by Floyd P. Favel
WWII Veteran Philip Favel of Sweetgrass First Nation
SWEETGRASS FIRST NATION — There are not many surviving World War II veterans and so they are an important cultural resource for us today. They are representatives of our great warrior tradition and of a generation who volunteered to fight in a war that they did not have to fight in, as being Treaty Indians, they were not obligated to fight. They were not even citizens of this country that this generation fought and risked their lives for. Many of our warriors lost their lives on these fields of battle across the Big Water, in Europe. Many came back scarred by their memories and many found it difficult to talk about their experiences in this last great world war.
If there is such a thing as a just war, WWII was the last just war in which it was clearly defined as to what the war was about. The recent wars of this generation are in many ways less defined as to who is in the wrong and who is in the right.
Philip Favel, of Sweetgrass First Nation, is a proud veteran of WWII. Still hale and hearty after a lifetime of hard work and raising a large family, Favel recently harrowed and planted a garden around his house with a tractor that he repairs and maintains on his own. He learned his mechanical skills from this experiences in the war, where he served as a supply truck driver. He arrived in Normandy on June 7, 1944. D-Day had started the day before, on June 6, 1944. “Yes, I was scared,” he confided. “If anyone says they were not scared then they are lying,” I remember him saying to me, as I sat with him on the north end of the Sundance grounds on Sweetgrass in the summer of 2011, at a Sundance that he was sponsoring.
Over the course of his long and eventful life, Philip has done many things, including being a cultural leader passing down our great Cree traditions to his large family and to the younger generations. He is a proud Cree Indian and at the same time proud of his ancestry which originates from Métis fur trader and medicine man Thomas Favel, (b. 1804) who originated from the Métis settlement of Red River, in present day Manitoba. His father, William Favel was the son of this Thomas Favel, known as Kinowaskowanase-Tall Man in the Cree language and who spent his last years on the Poundmaker Reserve, where he was buried in 1896.
Philip has also served as elected Grand Chief of the Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association– a post he proudly held. Those of us who know him, related or not, are proud to call him Moshom, and he is a Moshom to many people across this country. He is a representative of a generation that is slowly retreating into the mists of time, of a warrior and cultural tradition that uniquely defines us as Plains Cree people. We honor him, and all other First Nations veterans, for all that they have done for all our people.•