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Cree Code Talkers
Cree code talkers were an elite unit tasked with developing a coded system based on the Cree language for disguising military intelligence. They provided an invaluable service to Allied communications during the Second World War. Although their contributions remained hidden until recently, in part because the code talkers had been sworn to secrecy, their service helped to protect Western Allies and to win the war. Indeed, the Allies’ enemies were never able to break the code.
Mary Greyeyes Reid
Mary Greyeyes Reid, Cree veteran of the Second World War (born 14 November 1920 on the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation reserve, Marcelin, SK; died 31 March 2011 in Vancouver, BC). The first Indigenous woman to join Canada’s armed forces, Mary became a member of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps during the Second World War. The military tried to boost Indigenous recruitment and demonstrate Canada’s military might by posing her in a staged photo that has since been widely circulated in Canada.
George McLean, DCM, Okanagan (Interior Salish) cowboy, rancher, firefighter, soldier and war hero (born 15 April 1875 in Douglas Lake, BC; died 7 September 1934 in Merritt, BC). McLean was a veteran of both the South African War (see Canada and the South African War) and the First World War. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for his heroic actions at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917.
107th Timber Wolf Battalion
The 107th (Timber Wolf) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, known officially as the 107th (Winnipeg) Battalion, was an infantry battalion established during the First World War. After it arrived in Britain, the unit was converted to a pioneer battalion and served on the Western Front in France and Belgium. It was later absorbed into an engineer brigade. About half the unit’s soldiers were Indigenous Canadians.
Edwin Victor Cook
Edwin Victor Cook, ‘Namgis First Nation student, soldier and war hero (born 10 May 1897 in Alert Bay, BC; died 28 August 1918 in Dury, France), served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) during the First World War. He was an infantryman and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for his heroic actions in battle.
David Kejick (also spelled Kisek, Kesick and Keejick), DCM, Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) trapper, guide, soldier, war hero and chief (born 20 June 1896 at Shoal Lake First Nations Community, ON; died 1 March 1969 at Shoal Lake). Kejick served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) during the First World War and received the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for his heroic actions in battle during the closing weeks of the war.
Samuel Glode (also spelled Gloade), Mi’kmaq lumberjack, hunting and fishing guide, trapper, soldier and war hero (born 20 April 1880 in Milton, NS; died 26 October 1957 in Halifax, NS) was a veteran of the First World War. He served as an engineer and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for his heroic actions after the Armistice of 11 November 1918.
Alexander George Edwin Smith
Alexander George Edwin Smith, Cayuga contractor, soldier, war hero (born 14 August 1879 on the Six Nations Grand River Reserve, ON; died 21 August 1954 in Buffalo, New York), was a veteran of the First World War. He served as an officer in the pre-war Militia, was commissioned as an infantry lieutenant in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) and received the Military Cross (MC) for his heroic actions on the Western Front.
War of 1812
The War of 1812 (which lasted from 1812 to 1814) was a military conflict between the United States and Great Britain. As a colony of Great Britain, Canada was swept up in the War of 1812 and was invaded several times by the Americans. The war was fought in Upper Canada, Lower Canada, on the Great Lakes and the Atlantic, and in the United States. The peace treaty of Ghent (1814), which ended the war, largely returned the status quo. However, in Canada, the war contributed to a growing sense of national identity, including the idea that civilian soldiers were largely responsible for repelling the American invaders. In contrast, the First Nations allies of the British and Canadian cause suffered much because of the war; not only had they lost many warriors (including the great Tecumseh), they also lost any hope of halting American expansion in the west, and their contributions were quickly forgotten by their British and Canadian allies (see First Nations and Métis Peoples in the War of 1812).
Leo Bouchard, Ojibwe soldier and war hero (born 23 December 1898 in Lake Helen Mission, Nipigon, ON; died 28 July 1938 in English River, ON). Bouchard served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions at the front.
Huron Eldon Brant, Mohawk soldier, war hero, automobile mechanic (born 30 December 1909 in Deseronto, ON; died 14 October 1944 near Bulgaria, Italy). Brant was awarded the Military Medal (MM) for attacking a superior enemy force during the battle for Grammichele in Sicily (seeSecond World War) but was killed later during a battle on the Italian mainland (see The Italian Campaign).
Louis Levi Oakes
Louis Levi Oakes (also known as Tahagietagwa), Mohawk soldier, war hero, steelworker, public works supervisor (born 23 January 1925 in St. Regis, QC; died 28 May 2019 in Snye, QC). During the Second World War, Oakes was a code talker for the United States Army. Code talkers used their Indigenous languages to encode radio messages to prevent the enemy from understanding them. When he passed away at age 94, Oakes was the last Mohawk code talker. (See also Cree Code Talkers and Indigenous Peoples and the World Wars.)
Charles Henry Byce
Charles Henry Byce, DCM, MM, Cree soldier, war hero, pulp and paper mill worker (born 9 March 1916 in Chapleau, ON; died 25 November 1994 in Newmarket, ON). Byce was Canada’s most highly decorated Indigenous soldier of the Second World War (see Indigenous Peoples and the Second World War), receiving the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and the Military Medal (MM).
David Georges Greyeyes-Steele, Plains Cree farmer, multi-sport athlete, soldier, war hero, First Nation chief, federal public servant (born 31 December 1914 on Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, SK; died 22 July 1996 in Saskatoon, SK). Greyeyes-Steele served in the Canadian Army during the Second World War and was awarded the Greek War Cross.
John Shiwak (Sikoak), Inuit hunter, trapper, soldier (born February or March 1889 in Cul-de-Sac, near Rigolet, Labrador; died 21 November 1917 near Masnières, France). Shiwak was one of more than 60 men from Labrador who joined the military during the First World War. He went on to become one of the best scouts and snipers on the Western Front.
Bertha Clark-Jones (née Houle), OC, Cree (Nehiyawak)-Métis advocate for the rights of Indigenous women and children (born 6 November 1922 in Clear Hills, AB; died 21 October 2014 in Bonnyville, AB). A veteran of the Second World War, Clark-Jones joined the Aboriginal Veterans Society and advocated for the fair treatment of Indigenous ex-service people. She was co-founder and first president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. Clark-Jones devoted her life to seeking equality and greater power for women in Canada.
John Henry Yahba
John Henry Yahba, Ojibwe farmer, soldier, war hero, labourer (born 1 October 1880 at Saugeen First Nation, ON; died 29 November 1953 in Chippewa Hill, ON). Yahba served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. In the closing month of that war, he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his heroism in battle on the Western Front. (See also Indigenous Peoples and the World Wars.)
Frederick Ogilvie Loft (commonly known as Fred or F.O. Loft), Mohawk chief, activist, war veteran, reporter, author and lumberman (born 3 February 1861 on the Six Nations reserve, Grand River, Canada West [ON]; died 5 July 1934 in Toronto, ON). Loft founded the League of Indians of Canada, the first national Indigenous organization in Canada, in December 1918 (see Indigenous Political Organization and Activism in Canada). He fought in the First World War and is recognized as one of the most important Indigenous activists of the early 20th century. His Mohawk name was Onondeyoh, which translates as “Beautiful Mountain.”
Frank Narcisse Jérome
Frank Narcisse Jérome, Mi'kmaq, war hero (born 1886 in Maria, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine Region, QC; died 1934 in Gesgapegiag, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine Region, QC). Frank Narcisse Jérome was a First World War veteran from the Gesgapegiag First Nation in the Gaspé peninsula region who was recognized multiple times during the First World War for his bravery. Jérome was one of only 39 Canadian soldiers to win the Military Medal three times during the First World War, and is now recognized as one of the most honoured Indigenous veterans of the war (see Indigenous Peoples and the World Wars and Indigenous Peoples and the First World War). Jérome’s name appears on the war memorial in Gesgapegiag, Quebec.