In February 1916, Longboat enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces, serving as a dispatch carrier with the 107th Pioneer Battalion in France. In addition to running messages and orders between units, he also continued to race, winning several inter-battalion sporting contests. In 1918, he won the eight-mile [13 km] race at the Canadian Corps Dominion Day competitions. He was wounded twice but survived the war and in 1919 returned to Canada. After the war he lived and worked in Toronto until 1944, when he retired to the Six Nations reserve. He died in 1949.
Meet Tom Longboat, an Onondaga long distance runner born in 1887 on Six Nations. Tom became one of the most celebrated athletes of all time, despite his struggles and encountering racism throughout his career.
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Longboat was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1955 and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 1996. In 1951, the Tom Longboat Award was established in his honour. Every year, the Aboriginal Sports Circle presents this award to Indigenous athletes who demonstrate excellence in sport.
In 2008, Bill 120 proclaimed June 4 of every year Tom Longboat Day in Ontario. The date of this holiday reflects some confusion about Longboat’s birthdate. Many sources state that Longboat was born on 4 June 1887. However, the Canadian census of 1901 and Longboat’s military records (particularly his attestation paper, signed by Longboat on 17 February 1916 in Brantford) support a birthdate of 4 July 1886.