In 2005, Trevor Whitten (front right) served as an Honor Guard member during the Aboriginal Spiritual Journey at Vimy Ridge, honouring the Indigenous veterans of the First and Second World Wars. (Photo courtesy of Trevor Whitten)

In 2005, Trevor Whitten (front right) served as an Honor Guard member during the Aboriginal Spiritual Journey at Vimy Ridge, honouring the Indigenous veterans of the First and Second World Wars. (Photo courtesy of Trevor Whitten)

Victoria man follows seven generations of Indigenous veterans

Joining the military at age 20 was a no-brainer for Trevor Whitten

With seven generations of family members serving in the military, joining at age 20 was a no-brainer for Victoria resident, Trevor Whitten.

The tradition began during the First World War when Whitten said his ancestor was one of more than 4,000 Indigenous people to enlist.

Back then, the Indian Act stipulated that when an Indigenous person served in the military, obtained a university degree or became a professional, they became “civilized” and would lose their “Indian” status.

“These gentleman left the reservation and risked their lives knowing they would lose their Indian status,” Whitten said with pride.

Upon returning home from the war, Indigenous veterans were withheld many of the benefits and honours non-Indigenous soldiers received.

“The Indian people then saw them as white and the government still saw them as ‘dirty Indians’,” Whitten said.

During the war though, when soldiers were on the front lines fighting for their lives, Whitten said he knows Indigenous soldiers wouldn’t have been treated any differently.

“Bullets don’t care who they’re coming at,” he said.

During his 27 years serving in the military – four in reserves and 23 in the navy – Whitten said he never felt like he was treated differently than non-Indigenous members. After completing basic training together, they were all just family he said.

“I don’t care who you are. If you’re on the front lines with me I’ve got your back and I expect you to have mine,” he added.

That’s not to say that jokes weren’t made about the fact that Whitten was an “Indian” but he said as long as they were made in good faith he didn’t mind.

After sailing on his first ship as a navy member, Whitten wanted to get something embroidered onto a leather jacket to commemorate the trip. When he went to go pick up his new jacket though, he was shocked to find that instead of the wording he had chosen, “Electric Indian” was scrolled across the leather.

He quickly found out that his buddies, impressed by his dancing the night before, had sneakily requested the changes and paid for it all. The jacket immediately became a favourite of his.

Years later, when one of those friends passed away, Whitten showed up to his funeral wearing the “Electric Indian” jacket, knowing it would have made his friend smile.

Now age 54 and eight years retired, Whitten said the thing he misses most isn’t the job but all the incredible people he got to be around.

For him, Indigenous Veteran’s Day on Nov. 8 and Remembrance Day on Nov. 11 are for listening to and sharing stories. As he pointed out, many of the veterans of the world’s biggest wars won’t be around much longer.


Do you have a story tip? Email: jane.skrypnek@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Courage RememberedFirst NationsIndigenousMilitaryRemembrance DayRoyal Canadian NavyVeterans

Just Posted

Al Kohut, owner of the new photographers GALLERY, checks out Looking Back by David Bradt. The photo printed on canvas is among 50 images featured in the Birds on the Wild Side exhibition showing until July 3. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Photo gallery in Sidney plucks out top bird photos

Birds on the Wild Side show running at the new photographers GALLERY until July 3

A bathtub kitchen garden is part of the lineup for this year’s Teeny Tiny Garden Tour to benefit Victoria Hospice. (Screenshot/Teeny Tiny Garden Tour)
Virtual garden tour for Victoria Hospice features trio of back yards

Online tour is free; calendar purchase and donation options raise money for the cause

The Town of Sidney supports efforts to rename Reay Creek to KELSET, its traditional SENCOTEN name. (Black Press Media file photo)
Town of Sidney signs off on Reay Creek name change to KELSET

Name change does not affect surrounding parkland, but public supports doing so

The Pool at the Esquimalt Rec Centre. (Courtesy of theTownship of Esquimalt/ Facebook)
Esquimalt Rec Centre restarting everyone welcome swim times later this month

The 90-minute sessions will be on select evenings and weekends

Steve Mann and Tim Hackett consider Marigold Lands their finest development. (Rendering courtesy Marigold Lands)
Marigold residences grow more townhouses and condos in Central Saanich

50 condos, 14 townhouses up next for project adjacent to Pat Bay Highway

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read