Scott Sheffield is an Associate Professor in the History Department at the University of the Fraser Valley. He has authored three books and dozens of articles on Indigenous experiences of warfare in Canada. His research expertise encompasses Canadian history, Settler-Indigenous relations and Military History. Sheffield’s work will be a major contribution to this conference, as he incorporates Indigenous experiences within the study of Canada’s military and overseas conflicts. Specifically, he will discuss the experiences of Mi’kmaq veterans.
The ‘Good War’? Indigenous Veterans and Communities in the Transition from War to Peace
The collective memory of the end of the Second World War in Canada and across the western world is relatively nostalgic – it is the twentieth century’s ‘good war’. And this warm fuzzy aura extends to the end of the war, the homecoming of the ‘greatest generation’ and the subsequent decades of prosperity and growth. But for Indigenous peoples in Canada and other settler societies, their experience of returning home and transitioning to peacetime proved complex and problematic in ways that do not fit the ‘good war’ collective memory of that important era.
At home, the war years had been economically the best of times, but the end of war for Indigenous people brought an end to the opportunities for good jobs and promised a return to society’s margins. Veterans, buoyed by the acceptance and respect experienced within the ranks of the military during the war, expected that to continue postwar, and for their opportunities to multiply as a result. Sadly, they were largely disappointed in these aspirations and even their Veterans’ benefits did little to level the still uneven playing field.