Duncan Campbell Scott
Addresses‚ Essays‚ and Reviews
The Canadian Indians and the Great World War
Nothing in the war has more genuine interest than the action of the Canadian Indians in energetically espousing the cause of Great Britain and her Allies and spontaneously enlisting in the Expeditionary Force. The proportion of Indians in the force was small, but the power of their example was strong, and, as individual Canadians, they did not weaken the strength of our offensive, and even added something to the daring and efficiency of our troops. If to be singled out by the foe for particular mention as a component part of their enemies worthy of special opprobrium is any distinction, it may be claimed for the Indians, who were depicted by the Germans in warpaint and with feathers, with scalping knives and tomahawk complete, ready to carry out upon the childlike soldiers of the Fatherland their treacherous and cruel practices. No doubt, ere long, the Germans had a wholesome fear of the Canadian methods of fighting, of the efficiency of our sharp-shooters, and the sudden, desperate nature of our trench raids. It is not too much to claim that the alertness of our troops, their ability to make use of natural advantages, and their daring and unrivalled resource in the type of warfare that developed, had a remote Indian origin, and as for the Indian himself, there is no doubt that he excelled in the kind of offensive that had been practiced by his ancestors and was native to him.
As the original fighter of this continent, the Indian invented and perfected a system of tactics that finally gave the more powerful tribes complete ascendancy over weaker Indians, and that was often used with terrible success against the peaceful white settlements, and even against regular armies. It was not until the white man adopted Indian methods of ambuscade and foray and developed a fighter as cunning and resourceful as the Indian that he [page 244] could meet his aboriginal foe on equal terms. Before the advent of the white man, a group of native tribes had originated a confederation which became so powerful that it could dictate terms to its opponents, and did, in fact, ensure peace by the terror inspired by its efficient and ever-ready war machine. The Six Nation Confederacy in their relation to the tribes whom they called their allies are the prototype of a successful league of nations; they enforced peace on those they conquered, by the maintenance of an overpowering organization of warriors, and preserved it among the component parts of their confederacy by a cunning arrangement of blood relationships.
When the British colonies in North America began to enlarge their boundaries, they were confronted with Indian territorial claims which were supported by a formidable force, and a wise policy of conciliation was dictated by Great Britain. The aboriginal title to the soil was recognized and solemn formal treaties were made, whereby the peaceful settlement of the Indian lands was secured. At the same time the Indians were flattered by conspicuous attentions and by treatment as allies until their military power should have weakened and altogether disappeared. The wisdom of this policy was confirmed by events, and is now recorded as a bright page in the history of the British colonies. It successfully weathered many a local storm, and when, in 1775, the supreme test of allegiance arose, it destroyed the hopes of the Revolutionary party and ranged Joseph Brant and the most active and able warriors of the Six Nation Confederacy on the British side. It continued to animate relations after the close of the war, and revived in 1812 with loyal ardour. It brought Tecumseh and his Western warriors under Brock’s command, and the Indian forces participated in every important engagement at the capture of Detroit, at Queenston Heights, at the defences of York and Fort George, at the Thames, at Beaver Dam and Lundy’s Lane, with Morrison at Chrysler’s Farm, and with de Salaberry at Chateauguay. Many Indians fell in the defence of Canada during this war. Among their number was Tecumseh himself who was killed in action at the Battle of the Thames.
The activity of the Indians in opposing the encroachments of the United States naturally excited against them the highest degree of resentment on the part of that power, and there was reason to believe that upon the close of the war the very existence of the Western [page 245] tribes would be threatened. In order to avert this danger it was necessary for the British authorities to take special precautions at the time of the drawing up of the Treaty of Ghent, which closed the war. The provisions of the treaty stipulated that all hostilities with the Indian tribes should cease and that all the possessions, rights, and privileges enjoyed by them prior to 1811 should be restored. The financial losses of the Indians in the war were estimated at ₤4,750, and their claims were paid by the British Government.
The Indians remained loyal to the Canadian Government in the troublesome period of 1837-38, and on one occasion during the rebellion rendered a very important service. A body of insurgents on Sunday, November 4th, 1838, made an attempt to surprise the Indians of Caughnawage. The Indians were in church and were warned of their danger by a squaw. They routed the rebels and took seventy prisoners, whom they delivered to the authorities in Montreal upon the following day. The gallantry of their conduct in this affair formed the subject of a commendatory despatch from Lord Glenelg to Sir John Colborne.
Such, briefly, are the traditions of loyalty that have been established by the Indians of Canada in the wars of the past. The Canadian Indians of to-day have fully maintained these traditions and have, moreover, enlarged them to a remarkable degree. Their ancestors defended the British cause in America, fighting on their native soil and following methods of warfare which formed an essential feature of their life and training, and which were in fact a second nature to them. The modern Indians have left peaceful pursuits to rally in thousands to the defence of the Empire in a distant continent amid battle conditions of which they had no conception and to which the terrors of ancient Indian warfare seem comparatively insignificant.
From the very outset of the Great War the Indians throughout the Dominion displayed a keen interest in the progress of struggle and demonstrated their loyalty in the most convincing manner both by voluntary enlistment in the overseas forces, generous contributions to the patriotic and other war funds and energetic participation in war work of various kinds at home.
During the war more than 3,500 Indians enlisted for active service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, according to the records of the Department of Indian Affairs. This number represents approximately thirty-five per cent of the Indian male population [page 246] of military age resident in the nine provinces of the Dominion. It has, moreover, been pointed out that there have undoubtedly been a number of Indian enlistments of which the department has been unable to secure any record.
The percentage of enlistments among the Indians appears in a remarkably favourable light when it is remembered that recruiting among them was greatly hampered by many serious difficulties of a highly obstructive nature. Although in the more settled parts of the country the special educational advantages that are provided by the Canadian Government for the Indians enable them to take an intelligent interest in current events, there are still many, residing in remote and inaccessible localities, who are unacquainted with the English language or conditions of life in civilized communities and who by their life, location, and training were not in a position to understand the character of the war, its cause or effect. Notwithstanding these circumstances the percentage of Indian enlistments was fully equal to that among the white communities and in a number of particular instances it was far higher than the average.
The Indian soldiers were not formed into an individual fighting force, but were scattered throughout the many battalions of the Canadian divisions. The story of the part played by them at the front is, therefore, of necessity a series of disconnected incidents rather than a continuous narrative. It may be mentioned that the authorities had for some time under serious consideration the question of raising one or more Indian battalions, but after some discussion it was finally deemed inexpedient to proceed with the project, a decision that was viewed with regret by many who believed that such a corps would have been a valuable asset to the Canadian Expeditionary Force, a credit to the Indian race, and a highly interesting addition to the history of Canada’s share in the war.
When the Military Service Act was put into force in 1917, it was decided to exclude the Indians from its operation, and an Order-in-Council to that effect was passed on January 17th, 1918. This action was taken in view of the fact that the Indians, although natural-born British subjects, were wards of the Government, and, as such, minors in the eyes of the law, and that, as they had not the right to exercise the franchise or other privileges of citizenship, they should not be expected to assume responsibilities equal to those of enfranchised persons. It was also taken into consideration that certain old treaties between the Indians and the Crown stipulated that they [page 247] should not be called upon for military service. It may, therefore, be emphasized that Indian participation in the war was wholly voluntary and not in any degree whatsoever subject to the influence of compulsory measures.
As an inevitable sequel to the large enlistment, the casualties among the Indians were heavy, and many a wooden cross marks the red man’s share in the common sacrifice of the civilized world. A number of Indians, too, who survived the shells and bullets of the enemy, upon their return to Canada succumbed to tuberculosis, as a result of the hardships and exposures which they had undergone at the front. The Indian is even more susceptible than his white neighbour to the deadly menace of this disease.
The enlistment records of some of the Indian bands are specially worthy of note, and it will be of interest to consider certain of these cases in detail.
The most numerous tribe of Indians in the province of Ontario are the Ojibwas, as they are known in some localities. This tribe is a subdivision of the great Algonquian linguistic stock which extends from the Atlantic to the Rockies and includes practically all the Indian tribes and sub-tribes in the Maritime Provinces, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, with the notable exception of the Iroquois of Ontario and Quebec, who are themselves a distinct linguistic stock. The average of enlistments among the Ojibwa bands scattered throughout the province of Ontario, and known by various sub-tribal designations in different localities, was exceptionally high, many of these bands having sent practically all their eligible members to the front.
The Ojibwa bands located in the vicinity of Fort William have a fine record in the war, more than one hundred of their members having enlisted from a total adult male population of two hundred and eighty-two. When the Military Service Act was introduced it was found that on the Nipigon reserve there were but two Indians of the first class left at home, and on the Fort William reserve there was only one. The loyalty of the Nipigon Indians is traditional. In 1812 a war party from this place paddled the whole length of Lake Superior to the Sault, whence it proceeded to Queenston Heights to join Brock’s forces. The majority of the Indian recruits from the Nipigon district enlisted with the 52nd, popularly known as the “Bull Moose Battalion,” “Currie’s Pets,” one of the most gallant battalions in the Expeditionary Force; and their commanding officer, page 248] the late Colonel Hay, who was killed in action at Ypres, frequently stated that the Indians were among the very best soldiers in the regiment. The name of every Indian member of this unit has appeared in the casualty list. When the battalion was on its way to the front, the press in various cities through which it passed commented particularly upon the fine appearance of the Indians.
Private Rod Cameron, one of the Indian members of the 52nd, won premier honours in a shooting competition in England among the best marksmen of twelve battalions. He was killed in action after having rendered valuable service as a scout and a sniper.
An amusing incident occurred upon the occasion of the battalion’s departure for the front. One of the Indian soldiers had rather a bad record sheet, as a result of which he was instructed that he would be left behind in company with others who were not considered suitable for overseas service. It was not so easy, however, to be rid of him, and when the train departed he was on board. His presence was not discovered until arrival at St. John, when it was found that the battalion was one man over strength. This persistent Indian pleaded so earnestly to be taken overseas that the colonel finally assented to his desire, and the wisdom of the action was afterwards borne out by the man’s excellent record at the front. He was twice wounded, and subsequently taken prisoner. After spending several months in a prison camp he managed to escape and was successful in making his way through Germany and safely crossing the frontier. This is an extraordinary case, as it would naturally be supposed that an Indian would be a marked man and that it would be almost impossible for him to escape observation.
A fitting theme for the pen of a romantic novelist might be found in the story of Private Joseph DeLaronde, by courtesy Count DeLaronde, one of the Nipigon Indians who went overseas with the 52nd Battalion, and who won the Military Medal for gallantry in action. He is the great-grandson of a Count DeLaronde, who came to Canada more than a century ago, during the perilous period of the French Revolution, when it was well for the surviving members of the royalist nobility of the old regime to place many leagues between themselves and France. The Count DeLaronde indeed found a location sufficiently removed and inaccessible in those days, when he determined to settle on the banks of the Nipigon river, where he married an Indian woman and spent the remainder of his days among the Indians. The descendants of this eccentric [page 249] aristocrat have intermarried exclusively with Indians, and the present generation is therefore seven-eighths Indian in blood. When Count DeLaronde made his strange decision to establish himself in the wilderness and exchange the luxuries of his birth for the primitive life of the North American Indian he seemingly detached himself and his descendants for all time from the land of his birth and the traditions of his house. Then after many years the sudden emergencies of war rendered it possible that another lineal Count DeLaronde, albeit an almost full-blooded Ojibwa, should bear arms, not without distinction, in that country where his ancestors had upheld the honour of his name among the flower of the French chivalry in many a clashing mediaeval fray, for the DeLarondes were an ancient and knightly race. Private DeLaronde has added a further element of romance to his story by marrying the nurse who attended him in the hospital in England when he was convalescing from his wounds, with whom he has returned to his home a Nipigon.
Another branch of the same family also played a brave part in the war. Denis DeLaronde, a cousin of Joseph DeLaronde abovementioned and also a great-great-grandson of the original émigré Cont DeLaronde, was the first man of the 52nd Battalion to enter the trenches of the enemy. He was subsequently killed in action. Two brothers of this Denis DeLaronde, Charles and Alexander, were also with the 52nd Battalion. The latter was returned to Canada after having been severely wounded in the Second Battle of Ypres. Although he had received his discharge, he was unwilling to remain at home while the fight was still going on and he accordingly re-enlisted and returned to the front.
Another Nipigon Indian of the 52nd, Sergeant Leo Bouchard, was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He is said to have been recommended for this honour upon seven different occasions. He enlisted in 1915 and saw three years of heavy fighting in France. He was wounded in October, 1918, and was returned to Canada a few months later.
Private Augustine Belanger, also an Indian member of the 52nd Battalion, was awarded the Military Medal for bravery. He was subsequently killed in action.
One of the Fort William Indians of the 52nd Battalion, Alexander Chief, was returned to Canada after more than two years’ service in the trenches with no fewer than twelve wounds on his body. He [page 250] was an Indian of remarkably fine physique, but the hardships that he endured at the front so weakened his constitution that he fell a victim to tuberculosis and died in December, 1918.
A posthumous award of the Military Medal was made in the fall of 1917 to Corporal Thomas Godchere, of the Long Lake band, which is located in the Thunder Bay district, in recognition of his gallantry in the sanguinary Battle of Vimy Ridge. Corporal Godchere enlisted at Port Arthur with Lieut.-Colonel Machin’s battalion, the 94th, but was subsequently transferred to the 102nd Scottish, one of the most gallant of the British Columbia battalions. He won distinction as a sniper.
Among the Chippewas of Rama thirty-eight men enlisted from a total adult male population of one hundred and ten. One of their number, Private Ben Simcoe, was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in action. He is the great-great-grandson of a John Simcoe, whose Indian name was Windego, one of the Shawnee braves who served in the defence of Canada under the leadership of the great Tecumseh in the War of 1812. Windego fought at Detroit, Queenston Heights, and Moraviantown, and so distinguished himself that after the war he was awarded the British Medal. He was again in the field with Loyalist forces during the rebellion of 1837. This is another striking instance of the continuation of distinguished military traditions in an Indian family.
The Missisauga of Rice Lake sent forty-three men to the front from a total adult male population of eighty-two, practically every eligible member of the band. One of their number, Lance-Corporal Johnson Paudash of the 21st Battalion, was awarded the Military Medal for exceptional heroism in saving life during a particularly heavy bombardment, and for giving information that the enemy was massing at Hill 70 for a counter-attack, which, as a matter of fact, took place just twenty-five minutes after Paudash made his report. His timely warning was instrumental, it is said, in averting a serious reverse. It is understood that Lance-Corporal Paudash has also been recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal in recognition of having saved the life of an officer in the Battle of the Somme. He was one of the Original Firsts, having enlisted in August, 1914. As a sniper he had an exceptional record even for an Indian, having accounted for no fewer than eighty-eight of the enemy. [page 251]
When the Military Service Act was introduced, it was found that among the Chippewas of Nawash, located at Cape Croker, not a single man in the classes called was left on the reserve, as all of them had voluntarily enlisted. It may here be mentioned that although, as we have already explained, conscription was not made applicable to Indians, it was nevertheless considered necessary to take a census of the eligible men upon the reserves wherever it was practicable to do so, in order that certificates of exemption might be issued to them for their protection in the event of their being confused with eligible whites and also to prevent whites and half-breeds from passing themselves as Indians, a trick that was frequently resorted to by deserters after the passing of the Order-in-Council exempting the former. Sixty-seven of the Chippewas of Nawash went to the front with the Bruce county battalion from a total adult male population of one hundred and eight. Five of these were killed in action and twenty-three wounded. They were sturdy specimens of manhood, and it is recorded that one of them was so large of stature that it was necessary to have a special uniform made for him.
These Indians displayed exceptional keenness and initiative in their desire to become efficient and well drilled soldiers. Upon one occasion while the battalion was in training the men were taking a rest after several hours of hard drill. The colonel observed that none of his Indian recruits were about. Later on he discovered that they had retired to the woods, where they were drilling themselves, using wooden poles in place of rifles. It appears that they made a practice of employing their leisure hours in this manner and it is little wonder therefore that they became among the smartest and best disciplined members of the regiment.
The Missisauga of Alnwick sent thirty-one men to the front from a total adult male population of sixty-four. One of their number, Sampson Comego, won fame as a sniper and was officially credited with having shot twenty-eight of the enemy. He enlisted with the Original Firsts and was killed in action in November, 1915. His brother, Peter Comego, who also enlisted in 1914, saw four years of active service in the trenches was twice wounded, and also established a distinguished record as a sniper.
About fifty Ojibwas from Manitoulin Island and the northern shore of Lake Huron enlisted. One of their number, Francis Misinskotewe, [page 252] was awarded the Russian Medal; another, Frank J. Sinclair, received the Military Medal.
The Moravians of the Thames sent forty-two men to the front from a total adult male population of seventy nine. One of their number, Private George Stonefish, of Moraviantown, Ontario, won fame as a sniper and in recognition of his exceptional services was tendered a civic reception by the city of Chatham upon his return to Canada.
Other Ojibwa bands in Ontario whose enlistment records are especially notable are the Chippewas of Saugeen, who sent forty-eight from a total adult male population of one hundred and ten; the Chippewas of Georgina and Snake Islands, who sent eleven from a total adult male population of twenty-three; the Chippewas of the Thames, who sent twenty-five from a total adult male population of one hundred and ten; the Chippewas and Potawatomi of Walpole Island, who sent seventy-one from a total adult male population of two hundred and ten; the band located at Sturgeon Falls, which sent thirty-five from a total adult male population of one hundred and three; the bands in the Chapleau district, which sent forty from a total adult male population of one hundred and one; the Missisauga of the Credit, located near Hagersville, who sent thirty-two from a total adult male population of eighty-six; and the Munsees of the Thames, who sent eleven from a total adult male population of thirty-eight.
Perhaps, however, the most remarkable and outstanding record of enlistment in any community in Canada is that established by the Missisauga of Scugog. The entire population of this little band is but thirty; of this number only eight are adult males, and every one of these enlisted. Of almost equal distinctions the record of the Algonkins of Golden Lake, of whom twenty-nine enlisted, leaving only three men on the reserve.
The sacrifice made by these Indian communities is emphasized by the fact that the principal industry among them is farming, and in many cases the heavy enlistment left the greater part of the work to be done by the women and children.
The Six Nations of the counties of Brant, Ontario, and Haldimand, played a notable part in the Great War. These Indians are Iroquois and are the descendants of the loyal Mohawks, Senecas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Oneidas, the Tuscaroras, who came to Canada from the state of New York in 1775 under the leadership of [page 253] the great Mohawk chieftain, Captain Joseph Brant, Thayendanegea, whose name is preserved in those of the county of Brant and the town of Brantford.
Enlistment among the Six Nations began soon after the outbreak of hostilities. The first man on the reserve to join the colours was Alfred Styres, an industrious young Indian farmer. One morning while on his way to work in his oat field, where the crop was but half harvested, he heard that recruiting was taking place at Hagersville. He lost no time in making arrangements with a neighbour in regard to the harvesting of his crop, and on the same day set out on foot for Hagersville, where he enlisted with the 4th Battalion. He took part in all the heavy fighting with the Original Firsts, during their severe initial campaign, was eventually wounded, and returned to Canada.
In the fall of 1915, Lieut.-Colonel E. S. Baxter, of Cayuga, then C. O. of the Haldimand Rifles (Militia), was authorized to raise the 114th Battalion. Throwing himself into the work with feverish vigour, he so undermined his health that he died early in 1916, when his work was but half completed, to the great regret of his men and of those Indians who had enlisted up to that time, many of whom he had commanded in his militia regiment. He was succeeded by Lieut.-Colonel Andrew T. Thompson, of Ottawa, formerly of Cayuga, Ontario, and at one time member of Parliament for Haldimand county. This officer had for many years also commanded the “Haldimand Rifles,” the left half of which was composed of Indian troops. He had long taken a keen interest in the Six Nation Indians, with whom his grandfather, father, and sons had also been connected in a military way, from Queenston Heights to the Great War, a period of more than one hundred years. Colonel Thompson is an Honorary Chief of the tribes, his Iroquois name being Ahsaregoah, which signifies “the sword.” His presence at the head of the battalion naturally did much to arouse the interest and win the confidence of the Indians. This unit organized a recruiting league on the Six Nation reserve, which resulted in the enlistment of two hundred and eighty-seven Six Nation warriors. Many Indians from other reserves also joined this battalion, including a considerable number from the Caughnawaga and St. Regis bands in the province of Quebec, who are also Iroquois and members of the Six Nation Confederacy. As a result of the large number of Indians in this regiment, two entire Indian companies were formed under [page 254] the command of Indian officers. The battalion received the name “Brock’s Rangers” in recognition of the circumstance that many of its Indian members were descendants of warriors who fought with Brock at the memorable Battle of Queenston Heights. The device of two crossed tomahawks surmounted by an Indian head was chosen as the regimental crest.
The Six Nations Women’s Patriotic League, an organization that will be further referred to herein, worked an unique and singularly beautiful regimental flag for the Rangers that elicited not a little comment and admiration. This flag is adorned with figures, symbolic of various tribal legends. It was carried in addition to the King’s colours and the regular regimental colours, and the 114th had special permission, contrary to the general rule, to carry a third flag.
While the battalion was quartered at Camp Borden, a number of the Indian recruits became very restless; and when it was rumoured that it might be necessary for them to remain in Canada all winter, several of them actually deserted. A little later, however, the battalion was ordered to the front; and as soon as this news became known, the Indian deserters reported for duty. They had joined up to fight; not to vegetate in barracks.
It was found expedient to break up the 114th Battalion after its arrival in England, a regrettable measure from the point of view of the members of the Indian companies, who were naturally anxious to go into action together. The regimental band, made up almost entirely of Indians, was sent on a tour through the British Isles for recruiting and patriotic purposes.
Three of the Indian officers of the Rangers, Captain J.R. Steacy, of Caughnawaga, and Lieutenants Moses and Martin of Ohsweken, were transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. Captain Steacy was accidentally killed; Lieutenant Moses was reported missing, and at the time of writing no further information with regard to his fate has been secured.
Captain A.G.E. Smith, the son of a Six Nation chief, was awarded the Military Cross for distinguished gallantry in action. He went overseas with the 20th Battalion, was three times wounded, and upon his return to Canada was made adjutant of a Polish battalion stationed at Camp Niagara.
It is a singular coincidence that the first Brant county man to fall in action in the Great war Captain Cameron D. Brant, a great-great-grandson [page 255] of Captain Joseph Brant, from whom, as stated above, the county takes its name. This Indian officer went overseas with the 4th Battalion, and was killed at the Second Battle of Ypres, while gallantly leading his men in the heroic charge that earned historic renown for his battalion, and in which his commanding officer, Colonel Birchall, and many other brave officers met their death. Captain Brant had the instinctive Indian love for scouting, and he acquired a reputation for valuable services rendered in nocturnal reconnoitring in No Man’s Land. Two other descendants of Captain Joseph Brant, Corporal Albert W.L. Crain, also of the 4th Battalion, and Private Nathan Monture, subsequently promoted to the rank of captain, were severely wounded at Ypres.
Another well-known old Iroquois fighting family, the Bearfoot Onondagas, has a distinguished war record. The present tribal head of this family or clan, under the ancient system of maternal descent, still extant among the Iroquois, is Mrs. Elijah Lickers. Four of her sons, two grandsons, and a son-in-law enlisted, and of these a son and grandson were killed in action. One of this family went overseas with the original 48th Highlanders of Toronto, and was the first Indian to join a Highland battalion. He was taken prisoner in April, 1915, and remained in Germany until the cessation of hostilities. Another Iroquois woman, Mrs. Catherine General, gave her husband, four sons, and two sons-in-law to the Expeditionary Force.
Shortly after the outbreak of the war, in the fall of 1914, Lieut.-Colonel William Hamilton Merritt, an honorary chief of the Six Nations, who was in Switzerland at the time, cabled to the Six Nations council at Ohsweken an offer of $25,000 for the purpose of raising and equipping a regiment of Indians for overseas service. The council after a long discussion that occupied an entire day took the ground that such an offer should, in accordance with an old tradition, come direct from their great war chief Onondiyoh, who is none other than His Majesty King George V. They further pointed out in a resolution that they, the permanent regular chiefs, or Sachems, had no concern with matters of war, and that any action in connection therewith was solely the function of special war chiefs, who were only to be appointed after the declaration of hostilities. In consequence of these considerations, the council declined to take advantage of Colonel Merritt’s offer, and there was no further development in a proposal that might have added a unique [page 256] chapter to the extensive annals of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
Throughout the war the council constantly adhered to its position and would never consent to take any official part in recruiting or other patriotic work on the reserve. Extreme regard for ritual and formality is a predominant trait in the character of the Indian, and this is especially true of the Iroquois, and to such a degree as to constitute a serious hindrance to their advancement and efficiency.
In referring to the Six Nation council it may be well to briefly explain the composition and character of that body. Under the Indian Act, by virtue of which the Dominion Government administers the affairs of the Indians through the Department of Indian Affairs, each Indian community or band has a chief and council, who are either elected by a popular vote for a term of years or chosen for life in accordance with tribal custom. These councils exercise limited legislative and executive functions under the supervision of the department and in this manner the Indians are enabled to avail themselves of certain measure of self-government. In the case of the Six Nations, the council is composed of representatives from the several clans or families into which the tribes are subdivided. These representatives are elected for life by the women of their respective clans. This system has been in operation among the Iroquois from legendary times. The council thus elected considers itself as having the status of a sovereign body, basing its theory on the contention that the Iroquois are an independent national entity, in alliance with, but not subject to the British Crown, pretension that the Canadian Government is naturally not disposed to recognize.
It will readily be understood how the prevalence of these ideas was responsible for the attitude of the council in declining to accept Colonel Merritt’s offer on the ground that such an invitation should emanate direct from the King.
Although there is an undoubted charm and interest in the preservation of ancient traditions and customs, their perpetuation in the present instance certainly does not appear to have been in the best interest of the Indians, and the splendid record of the Iroquois in the Great War must be attributed to the personal loyalty, initiative, and high spirit of the young braves who flocked to the colours. It is noteworthy that a new political organization has recently been noteworthy that a new political organization has recently been formed on the reserve, known as the Warriors’ Party, which favors the adoption of a democratic system of election for the council. To [page 257] this group belong the returned soldiers, who have been broadened and educated by experience of the world and its ways; and if they are successful in having their policies adopted by the tribes, a new and more progressive regime may be inaugurated on the reserve.
The two other Iroquois bands in Ontario, the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and the Oneidas of the Thames, have an exceptionally high enlistment record, the former having sent eighty-two from a total adult male population of three hundred and fifty-three, and the latter forty-eight from a total adult male population of two hundred and twenty. One of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, Private Corby, was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in action.
The Indians of Quebec had a very creditable representation in the Expeditionary Force. One of their number, Delphis Theberge, a Huron Indian of Jeune Lorette, was awarded the Military Cross for exceptional gallantry.
Forty-three Indians from the historic Iroquois village of Caughnawage, near Montreal, went to the front with the 114th Battalion, Brock’s Rangers, a unit that has been mentioned at some length herein in connection with the Six Nations of Ontario. These Iroquois, it is worthy of note, have occupied this village since 1676.
One of their number was Captin John R. Steacy, who, as has already been mentioned, was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps after his arrival in England, and was subsequently killed in an accident. The famous Canadian “ace,” Colonel “Billy” Bishop, V.C., the most distinguished aeronaut in the British Service, has stated that Captain Steacy was one of his most promising fliers. Colonel Bishop had selected Captain Steacy as one of his special “fighting circle,” but the accident which caused his death occurred just as he was on the point of sailing for France to take his place in that illustrious body. Prior to his enlistment he was a successful customs broker in Toronto; and he did much, by both financial assistance and energetic recruiting work, to stimulate enlistment among the Iroquois. Captain Steacy went overseas as a lieutenant, but his abilities soon won him his promotion.
Another Caughnawaga Indian of the 114th, Sergeant Joe Clear Sky, won the Military Medal in recognition of one of the most heroic actions of self-sacrifice that is recorded in the history of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. During a very severe gas attack Sergeant Clear Sky observed a wounded companion lying out in No Man’s Land, and noticed that his gas mask had been rendered useless. [page 258] Clear sky crawled out through the poisonous fumes, took off his own gas mask and put it on the wounded man, whose life in consequence was saved. As a result of his noble deed, Sergeant Clear Sky was himself badly gassed. Sergeant Clear Sky is an educated Indian, a graduate of the famous Carlisle Indian University. Prior to his enlisting, he was a professional vaudevillian entertainer. At the front his exceptional gifts were soon recognized, and he used to travel up and down the lines entertaining the troops with his dancing and singing. His entertainments were unusually popular, and he became one of the most noted characters on the Western front.
Twenty-six warriors from St. Regis, Quebec, went to the front. One of their number, Private Philip McDonald, enlisted in August, 1914, and went overseas with the 8th Battalion, the famous “Little Black Devils” of Winnipeg. He won great distinction as a sniper. The following letter written by Private McDonald from Salisbury Plain to his mother in November, 1914, may be quoted as typically illustrative of the exalted, unselfish, and altruistic motives that inspired the Indian soldiers who went to fight for that civilization into which they have so recently entered.
I arrived here and have good health. I have seen many places and am pleased to visit England. I expect to be able to come back and tell you all about this country. I am a member of a regiment known as the “Little Black Devils” and we are made a fuss of by the British as we are the only Canadian regiment that is allowed to wear this badge. I am supposed to be a good specimen of a Canadian and we are welcomed everywhere. I may add we have had a great time and I am thoroughly pleased I joined, it was the best thing I have done for a long time, still I always think of you mother and wonder how you are getting on. I hope you are well and not fretting, as I had an idea that you would think I would join to save the Old country as this war means now or never for Great Britain.
Remember me to everyone and I will try to drop you a note occasionally to keep you posted of the real state of affairs.
I had a good passage across and enjoyed myself immensely, and I will give you a visit as soon as I can, so God bless you and keep you.
From your son,
No. 710, 90th Winnipeg Rifles. [page 259]
The writer of this letter was killed in action after having established for himself a sharp-shooting record of forty dead Germans.
The great majority of the Indians of the Maritime Provinces belong to the Micmac tribe, which, like the Ojibwa, is a subdivision of the Algonquian linguistic stock. The most notable record of enlistments among these Indians is that of the Micmacs of Prince Edward Island, who sent thirty from a total adult male population of sixty-four, or practically every eligible man. These Prince Edward Island Indians earned the highest praises from their officers for their gallantry in action; and they especially covered themselves with glory at the decisive Battle of Amiens. One of their number, Private James Francis, was recommended for the Military Medal for his performance at this engagement.
The reserves in Nova Scotia are very sparsely populated, and consequently the actual number of recruits secured upon them was small. In several cases, however, the record of enlistment was very high in proportion to the population. Every eligible man among the Micmacs of Sydney went to the front. Among others especially worthy of note there may be mentioned the Micmacs of Colchester county, who sent nine men to the front from a total adult male population of twenty-five; the Micmacs of Hants county, who sent six from a total adult male population of sixteen, one of whom, Joseph William Morris, was wounded three times, and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and also the Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry in action; the Micmacs of Lunenburg county, who sent eleven from a total adult male population of nineteen; the Micmacs of Pictou county, who sent ten from a total male population of forty; the Micmacs of Shelburne county, who sent three from a total adult male population of eight; the Micmacs of Yarmouth county, who sent three from a total adult male population of twelve; and the Micmacs of Digby county, who sent six from a total male population of twenty-four.
The Micmacs and Malecites of New Brunswick sent sixty-two men to the front from a total adult male population of three hundred and sixteen.
A strange occurrence is related of two Micmac boys named Cope from King’s county, Nova Scotia. They were both very young when they enlisted; and as they were in different battalions they did not see each other again until they met by chance in the thick of the fighting at Vimy Ridge. They were the seventeen and nineteen [page 260] years of age, and were so covered with grime and gore at the time that they at first failed to recognize each other. The elder of these boys was subsequently killed at Passchendaele, but the younger continued in the fight till the end of the war and accompanied the Canadian forces into Germany.
The Peguis band in Manitoba sent twenty men to the front from a total adult male population of one hundred and eighteen. Eleven of these were killed in action; four were wounded and gassed; three were wounded; and one was taken prisoner. Two of these Indians, George and Colin Sinclair, were with the famous Fort Garry Horse; the former was killed in action and the latter was taken prisoner. Two others were with the Siberian Forces. Every one of them had either a wife or children or aged parents to support.
They Indians of the Pas band, also in Manitoba, sent nineteen men to the front, from a total adult male population of ninety-two.
The Indians of the St. Peter’s band in the same province sent thirty-three from a total adult male population of one hundred and twenty-seven; and of these seven were killed in action, eight wounded, and one gassed.
The records of these northern Manitoba bands are somewhat notable, inasmuch as they continue to follow the Indian mode of living, are not very closely in touch with civilization, and would not, therefore, have been expected to display so keen an interest in the war.
The community of Sioux Indians located at Griswold, Manitoba, sent twenty men to the front from a total male population of eighty-four. These Indians are the descendants of refugees who came to Canada for protection after the famous Sioux wars with the American Government, half a century ago, and their reappearance in battle array recalls the stormy days of Custer and Sitting-Bull.
At File Hills, Saskatchewan, there is a model agricultural colony composed of ex-pupils of Indian schools. This community was organized in 1903 as an experiment by the Department of Indian Affairs. Each member of the colony receives assistance from the Government on a loan system in the form of a grant of stock and farm implements, and a cash bonus to provide for the erection of a house. The success of this colony has been phenomenal; and its members are now not only on a wholly self-supporting basis, but many of them are ranked among the most competent farmers of the province. These progressive young Indians appreciate their share in [page 261] the advantages of civilization and were ready to fight for it when the test came. Twenty-four of them enlisted from a total adult male population of thirty-eight, a remarkably high percentage, especially in view of the fact that the majority of them were married men. One of their number, Alexander Brass, was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry in action. He is married and the father of seven children. He is the bandmaster of the File Hills Colony Brass Band, and organization that is well known throughout the province and which rendered excellent service in assisting at recruiting and Red Cross meetings and other patriotic gatherings.
Another Indian community in Saskatchewan with an exceptionally high record of enlistment is the Cote band, which sent twenty-two men to the front from a total adult male population of forty-three, another case where practically no eligible men were left at home. Their reserve is located in the vicinity of old Fort Pelly, one of the earliest Hudson Bay posts established in the province.
A Saskatchewan Indian, Joe Thunder, who enlisted with the 128th Battalion and was later tratr55nsferred to the 50th, won the Military Medal in circumstances that even in the Great War were of singularly dramatic and exceptional character. Upon being separated from his platoon, he was surrounded by six Germans, all of whom he bayoneted. Private Thunder was severely wounded in March 1918, and at the time of writing (February, 1919) is slowly recovering his health in a convalescent hospital. He wears a scarf pin made from a bone that was taken from his leg as a result of his wound.
The present generation of the Blood, Blackfoot, and Piegan nations in Alberta are the grandsons of those warlike riders of the plains, the hunters of the buffalo, so familiar to readers of romance. Their hunting-grounds, which were once the boundless extent of the vast prairie lands, have now dwindled to a few reserves. They had exchanged unlimited freedom for the supervision of Government officials. Of their unnumbered herds of buffalo there remain but a few survivors kept as curiosities in national parks. Yet notwithstanding all these changes, the intrepid spirit of their sires yet exists; and they were well and gallantly represented in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, where the ringing appellations of Mountain Horse, Coming Singing, White Bull, and Strangling Wolf stand out strikingly among the more prosaic if equally heroic Smiths, Browns, and Joneses of the regimental roll-calls. [page 262]
One of these Blood Indians, Albert Mountain Horse, although he held a commission as lieutenant, enlisted as a private in August, 1914, in order to be the sooner at the front. He was badly gassed upon three different occasions, and as a result contracted consumption. After a lingering illness in an English hospital, he was finally sent back to Canada, but died at Quebec, in November, 1915, before he was able to return to the reserve. He was given a military funeral at Calgary. There was a large attendance at this ceremony, including both Indians and citizens of Calgary. So many were desirous of attending the service that it was impossible to admit them all in the church in which it was held, and it was consequently necessary to issue tickets of admission. Archdeacon Tims, who officiated, delivered his address in Indian. Seated in the chancel were five chiefs of the Blood nation, whose names are Shot Both Sides, Weasel Fat, Running Wolf, One Spot, and Running Antelope. During the funeral procession a number of the older Indians broke out into a weird war chant, and the strange intermingling of Christian and pagan rites produced a curious effect which will long be remembered by those who witnessed it. The following extract from the last letter written by him to his mother throws a light upon the character of this young Indian officer, who was but twenty-two years of age at the time of his death. “I have a German helmet for you. I took it from a Prussian guard. I gave him the steel through his head and took his helmet. I haven’t been up to the trenches for a long time now. The doctor said he was going to send me to the hospital. I told him I would sooner die like a man in the trenches than have a grave dug for me. I am hoping to see you by the end of the year.” The wish expressed in the last sentence was, unfortunately, never to be realized.
The Indians of British Columbia are not of so warlike a disposition as those of the central and eastern parts of the Dominion and they are of a conservative type of character that renders them averse to leaving their homes upon any venture of an unfamiliar nature. Nevertheless they have contributed several hundred good soldiers to the Expeditionary Force, and some of them have records of notable distinction.
When the exemption tribunal, under the Military Service Act, for the Okanagan district in British Columbia, began its work, it was found that every Indian of the Head of the Lake band who came [page 263] within the first class called, that is to say, unmarried men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-five, had already enlisted.
One of the Okanagan Indians, Private George McLean, was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, in recognition of an extraordinary feat of valour performed by him at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Private McLean, single-handed and armed with a dozen bombs, destroyed no less than nineteen of the enemy and captured fourteen before being severely wounded himself.
A number of Indian recruits from British Columbia found their way into the Mesopotamian service. One of these Indians, David Bernardan, a member of the Oweekayno band, located in the vicinity of Bella Coola, on the north coast of the province, was placed in command of a motor transport vessel on the Euphrates river.
An Indian from Alert Bay, Edwin Victor Cook, was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He was twice wounded, and finally killed in the latter months of the war. Like a number of other Indian soldiers, he was married in England.
Dan Pearson, a member of the Metlakatla band, which is located near Prince Rupert, was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in action. He subsequently died of pneumonia.
At the front the Indian soldiers gave an excellent account of themselves, and their officers were most enthusiastic in praise of their qualities of courage, discipline, and intelligence. Many interesting letters written from the front by Indian soldiers have been preserved. Their diction is quaint but graphic, and is permeated throughout with a distinctive racial flavour that is unmistakable; the native Indian rhetoric and prodigality of language is noticeably in contrast to the terse and matter of fact style that usually characterizes the letter of a modern soldier.
Many of the Indian recruits had spent a great part of their life in hunting, and they were naturally expert marksmen. In consequence of this experience they were able to do excellent work as snipers, and some of them have remarkable records in that branch of the service. The Indian sharp-shooter will sit by the hour, still as a bronze statue, watching from a vantage-point for his prey. He has a picturesque method of recording the results of his unerring aim,—for each enemy whom he despatches he cuts a notch on the stock of his rifle.
We have already made references to Philip McDonald, an Iroquois Indian of St. Regis, Quebec, and his record as a sniper with the [page 264] 8th Battalion. Two other Indian snipers of the same unit also won distinction. One of them, named Riel, was a grandson of the famous rebel, Louis Riel. The name of the other, a Western Indian, was Balendine. When Riel was killed, thirty-eight notches were counted on his gun; and when McDonald in turn was killed, it was found that he had recorded forty successful hits in the same manner. Balendine, the third and only surviving member of the trio, and who has returned home to his wife and family, has fifty notches on his gun.
Their method of attack did much towards demoralizing the entire German system of sniping. They were given a free hand and they originated a very effective mode of discomfiting the enemy snipers. By using sand-bags the Indians would construct a position for concealment behind which they would remain for hours at a time, awaiting the appearance of the enemy at his sniping post; and even when he would appear the Indian would not shoot too soon, but would prefer to wait the time when the German would from over-confidence show a little more of his body, and thereby add another notch to the stock of the Indian’s gun.
But the greatest sniper among the Canadian Indians, and for that matter in the entire British Army, was Lance-Corporal Norwest, a full-blooded Indian who came from the vicinity of Edmonton and who enlisted with the 50th Battalion at Calgary. He was officially credited with one hundred and fifteen observed hits, which is the highest sharp-shooting record in the annals of the British Army. He is described as a rather short and powerfully built man, with a very pleasant face and clear and remarkably steady eye, and calmness of manner which never left him for a moment, either in a dangerous emergency or in conversation with officers of the highest rank. He carried a special rifle fitted with a telescopic sight that was the admiration and envy of all his fellow snipers. He died, shot through the head by a German sniper, on August 18th, 1918, while endeavouring with two companions to locate a nest of enemy snipers that had been causing a considerable amount of trouble to the advance posts of the Canadian front-line companies. Although his record stands as one hundred and fifteen, it has been pointed out that this by no means represents the number of casualties that must have been caused by him among the enemy, as he did not claim any hit unless his observer was present and confirmed it. Norwest would wait for days for a man and would never fire unless his position [page 265] was absolutely secure from enemy observation. His patience and perseverance are said to have appeared to be almost superhuman. He spent much of his time in No Man’s Land, and upon frequent occasions in the dark hours of the night he actually penetrated the enemy lines, where he would wait and watch, finally bag his quarry, with the sureness of the true Indian huntsman, at early dawn, and then return safely to his own lines. Just prior to the last drive that preceded the signing of the Armistice he was detailed to remain in the transport lines, as he had been almost constantly in action during his entire two years in France; but as a result of his persistent pleading, he was allowed to go forward with the attack, in which he rendered invaluable service by destroying enemy snipers and putting machine-gun posts out of action. He won the Military Medal and Bar. He is buried at Warvillers, a small hamlet, in the capture of which he had played a conspicuous part. Upon his grave his sorrowing comrades wrote in a spirit of profound admiration and respect, “It must have been a damned good sniper that got Nor-west.”
The 107th Pioneer Battalion, which went overseas under the command of the late Lieut.-Colonel Glen Campbell, of Winnipeg, formerly Chief Inspector of Indian Agencies for the Department of Indian Affairs, had more than five hundred Indians on its roll. Among these were representatives of many different tribes, including Crees, Saulteaux, and Sioux from the North and West, Mohawks, Onondagas, Oneidas, Tuscaroras, Delawares, and Chippewas from Ontario and Quebec, and Micmacs from the Maritime Provinces. The late Colonel Campbell praised the courage, discipline, and intelligence of his Indian soldiers in the most enthusiastic terms, and particularly commented upon their ability to adapt themselves without complaint to awkward circumstances and bad weather, which rendered their efficiency in a pioneer battalion far above the average.
Two of the Indian members of this battalion, Privates O. Baron and A.W. Anderson, were awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry in action. Several of them qualified for commissions after their arrival in England.
Colonel Campbell, who had great fluency in a number of Indian languages, frequently gave the word of command on parade, and sometimes even held orderly-room trials, in Indian. This procedure [page 266] was actually necessary in some cases, as many of the Indians did not understand English.
At Hill 70, near Lens, the Indian companies of the 107th were assigned the perilous undertaking of digging communication trenches between the Canadian and German front lines. This work was going forward while the Germans were conducting an offensive, and naturally the casualties were heavy. Despite the fact that shells were dropping on every side, the stoical Indians went on working away amid the roar and wreckage of battle with as little apparent agitation, to quote the words of one of their officers, as though “they were digging a potato plot.” Notwithstanding the exhausting ordeal that they had gone through on this day and the terrible loss suffered by the battalion, the Indians started to work again after only a very short rest without the slightest murmur of dissatisfaction. Three of these Indians, Tom Longboat, Joe Keeper, and A. Jamieson, had won fame in athletic circles as long-distance runners, and another, John Nackaway, had been a runner for the Hudson’s Bay Company in the Far North before joining the battalion. Their training rendered them of invaluable service as despatch carriers at the front.
About one hundred Indians were recruited in the remote regions of the Hudson Bay and Patricia districts. Many of them had their first glimpse of civilization as a result of joining the forces. Among these Indian recruits was one named Semia, a full-blooded Indian from Osnaburg, in the Patricia district. In the summer of 1916 a party of tourists happened to visit Semia’s home. Through an interpreter the tourists told him about the war; and although he was unable to speak a word of English, he decided to journey to Port Arthur for the purpose of enlisting. He joined the 141st Battalion at that place and soon became one of the smartest and best trained soldiers of the regiment. For a time he would not leave the armoury to venture into the streets of the city for fear of being lost, and would only do so in company with another Indian soldier. The city of Port Arthur was a revelation to this son of the forest, who had never before seen electric cars, street lights, automobiles, railways, and steamers. He had never before even been in a village of whites and a canoe was the largest vessel of his acquaintance. Subsequently he crossed the ocean, had his fourteen days of leave in London, saw seven months of active service in the trenches, participated in the terrible Battle of Passchendaele, and was severely wounded. He [page 267] was thirteen months in an English hospital and during this period he learned to speak English. His intention is to return to his home in the remote North, where he will doubtless have many wonderful stories to tell his fellow tribesmen of his strange experiences in the great world.
Another interesting case was that of John Campbell, a full-blooded Indian who lived on the Arctic coast, near Hershell Island, and who travelled three thousand miles by trail, canoe, and river steamer in the summer of 1918 to enlist with the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Vancouver. He proceeded on foot from the Arctic coast to the head of the Porcupine river, and thence to Fort Yukon, where he secured employment for several months in order to provide himself with the means of transportation to Vancouver. He was keenly disappointed when the termination of hostilities removed his opportunity of reaching the trenches.
While the Indian soldiers at the front were battling their way into the pages of history, the Indians at home were also doing their part in a very effectual if less heroic and spectacular manner by the production of foodstuffs, the generous contributions to war funds, and energetic participation in Red Cross work and other war activities. Throughout the Dominion, from the outbreak of hostilities, at least in all the settled districts, the Indians displayed an intelligent and enthusiastic interest in the progress of the struggle. The education afforded them by the Indian schools conducted under the auspices of the Dominion Government and the various religious denominations enabled them to keep in touch with the course of events by reading the newspapers and periodicals, and they seemed well able to comprehend the nature of the issues and the character of the principles at stake. The development of such an intellectual standard among the Indians amply compensates the country for the expenditure involved in their education.
Memorials were prepared by many of the bands and forwarded either to His Majesty King George V, to the Governor-General of Canada, or to the Department of Indian Affairs, testifying to their loyalty and their ardent wish to do all within their power both by contributions of men and money to assist in the carrying on of the war.
The following communication, which was addressed by the Six Nations Council to His Majesty upon the occasion of the death of [page 268] Lord Kitchener, is typically characteristic of the dignity, eloquence, and ornateness of style peculiar to the Indian rhetorician.
Six Nations Council Chamber.
To His Most Excellent Majesty
George V King and Emperor.
May it please Your Imperial Majesty: We the Chiefs of the Six Nations in Council assembled, having heard with the most profound regret and sorrow of the very dark cloud of calamity that has been overcast through Your Majesty’s Dominions by the shocking report that Your Majesty’s Great and Trusted War Chief, Earl Kitchener, had become one of the many victims of the most cruel war the world has ever known.
The Chiefs, however, are comforted by the knowledge that “The Great Spirit moves in a mysterious way His unlooked for wonders to perform,” that He makes no mistakes, and that He will yet over-rule this lamentable event for the ultimate success of Your Majesty’s righteous cause: somehow it may be that He has just the man for the hour: they know not, but He knows.
The Chiefs of the Six Nations condole with their great War Chief Onondiyoh in the dark hour of the Empire’s bereavement and beg to remain
Your Majesty’s Loyal Allies,
Chief Abram Lewis, Mohawk
Chief Peter Isaac, Seneca
Chief David John, Onondaga
Chief David Jamieson, Cayuga
Chief Peter Clause, Oneida
Chief Richard Hill, Tuscarora
The Indians, both as bands and as individuals, throughout the settled parts of the Dominion, were very open-handed, in proportion to their means, in their contributions to the Patriotic, Red Cross, Belgian Relief, and other war funds, the amounts thus donated comprising in all a total of $44,545.46. In addition to this, sums amounting to $8,750 were offered, but the Indian Department would not sanction their payment, as the bands in question were not in a position to make the outlay. This is an excellent showing in view of the fact that the financial resources of the Indians are very limited, that the total Indian population in Canada is very little [page 269] more than one hundred thousand, of whom fully one-quarter are located in remote, outlying districts, which rendered it impracticable for these latter to make any contribution.
• • •
Among the many generous contributions recorded in the foregoing list, special attention must be drawn to the amounts donated by the Indians of File Hills, Saskatchewan, whose subscriptions to the various funds total $8,562, an exceptionally good showing in view of the fact that their population is about three hundred and sixty. The fact that they were able to make such munificent donation in proportion to their numbers clearly indicates the success of the measures hereinbefore referred to which are undertaken by the Government for their advancement. Patriotic work among the File Hills Indians began almost from the outset of the war, and as early as the fall of 1914 every man in the colony pledged himself to give the value of fifty bushels of oats. A number of the older Indians each contributed a load of wood every month, a method which was also adopted by the Stony Indians in Alberta.
On many of the reserves the Indian women formed Red Cross societies and patriotic leagues. These organizations were identical in character with like societies in white communities. They were energetic in their work and succeeded in accomplishing excellent results. They knitted socks, sweaters, and mufflers, and made bandages, and provided various comforts for the soldiers, and also held garden parties, bazaars, and other social entertainments in order to raise money for patriotic purposes.
The sale of basket and beadwork made by the Indian women, this being a native industry among them, was a novel and very successful means of securing funds for war needs. The first society of the above nature to be organized on a reserve was the Six Nations Patriotic League, which was formed in October, 1914, and continued its work with great success until the conclusion of the war.
After the mobilization of Brock’s Rangers, another women’s patriotic society was formed on the Six Nations reserve, under the name of the Brock’s Rangers Benefit Society. Its purpose was to minister specially to the needs of the Indian companies of this battalion, to which reference has been made already. Their work was very thorough, and no Indian member of the battalion was left out [page 270] in the distribution of the plentiful supply of good things to eat and wear that were provided by these industrious and public-spirited Indian women. When the Armistice was signed, the society had still $200 on hand, and it proposes to use this as a nucleus towards the formation of a fund for the purpose of erecting a memorial to the Six Nations braves who died in France.
The Indian women of the Oneidas of the Thames, who are also Iroquois, formed a patriotic league in 1916 for the purpose of providing comforts for the members of their band at the front, of whom, as we have elsewhere observed, there were forty-eight from a total adult male population of two hundred and twenty. In its first year this society sent twenty-five boxes overseas. In 1917 the number was increased to one hundred and four; and in 1918 seventy-four boxes were sent up to the time of the signing of the Armistice. These boxes each contained thirty pairs of socks and twenty-four khaki sweaters.
The women of the Chippewas of Saugeen formed an energetic branch of the Red Cross Society for the purpose of providing com-forts for the members of their band who were overseas, of whom, as we have already stated, there were not less than forty-eight from a total adult male population of one hundred and ten. The society gave a series of box socials and in this way alone raised more than $400 for the benefit of their soldiers.
The women of the Wikwemikong Indian village on Manitoulin Island raised more than $200 for the Patriotic Fund by giving a series of concerts and euchre parties and the holding of a rummage-sale.
The women of the Sucker Creek band, also located on Manitoulin Island, raised a like amount by giving concerts and socials. The Indian women of the unceded portion of Manitoulin Island knitted several hundred pairs of socks for the soldiers and sent a large number of boxes overseas containing eatables and various comforts.
The women of the Rolling River band located in the vicinity of Birtle, Manitoba, formed a branch of the Red Cross Society, and the excellence of their beadwork sold for the benefit of the fund was especially commented upon.
In the spring of 1915 a branch of the Red Cross Society was formed at the File Hills Colony, an Indian community the nature of which has already been described herein. In the fall of the same year a branch of the Patriotic Society was organized at the colony. [page 271]
The women of the Indian bands located at Qu’Appelle and also those at Pelly organized a very successful branch of the Red Cross Society. The head of the office of the Saskatchewan Provincial Branch of the Red Cross reported that the sewing and knitting from these Red Cross societies was fully equal in quality and workmanship to that received from any part of the province.
When the need of greater production became so urgent in the latter years of the war, an appeal was made to the Indian farmers throughout the Dominion, and especially in Ontario and the Prairie Provinces, through the intermediary of the Department of Indian Affairs. Greater production campaigns were organized on the reserves, and the Indians set to work with a commendable degree of public spirit and patriotic enthusiasm. As a result of their efforts many extensive tracts of land that had hitherto lain idle were placed under cultivation; a valuable contribution was thus made to the food supply of the nation, and work of permanent importance accomplished.
The Indians responded well within their means to the Victory Loan appeal. Many of them invested their savings in this fund, and thus the part played by their race in the great struggle was rounded off by participation in every phase of war activity. Amounts thus invested by individual Indians in a number of cases exceeded one thousand dollars. The largest Victory Loan investment made by any individual Indian was that of Baptiste George, chief of the Inkameep reserve, in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, who purchased Victory bonds to the amount of $21,000.
The return of the Indian soldiers from the front will doubtless bring about great changes on the reserves. These men who have been broadened by contact with the outside world and its affairs, who have witnessed the many wonders and advantages of civilization, will not be content to return to their old Indian mode of life. Each one of them will be [a] missionary of the spirit of progress, and their people cannot long fail to respond to their vigorous influence. Thus the war will have hastened that day, the millennium of those engaged in Indian work, when all the quaint old customs, the weird and picturesque ceremonies, the sun dance and the potlatch and even the musical and poetic native languages shall be as obsolete as the buffalo and the tomahawk, and the last tepee of the Northern wilds give place to a model farmhouse. In other words, the Indian shall become one with his neighbour in his speech, life and habits, [page 272] thus conforming to that worldwide tendency towards universal standardization which would appear to be the essential underlying purport of all modern social evolution.
The unselfish loyalty, gallantry, intelligence, resourcefulness, and efficiency displayed by Indians from all the nine provinces of Canada should throw a new light upon the sterling qualities of a race whose virtues are perhaps not sufficiently known or appreciated.
The Indians themselves, moreover, cannot but feel an increased and renewed pride of race and self-respect that should ensure the recovery of that ancient dignity and independence of spirit that were unfortunately lost to them in some measure through the depletion of the game supply, their natural source of livelihood, and the ravages of vices that had no place in their life before the advent of the white man.
The Indians deserve well of Canada, and the end of the war should mark the beginning of a new era for them wherein they shall play an increasingly honourable and useful part in the history of a country that was once the free and open hunting-ground of their forefathers. [page 273]
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