Native Canadians in World War 1

One of the exciting finds to be photographed for the book was this statue in front of the Chippewas of Nash First Nation community and recreation center.DSC_0733 A First Nations community located in the Purple Valley area of Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula.

Considering WW1 was regarded primarily as a white man’s war, and that First Nations People were exempt from Canadian conscription laws and  would certainly face segregation and racism in the barracks over seas, it is surprising that an estimated 4000 native Canadians enlisted in the war. Of this group, three hundred never returned.

Their contribution is best described by the following quote:

“Indian soldiers gave an excellent account of themselves at  the front and their officers have commended them most highly for their courage, intelligence, efficiency, stamina and discipline.

Source: Canada, Sessional Papers, VOL. LVI NO. 27, 1920. pp. 13-14. As cited by Janice Summerby in “ Native Soldiers- Foreign Battlefields“. Ottawa: Veterans Affairs Canada, 1993.

Of the native Canadians who served in the war, none was more notorious than Francis Pegahmagabow. This member of the Ojibwa  tribe was the most highly decorated native Canadian for bravery in Canadian military history.

Frances Pegahmagabow

He was considered the most effective sniper of the first world war. Canadian novelist Joseph Boyden’s  “Three Day Road”(2005) is inspired in part by the legacy of Pegahmagabow. He was a father of six children and a member of the Indian Hall of Fame at the Woodland Centre In Brantford Ontario.    The 3rd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group HQ building at CFB Borden is named after him. Francis Pegahmagabow died on August 5, 1952 on the Parry Island reserve at the age of 61.

Although there exists a few memorial stones and cenotaphs to native WW1 soldiers, no other statues to these brave men are known in Canada to date.  


About WW1monuments/Canada

Born in Toronto Canada, Richard is a graduate of Fine Arts from York University. He is currently completing a photo book that documents the most significant World War 1 monuments and memorial sites in Canada. The book is to be published in 2014.
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