Friday, 23 March 2018

First Nations WWI Veterans

Canadian Patriotic Indian Chiefs 1915
Library & Archives Canada MIKAN 3192644
Working on the article for my Canadian Corner blog post, I was intrigued by the results of the research of Private Michel Nepin as his attestation paper indicated "Indian Draft". 

NEPIN, Michel Private 2497982 Canadian Forestry Corps "Indian Draft"
dob: June 1897 d. 25 Dec 1917
Find A Grave:
Son of Sophia Nepin. Attawapiskat, James Bay, Ontario. Occupation : Hunting.

Using Private Nepin's service number, I wondered if there were any other First Nation boys who enlisted at the same time. So I entered his number into the WWI database on Library and Archives Canada, changing the number for each search.
The results are as follows (a small sample) with a link to the CEF digital file:

FARIES, JAMES WALTER (2497959) Canadian Indian
Numerous posts on Twitter highlighted one soldier, John Shiwak, an Inuit Sniper. Nunatsiaq News:  Kenn Harper's John Shiwak: A Day in Arctic History;    Steve Clifford points us to Shiwak's digitized files;    Bruce MacDonald tweeted a CBC article about John Shiwak

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network  (APTN)  provided a little history on the Aboriginal History Month page.  John Shiwak was a hunter and trapper from Rigolet, a remote Inuit community in Labrador.

Dan Hill History via Twitter provided a picture of the grave of Private Joseph Standing Buffalo CWGC Bucquoy Road Cemetery in Ficheaux, France. His grandfather was Tatanka Lyotate better known as Sitting Bull. 2413310 28th Battalion Canadian Infantry Wondering why I didn't see a link to a digitized file.

Please see further in this article for a link to 
an index to the names of First Nations Soldiers. 

Research into the book: For King and Kanata: Canadian Indians and the First World War by Timothy C. Winegard ISBN 9780887557286 explains that approximately 4,000 Indians served in World War One. There was a feeling of patriotism to the King (not to Canada) and many also felt that in fighting in the war, they were protecting their own people.
Review of For King and Kanata: Canadian Indians and the First World War

A quote from the introduction:
      "At the outbreak of war in 1914, many Indian nations, or communities, felt a stronger allegiance to the crown, under which treaties were signed and previous military alliances fostered, than to Canada, and they readily offered support of men and money directly to the king. Canadian Indians shared equally in the burdens of the war, both on the battlefields and on the home front, and voluntarily aided the empire in its time of need. As an Assiniboine elder remarked to his young men at the outbreak of war, “Don’t die a woman’s death in bed. Die the warrior’s death at the end of the warpath trail, where a coup-feather awaits the brave.”
The research in the book also indicates that the Indian women formed Red Cross societies on their reserves and were active in supporting their brave sons.

A few excerpts from the book:
“Unlike blacks, both French Canadians (aside from the 22nd “Van Doos” Battalion) and Indians were scattered across CEF units to promote assimilation or – as Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Currie argued – equality with their peers."

"Death of the first Canadian Indian in the First World War, Private Angus Laforce, a Mohawk from Kahnawake, Quebec went missing evening of Apr. 22nd 1915. The following day Lieutenant Cameron D. Brant of the Six Nations of the Grand River, great-great-grandson of Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea). Their bodies were never recovered although their names are on the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium."

p.58 Photo:
"Cree Recruits from File Hills, Saskatchewan October 1915: David Bird, Joe McKay, Leonard McKay, Leonard Creely, Jack Walker, Harry Stonefield." (Glenbow Museum Archives NA-3454-41)

"In addition to serving as snipers and scouts, Canadian Indians were employed in every other branch of the combat arms and auxiliary formations except for the Royal Tank Corps."

p.121 Photo:
"Blood recruits of 191st Battalion Fort Macleod, Alberta." (Glenbow Museum Archives NA-2164-1)

**My online research found this amazing page listing hundreds of names of Indians who signed up.
From this fabulous piece of work, there were hundreds of First Nations Metis and Inuit men who signed up for service in the First World War. This page is authored by Jeff Schlingloff and sponsored by the Vancouver Community Network.  Long may it continue.

The British Library has a page with many pictures from Canada - also includes references to pictures of Native Americans. Picturing Canada. 

Other books: 
Pegahmagabow: Legendary Warrior, Forgotten Hero by Adrian Hayes and Native Soldiers, Foreign Battlefields by Janice Summerby

World War Two - A brief mention of World War Two resources: 

Honoring First Nations Veterans video and interviews - Nishnawbe Aski Nation posted on You Tube in 2010.

Indigenous People in the Second World War  - Veterans Affairs Canada's Historical Sheets 

So much more to discover and honour a little known, but proud contingent of soldiers, original citizens of the country of Canada.

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