Search for ""
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.
Tecumseh, Shawnee chief, leader of a First Nations confederacy, military leader in the War of 1812 (born circa 1768 in south-central Ohio; died 5 October 1813 near Moraviantown [Thamesville, ON]).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
Tecumseh and the War of 1812
On October 4, 1813, the eve of the Battle of Moraviantown, the great Shawnee chief Tecumseh had a foreboding. Our lives are in the hands of the Great Spirit, he said, We are determined to defend our lands, and if it is His will, we wish to leave our bones upon them.
Tommy Prince: War Hero
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).