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Sunday, September 9, 2018


As Arthur Heming writes in his 1921 book, The Drama of the Forests, about the hunting and tracking skills of the Indians of Canada, he includes this chapter, which moved me enough to share with you. I've also found some photos to add.


The forest Indians had been practising camouflage for centuries and, no doubt, that was one reason why many of the Indians in the Canadian Expeditionary Force did such remarkable work as snipers.

Sampson Comego
For instance: Sampson Comego destroyed twenty-eight of the enemy. Philip Macdonald killed forty, Johnny Ballantyne fifty-eight. "One of their number, Lance-Corporal Johnson Paudash," as the Department of Indian Affairs states, "received the Military Medal for his distinguished gallantry in saving life under heavy fire and for giving a warning that the enemy were preparing a counter-attack at Hill Seventy; the counter-attack took place twenty-five minutes after Paudash gave the information. It is said that a serious reverse was averted as a result of his action. Like other Indian soldiers, he won a splendid record as a sniper, and is officially credited with having destroyed no less than eighty-eight of the enemy.

Johnson Paudash
Another Indian who won fame at the front was Lance-Corporal Norwest; he was one of the foremost snipers in the army and was officially credited with one hundred and fifteen observed hits. He won the Military Medal and bar.

Still another, Corporal Francis Pegahmagabow, won the Military Medal and two bars. He distinguished himself signally as a sniper and bears the extraordinary record of having killed three hundred and seventy-eight of the enemy. His Military Medal and two bars were awarded, however, for his distinguished conduct at Mount Sorrell, Amiens, and Passchendaele. At Passchendaele, Corporal Pegamagabow led his company through an engagement with a single casualty, and subsequently captured three hundred Germans at Mount Sorrell.

Henry Norwest
"The fine record of the Indians in the great war appears in a peculiarly favourable light when it is remembered that their services were absolutely voluntary, as they were specially exempted from the operation of the Military Service Act, and that they were prepared to give their lives for their country without compulsion or even the fear of compulsion."

Many military medals were won by the Canadian Indians; Captain A.G.E. Smith of the Grand River Band of the Iroquois having been decorated seven times by the Governments of England, France, and Poland, and many distinguished themselves by great acts upon the battlefield.

David Kisek
"Another Indian to be decorated was Dave Kisek. During the heavy fighting around Cambrai he unstrapped a machine gun from his shoulder and advanced about one hundred yards to the German position, where he ran along the top of their trench, doing deadly execution with his machine gun. He, single-handed, took thirty prisoners upon this occasion. This Indian came from the remote regions of the Patricia district.

"Sergeant Clear Sky was awarded the Military Medal for one of the most gallant and unselfish deeds that is recorded in the annals of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. During a heavy gas attack he noticed a wounded man lying in 'No Man's Land' whose gas mask had been rendered useless. Clear Sky crawled to him through the poisonous fumes, removed his own mask, and placed it on the wounded man, whose life was in consequence saved. Sergeant Clear Sky was himself severely gassed as a result of his heroic action.

George McLean
"Joe Thunder was awarded the Military Medal for a feat of arms of an exceptionally dramatic character. He was separated from his platoon and surrounded by six Germans, each of whom he bayoneted.

"George McLean received the Distinguished Conduct Medal in recognition of the performance of a feat which was an extraordinary one even for the great war. Private McLean, single-handed, destroyed nineteen of the enemy with bombs and captured fourteen."

Francis Pegahmagabow
And yet not a single Canadian Indian has claimed that he won the World War -- not even Pegahmagabow, who shot three hundred and seventy-eight Germans.

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