In 1959, Ed Kelly of the Tzeachten Nation near Chilliwack, B.C., became the first ever Indigenous RCMP officer in Canada.
This week on the 60th anniversary of his appointment, the force is honouring him as he celebrates his 80th birthday.
“It was my childhood dream to be a Mountie some day… to serve my country,” Kelly recalled.
For a long time, he didn’t even know he was the first one to break that barrier.
“Even then [after he learned it] … I didn’t believe it,” he said.
Discrimination on the job
After he graduated from RCMP training, Kelly says he didn’t experience discrimination on the job until he moved to Edmonton to work on the force.
“Guys who were younger than me were getting bigger duties … I didn’t feel it from the constables or corporals but from the staff sergeant and the superintendent. That is who I really felt it from.”
Shortly afterwards in 1963, he left the RCMP and moved back to B.C.
Kelly says one of his proudest moments came this week as he celebrated the milestone and 12 Indigenous RCMP officers thanked him for his work.
“They say I helped pave the route for other Indigenous RCMP members, and it was really quite an experience,” Kelly said.
“That was very emotional for me. They all came up and talked to me afterwards. It was just an awesome unreal day.”