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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.
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.)
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 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.)
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.
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).
Henry Louis Norwest, Cree sniper during the First World War (born 1884 in Fort Saskatchewan, North-West Territories [present-day Alberta]; died 8 August 1918 in Amiens, France). While serving overseas, Henry Norwest was credited with 115 confirmed kills and received a Military Medal and Bar for his exploits on the battlefield.
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.
Gilbert Clarence Monture (Big Feather), OC, OBE (Order of the British Empire), Mohawk mining engineer, civil servant, army officer (born 27 August 1895 on the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation, ON; died 19 June 1973 in Ottawa, ON). Monture was a university student during the First World War and interrupted his studies to enlist in the Canadian military. After the war, he completed university and became a world-renowned mining engineer.
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.
Joseph Benjamin Keeper
Joseph Benjamin “Joe” Keeper, world-class athlete and war hero of the Norway House Cree Nation (born 21 January 1886 in Walker Lake, MB; died 29 September 1971 in Winnipeg, MB). Keeper competed at the 1912 Stockholm Summer Olympics, where he participated in the 5,000 and 10,000 m track events. Keeper later served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War and received the Military Medal for his actions at the front. After his death, Keeper was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 1977 and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.
Indigenous Peoples and the Second World War
In 1939, Canada found itself at war for the second time in a generation. As in the First World War (1914-18), thousands of Indigenous soldiers and nurses volunteered for the war effort at home and abroad, serving with distinction in the Canadian army, navy, and air force. At least 3090 First Nations soldiers enlisted in the Canadian military in the Second World War, with thousands more Métis, Inuit, and non-Status Indian soldiers serving without official recognition of their Indigenous identity.
Indigenous Peoples and the First World War
Indigenous soldiers, nurses, and ordinary civilians made a major contribution to Canada’s First World War effort. More than 4000 First Nations soldiers fought for Canada during the war, officially recorded by the Department of Indian Affairs (see Federal Departments of Indigenous and Northern Affairs). In addition, thousands more non-Status Indians, Inuit, and Métis soldiers enlisted without official recognition of their Indigenous identity. More than 50 Indigenous soldiers were decorated for bravery in action, including the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) soldier Francis Pegahmagabow, Inuit soldier John Shiwak, and Cree soldier Henry Norwest.