War memorial gets small First Nations community talking about its legacy of military service

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War memorial gets small First Nations community talking about its legacy of military service's Profile


People in Pabineau First Nation started talking more about their families’ military service after a veterans’ memorial was erected three years ago.

“For many years we seldom heard about the people who served, especially the old ones that served in World War I,” said Lauramae Sewell, 78.

Sewell has lived in the community for over 50 years. Her late husband Gilbert Sewell died in 2021 from cancer and Lauramae said he rarely spoke about his military career. All she knew was that he had signed up for the army at age 17 and spent six years working on tanks with the Lord Strathcona’s Horse regiment in Alberta. Gilbert would go on to become a respected elder and served his community until his death.

Sewell said she was part of a committee to erect the veterans’ memorial because she wanted to acknowledge the military service in the community.

“I felt that we were a community and we deserved to have the honouring of our soldiers … and it’s bringing it home to the land where they are from,” said Sewell.

Pabineau First Nation is 173 kilometres north of Moncton and has roughly 350 members. The small community also had 30 military personnel who served or are serving but it’s a legacy that was rarely discussed because many of its veterans were humble about their careers, said Sewell.

She’s hopeful that by marking Remembrance Day in the community, more people will learn about it. 

Gilbert Sewell, left, joined the army when he was just 17. John Henry and John Peter-Paul are both related to Carolyn Fraser, who also helped to organize this year’s event. (submitted by Terry Richardson)

Chief Terry Richardson served 25 years with the Canadian army. He said his family has deep roots in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has a son who is serving now.

Richardson said everyone in his community is related to a veteran or someone who is serving.

“It becomes a history that is passed down and something that they experienced as youth watching their members serve and felt like it was something that they could do as well,” said Richardson, 57.

The provincial government agreed to cover half the cost of the $25,000 monument. It is etched with an eagle staff and a Mi’kmaw phrase that translates to “We remember and respect the warriors.” It was erected in 2019 where the community hosts its Remembrance Day events.

Terry Richardson says his community of Pabineau First Nation has a rich history of serving in the military. He said they have 350 members and each one has a connection to someone who served or is currently serving. (Submitted by Terry Richardson)

Sewell said this year’s event will be held there, too. She said dignitaries from the local Royal Canadian Legion, the North Shore Regiment, the RCMP and the mayor of nearby Bathurst, N.B., are all expected to attend.

“I think it’s very good because at one time we would not have that kind of turnout,” said Sewell.

A family member from each of the veteran families will lay a wreath.

Carolyn Fraser, a band councillor who helped organize the Remembrance Day event, said the day is about honouring the veterans’ sacrifices.

She said her grandfather John Peter-Paul served during the First World War and her uncle John Henry Peter-Paul served during peacetime. Fraser said she didn’t know much of their story until people in the community started opening up about it. 

She said she is proud of their service and she expects this year’s service to leave her reflective. 

“It’s a feeling of pride and sad for their sacrifices,” said Fraser, 64. 



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