Ahousaht soldier seeks support to attend centennial anniversary

By Denise Titian, March 3, 2017

The photo is of the Vimy Ridge monument that James Swan took the last time he was there. He's hoping to attend the 100th anniversary of the battle in April.


Victoria — 

Ahousaht Ha’wilth James Swan, Uu-Kwa-Qum, is a corporal in the Canadian Scottish Regiment Infantry. He is making plans to head to France to take part in the 100th year memorial ceremony at Vimy Ridge.

Uu-Kwa-Qum says he is a reservist who is ready to serve Canadians in emergencies like natural disasters. When it comes to war, he may, with his training, volunteer to fight.

It is his respect for his fellow soldiers that died in previous wars, and the aboriginal soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in war times that compels Swan to want to be at the centennial event, even though he has to find his own way there and back.

The battle of Vimy Ridge took place April 9 to April 12, 1917 during the First World War. Thousands of lives were lost, including some of the 3,598 Canadian soldiers who went to fight. According to the Vimy Ridge Foundation, the battle served to solidify Canada as a country. The battle is called a turning point in Canadian history where the “four Canadian divisions fought together as a unified fighting force for the first time.”

The battle resulted in a victory over German forces.

To underscore the sacrifices made by Canada, which suffered 60,000 fatalities during the First World War, France granted Canada 107 hectares of land at Vimy to build and maintain a memorial, one that is considered Canada’s most important war memorial.

“I was expected to go to the 100th year ceremony of Vimy Ridge,” said Uu-Kwa-Qum, but plans through the Canadian Scottish fell through.

Feeling disappointed, Swan told a friend that things didn’t work out. The friend offered to buy Swan’s plane ticket to France.

“He used his Air Miles and topped it up with some cash,” said a grateful Swan. In return, Swan will refurbish a piece of art for his friend.

Uu-Kwa-Qum, who lives with his family in Victoria, holds two nniversity degrees: a Bachelor of Education and a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

“But I’m not working,” he laughed.

He is using his artistic skills to pay bills and raise funds needed for his trip.

“I still need to pay for a motel, food and train or bus fare when I’m over there,” said Swan, who said he’d be happy if he could raise $1,000.

Swan’s work was commissioned by the Greater Victoria School district who ordered two murals and a cedar panel from him and he’s working on painting a native design on a guitar. But he’s running out of time and hopes people would be willing to help by donating money toward his trip.

Swan’s plane tickets have been purchased and he is determined to be in France on April 9.

“I will be there to commemorate our Canadian soldiers,” he said, adding, “Vimy Ridge showed the world that we can stand on our own as a nation and (I want to honour) all the Indigenous soldiers that not only contributed but laid down their lives for us.”

Swan says he wants to be part of a visible presence at the 100th year Vimy Ridge memorial ceremony to show the world that we have not forgotten.

This will be Cpl. Swan’s second trip to Vimy Ridge. He represented the Scottish Canadian Regiment back in April 2015.

If you wish to help support Uu-Kwa-Qum please contact him at jamesswan@shaw.ca