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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Students from SD62 stepped up to help members in the community with the annual 10,000 Tonight food drive. This year’s organizers had to adapt during the campaign as COIVD-19 public health orders changed. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore students step up to make sure community members don’t go without

Students of SD62 are this year’s recipient of the Youth Volunteer Award

A cat died in this house fire in Sidney afternoon. The fire started on the house’s deck and spread from that point. Sidney Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brett Mikkelsen said the permanent presence of crews at the Community Safety Building prevented worse damage. (Photo courtesy of Clayton Firth)
Sidney house fire kills cat, causes extensive damage

Official says fire started on deck and damage to the house could have been worse

Millstream Village is welcoming a new Marshalls location March 9. (Photo courtesy GWL Realty Advisors)
New Marshalls store in Langford brings boost to women in need

Retailer will hold opening ceremony in Millstream Village March 9

Abstract Developments is donating $75,000 to support community programming at The Cridge Centre for the Family. (Courtesy of The Cridge Centre)
Victoria developer builds support for community programs

Abstract Developments donates $75,000 to The Cridge Centre for the Family

SD 62 (Sooke) has announced a COVID-19 exposure at David Cameron Elementary in Colwood. Potential exposure dates are Monday, Feb. 22; Tuesday, Feb. 23; and Wednesday, Feb. 24. (Black Press Media File).
COVID-19 exposure at Colwood’s David Cameron Elementary

Potential exposure dates are Monday, Feb. 22; Tuesday, Feb. 23; and Wednesday, Feb. 24.

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

Lone orca from a pod that made its way north from Georgia Strait and into Discovery Passage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Ella Smiley/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/Comoxvalleywildlifesightings/?ref=page_internal" target="_blank">Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings </a>
Island wildlife viewers thrilled by close view of passing Orca pod

Group gives wildlife photographers a classic opportunity to view them off Campbell River shoreline

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Most Read