flew it there. This summer he brought that flag home and gave it to the southeast Saskatchewan community’s veterans.
Taypotat said it has been an honour to serve his country and represent his community.
“I think the government of Canada has given me, as a First Nations dude, a good chance to be successful in life,” he said. “I just thought I would give back.”
As the officer in charge of Bold Eagle, he and his staff of 40 make sure everything in the program runs smoothly.

Send in the clones: Native participants in Bold Eagle marching with C7 rifles.

Bold Eagle remains in high demand and the number of recruits accepted has grown over the years. It has also expanded to include all aboriginal people including Metis and Inuit.
“It hasn’t always been this large, but we take 92 (candidates) a year and we’ve done that for the last four years,” said Kemp, who has been involved with the program for five years.
Bold Eagle training takes place in Wainwright, Alta., at the Land Force Western Area Training Centre and receives 300 to 350 applicants yearly.
It originated in Saskatchewan in partnership with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and expanded to include the Aboriginal Veterans Society of Alberta, said Kemp.
“They help share the program and they also help run the cultural program,” he said. “It’s not just the army reserve basic training, but we also infuse aspects of the culture in the ways of teachings and ceremonies.”

Midway through the program, a sweat-lodge ceremony is made available for those who wish to participate.
“We also get them to a local powwow to have a day off and everything culminates with a pretty big graduation,” Kemp said.
He said it is a youth-development program and if participants decide to pursue a military career, that’s a good spinoff.
Kemp estimates that for the past few years 50 to 60 per cent of Bold Eagle graduates choose to continue to serve.
“The program is definitely working,” said Taypotat. “I’m walking proof that it’s working. I’m here because of the program.”
Since the program began, there have been about 1,300 graduates.
“If they don’t stay on, that’s OK,” Kemp said. “They are going to take the skills they learned here, they are going to take what they found out about themselves and what they are capable of back home and that’s one of great things about it.”
The program has been so successful the Canadian Forces has developed two similar programs – Black Bear in Borden, Ont., and Raven in Victoria.
Each takes 65 youths from across Canada and runs them through a culture camp and basic military training each summer. There are no aboriginal organizations partnered with either Raven or Black Bear.
“There is quite a history of aboriginal people serving in the military – (First World War), (Second World War), Korea,” Kemp said. “We’re very cognizant of the contribution that they have made over the years. Even today, there is a real interest by the aboriginal community to serve in the military.”

Oka 1990: not all Natives are interested in serving in the colonizer’s military.

He said there was a realization by the Canadian Forces that these programs work and are a benefit to aboriginal youth in Canada.
The Touchwood Agency Tribal Council has also realized there is an interest in such regimented youth programs.
It developed an RCMP Cadet program for youths between 10 and 18 for its member First Nations.
Kelly Akan, cadet co-ordinator, said the program was developed in 2008 with funding through the Dakota Dunes Casino Community Development Corporation. In 2009, the cadet program was selected by the National Crime Prevention Centre as a pilot program.
Akan has co-ordinated the program since 2010 and said interest remains high.
“Feedback has been positive and it’s well supported by the communities,” said Akan. “Particularly by the chiefs of each of the communities. They really believe in it and have been helpful whenever we needed anything.”
From September until June each year, the cadet program is delivered twice a week in one of TATC’s member communities – Muskowekwan, Day Star, George Gordon and Kawacatoose.
Members of the RCMP run the drills and don’t take it easy on the young cadets.
“It focuses a lot on discipline and responsibility,” Akan said. “We try to stress to the kids that their education is important. What we do is we actually go into the schools and check on their attendance and academics to make sure they are keeping up with everything.”

Jada Windigo, 14, from Muskowekwan appreciated the skills she learned.
“It taught me discipline,” she said.
Cadets need to be focused and committed, Windigo said. She advises potential cadets to commit to one thing because it’s a program you can’t just stop and start. Windigo said completing the program was worth it.
The program started out with 130 participants and 46 completed it. Akan said many of the participants had other commitments like hockey or baseball.
Among them were Landon Pratt, 13, and his little sister Tiarah Pratt-McNab, 11.
Tiarah began the program last year and plans on continuing.
Her favourite part of the program was the drills and she didn’t mind that the instructors were strict.
Tiarah said the program helped improve her listening skills, which helped her in school.
Landon joined because it gave him something to do all year. He plans to enrol again in the fall.
Like his sister, he said the best part of the program was drill.
He would recommend the program to others because it helps teach discipline.
For those interested in trying out the military life the Canadian Forces has developed other programs specifically for aboriginal people.
The Aboriginal Leadership Opportunity Year (ALOY) is a one-year program offered through the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ont. The deadline to apply is Feb. 15.
Kemp said candidates can enlist while working on their academics.
“The intent is that perhaps they stay on and a do a full four-year subsidized university degree at the Royal Military College,” he said.
The final program is the Canadian Forces Aboriginal Entry Plan (CFAEP), which is a special three-week recruiting program qualified aboriginal people across Canada that operates twice a year.
“It’s designed for someone of aboriginal background to come try the military without actually joining and see if it’s for them,” said Kemp. “To see if the culture, the lifestyle would be of interest and help facilitate their continuance in a career in the Canadian Forces.”
The program takes 30 candidates per course. The program takes place at either Canadian Forces Base Halifax or Canadian Forces Base Borden. Candidates are paid a $1,200 bonus for completing the course and awarded a certificate of military achievement. The application deadline is July 31.
Information on Canadian Forces aboriginal programs is available online at www.

Posted on July 31, 2012, in State Security Forces and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. things are a lot more complex than “us” and “them”. i joined the CF at age 22 when it used to be called the RCAF long before any bold eagle or any other aboriginal entry programs. never regretted it for one minute, and i consider myself a tribal nationalist. the reality is that if we as First Nations want to be Nations we need individuals willing to act as such. that means engaging in this world as citizen-ambassadors of two nations: our tribal nation and canada. this is not something new. im cree, my ancestors were astute diplomats and ambassadors as well as warriors of their nations. yes there has been a history of grievous betrayals and genocide on the part of the colonizer, but things are changing….there are new windows of opportunity that we need to pass through in order for anything positive to happen. for better or for worse, thats where the cards lay and as far as im concerned i want to engage fully in both nations.

    • The Canadian Forces do not carry out operations as “citizen-ambassadors” to the world, but rather as part of the Western military alliance (NATO) which has its own strategic interests including securing of territory and resources for transnational corporations. Nor does the CF conduct itself as “citizen-ambassadors” when deployed to repress Indigenous resistance movements, as we saw during Oka 1990. How will aboriginal soldiers “engage fully in both nations” if they are ordered to assault Indigenous land defenders again? The fact is colonization is some historical event but one that continues to this day, and you can’t have it both ways. You are either serving as a mercenary for the colonial state or standing to defend your people and territory.

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