December 23, 2005 MacLeans Native warriors to Iraq: Why are Canadian Aboriginals joining the American army and

serving the war on terror? COLIN CAMPBELL Aaron Ledoux is a paratrooper with the U.S. army's 173rd Airborne Brigade in Afghanistan. Ledoux, who has also served in Iraq, describes his company with typical army bravado as "the toughest and hardest pipe-swinging brothers to ever hit the ground in Afghanistan." Ledoux, 33, is also an Aboriginal Canadian, from the Muskeg Lake reserve in Saskatchewan. He wanted to join the war in Iraq and chose the U.S. military, he says, "seeing that Canada was not part of the fight." Another native from Canada, Scott Crichton, is a sergeant with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, now in Iraq's al-Anbar province. He joined the military when he saw a U.S. army recruiting fax in the band office at the Alexander reserve north of Edmonton. He'd already served in the Canadian Forces and was looking for a new experience. Crichton, 31, has now done two tours in Iraq, including about eight months in the perilous city of Falluja, where he says he learned to cuss a lot and not dwell on the danger. Crichton and Ledoux are just a few of the close to 200 Canadians, many of Aboriginal descent, serving in the U.S. war on terror. In the past year alone, close to 50 Canadians have joined the U.S. army, and the vast majority are natives. Some are drawn by adventure, others by the prospect of a signing bonus (as much as US$20,000) or job training. Still others are following the long, proud tradition of Aboriginals serving in both military services. Natives in Canada have long been eligible to join the American forces because the U.S. considers natives dual citizens (other non-citizens can join, but only if they're living in the United States with a green card). Because Aboriginals are the only Canadian community whose members can join either the U.S. or Canadian military, their recruitment south of the border is somewhat controversial. The U.S. needs troops to maintain a costly war in Iraq, while Canada wants to add 8,000 troops to its forces over the next five years. Two years ago, the U.S. set off a minor diplomatic row when recruiters were spotted working among natives in several provinces. Native groups speak openly of having welcomed recruiters to their communities. But U.S. army spokesman Douglas Smith maintains the incidents were likely a "couple of young soldiers who went home and were speaking positively about their experience. U.S. army recruiters are not allowed to come into Canada, and it's something we enforce." Informal recruiting still takes place -- through brochures, word of mouth or commercials on U.S. channels. In 2003, the Assembly of First Nations passed a motion recognizing the right of the U.S. military to recruit on First Nations territory. "We didn't like it when the Canadian government told the Americans, 'Stay off our reserves and leave our Indians alone,' "says Chief Tom Bressette, who led the motion and himself served with the U.S. military, as did his father, brother and numerous other relatives from the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation in southern Ontario. "We don't belong to them." Harry Lafond, director of education at Muskeg Lake reserve, and one of Ledoux's former teachers, says about one in five students in his


They want to be jarheads. "A lot of them look at the Canadian military as kind of a Mickey Mouse outfit. also informally helps the U.800 natives) is more common. handing out brochures and speaking on native radio. who is Aboriginal. "Indian tribes have had representation in the American military that goes back to the time of the War of 1812. Marines on occasion.S. is that it offers escape from the social ills of reserve or inner-city life. a former military policeman who for the past 14 years has been working in Winnipeg on the Canadian Forces program Bold Eagle. Though joining the Canadian Forces (which employ about 1. They look at the Marine Corps as a more serious challenge." Part of the military attraction.." 2 . says Melvin Swan.classes will seriously consider a stint in the military.S. Swan. whether in Canada or the U. he says. which combines cultural and military training for native youth.

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