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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

"Red" Indian soldiers in WW I (Canadian)


Guest Steve Turner

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Guest Steve Turner

This is my first post on this site, and I'm hoping that someone might be of assistance (Lord knows few people in Canada seem helpful).

My Grandfather was named John Turner (his great,great,great blah,blah grandfather was a Scot named Philip Turnor...a mapmaker for the Hudson's Bay Company who married a Cree woman in Moosonee after he arrived in the late 1700's-early 1800's).

I have had the fortune of locating my grandfather's "Attestation Paper", which he signed when he and a group of men from his reserve (Indian reservation) signed up for service in the Great War. My brother and I have been trying to track his enlistment and service, but have been unsuccessful using Canadian sources, save for a university-based, online project that scanned close to 600,000 sign-up sheets that recruits had to sign to get overseas.

Here are the links to the front and back pages of his Attestation paper:

Front page:

http://data2.archives.ca/cef/gpc016/642052a.gif

Back page

http://data2.archives.ca/cef/gpc016/642052b.gif

To date, we know this much: he signed up in 1916, and was sent overseas near the end of the year. Shortly after his arrival in England, he was struck down by the influenza, nearly died, got better, spent almost a year in infirmary, and made it into France by late 1917-early 1918, and finished off the war.

We have postcards that he sent from England to my grandmother (he was courting her at the time) which I have shown to my in-laws (who are-ironically- British...my wife is the first of her family born in Canada), and they don't recognize any of the sights from the postcards...other than to say that some of the places "look like they might be from Brighton, or thereabouts" (the in-laws are from Norwich, but all of this is geographically meaningless to me).

I am trying to find out what unit he was with, and the only sure thing I know is that my aunt (who served in WWII in the RCAF) told me that her Dad told her he worked with light railways, and that he hated it because they were always under fire and couldn't do anything to fire back. Some of the men he joined with were sent to the Forestry Corps because of their backwoods experience, and a couple became snipers because of their bush-sense.

We heard another story that he may have been seconded to the British Army rail units, but we can't verify that either. I am aware of some Canadian Rail engineer units ie. 6th Cdn Railway Bn, and we have this great, long honking 1930's photo of his unit reunion taken in downtown North Bay, Ontario (ca. 1932), that has the caption "228th Battalion reunion"....but that says nothing about light railways.

I am hoping that someone may be of assistance and can point me in the right direction, even if it means pointing me back at Canada.

I also (though I roll my eyes at it) use the term "Red" Indian because British people use that to figure out just what kind of indian I'm referring too (I have had to tell my in-laws to don't say that out loud because my people may take offense to such a "Hollywood" term).

If it helps, my Dad's side is Algonquin with a little Cree (and Scottish) thrown in for good measure. My mom's side is Tuscarora (one of the Six Nations ie Mohawks, Senecas etc.)

Both sides have long been allied to the crown, and we have war stories going back to the American Revolutionary War fighting with the Brits against those darned Americans!

Much appreciated;

Steve Turner

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We have postcards that he sent from England to my grandmother (he was courting her at the time) which I have shown to my in-laws (who are-ironically- British...my wife is the first of her family born in Canada), and they don't recognize any of the sights from the postcards...other than to say that some of the places "look like they might be from Brighton, or thereabouts" (the in-laws are from Norwich, but all of this is geographically meaningless to me).

Steve

Post these postcards, scans of both the front and the back.

There are people here from all over Britain. Someone will recognise the places.

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Believe it or not, we have had discussions on this forum concerning these units! You can find a thread concerning the 6th Battalion, Canadian Railway Trrops here . There is a discussion of the 228th Battalion here .

In short, the 228th (with which your fellow enlisted) became the 6th Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops. While in England, they were at Purfleet. They landed in France on April 3, 1917. If you want to follow their adventures, you will find their War Diary here . If you have the patience to sift through the whole thing you may find your man mentioned. The Railway Troops are among the few units who often mentioned individuals in their diaries.

If you are not already aware of this, you may also order a copy of the fellow's service record from Ottawa. You can find details here .

Hopr this helps.

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Hi!

As mentioned above, if you order the full file you will get on average 40 pages, and within that there will be a sheet with information about units your soldier was in, dates he was transferred, moved, etc. In addition you will get medical information, payroll information, and a lot of administrative information pertaining to your soldier.

Following the war diary is another good suggestion.

Good luck!

Marika

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Guest Steve Turner

jhill,marika et al:

Folks: Thanks for the information! After getting the run around at archives (Canada) for the past couple of months, you are a breathe of fresh air! and I truly appreciate the quick replies!

I'd post a picture of my Grandpa and the men he paddled out of the bush with when they signed up, but I don't know how to use this site....can any of you help with that too?

Bep: I'll have to get the postcards from my mum. We used to leave all our old family pictures and postcards at our family cabin in the bush, but a big forest-fire back in '78 made us rethink that. From my own recollection, the postcards had pictures of ferris wheels beside a rocky or gravelly beach, a boardwalk, people walking around wearing turn-of-the-(last)-century clothing etc. Each postcard had name identifiers, and I did show these to my wife's Uncle (An english "Bobby" from London) who is into antiquities. Even he was at a loss to explain the locations.

He also told me that the English have a habit of renaming certain places and streets every few years, and that some of these places may have been cleared away for defensive purposes during the second war, or might have been blasted by an errant bomb.

If I can get them soon, I'd gladly scan them.

Steve

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HI!

Here are my Native Canadian links for some light reading.

Metis Veterans

Mike Mountain Horse

"Native Soldiers, Foreign Battlefields"

Native Canadians at War

I would suggest you also burn a couple of CDs with your photos and put one in your safety deposit box just to be safe.

Marika

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Guest Steve Turner

Marika:

I have read the works you posted and will admit that they are signal works in a field that was usually passed over for many years. I'm trying to get together some of the old oral stories that complement many of the written ones that are coming out now.

The earliest story I have comes through my mother's side, and goes back to my great grandfather's great grandmother, who lived in the late 1700's. She recalled the time that she and her family fled upstate New York to where Six Nations is now located to escape the rampaging Americans (I tease one of my Marine cousins -back from Iraq now- for "fighting for the enemy", and how old,old,old granny would be twisting in her grave over that now!).

The furthest back I can get on my Dad's side -with verifiable documentation- are three warriors from Temagami who fought in the western theatre (Mackinac area) during the 1812 war.

I have even noted our old tribal stories of when the Algonquin and Iroquois used to fight each other, and the old French sources for comparison sake record this time as the Iroquois Wars from 1640-1700.

My particular interest is WW I and II, because I can still access living history from at least secondary resources (aunts, uncles etc.).

I still find it unfortunate that the Canadian army did not use their own Aboriginal resources as signallers in both wars -especially WW I, when there were far more fluent Algonkian-speakers enlisted than in WW II. The Huns could interpret Urdu, but it would've been neat to see them fumble through Ojibway or Cree!

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Steve,

Interesting thoughts on the signal efforts. It would have been better if they considered the native Indian's skills in this area.

Unfortunately, it seemed that with many non British Isles ethnic groups, they were only considered when the recruiting officers became desperate, although I think there always was some respect afforded to the native Indians because of their legendary abilities.

Marika

P.S. I've analyzed the names on the Southampton Ontario war memorial. There are several native Canadians on that memorial - one is Daniel Nawash. If you look at his record here and then the war memorial in the photo collection you will see that he was with the Saugeen Indian Reserve, Bruce County. Another Nawash was killed in WW2.

Daniel Nawash

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Guest Steve Turner

Marika:

The Nawash's are a very large family and are centred around the peninsula, mainly at Cape Croker. However, you'll find that name on many of the reserves around Georgian Bay, as they've married into a number of different bands.

Some of the most renowned WW I vets, like the great sniper Francis Pegamahgabow, come from the Georgian Bay area of Ontario.

One of the main reasons that I'm interested in the First War and its impact on Canadian Indians is that many of the men who served were only a couple of generations away from those who still lived in the traditional way -prior to the government's installation of the reserve system.

For instance, one of the neat stories that has been passed down from this time occured just before the young men from my Dad's reserve paddled off to sign up and fight the Kaiser. Although most of the tribespeople were nominally Christian by WW I, one of the Elders sent a tobacco offering to a renowned shaman from further north to do a shaking tent ceremony to find out what was going to happen to those who were joining up.

As the story goes, the shaman paddled down to Bear Island and had the people build a small tent in an open area for him. After performing certain ceremonies, he asked some of the people to tightly bind him and place him in the tent. After placing him in the tent, the gathering heard all manner of voices and unearthly noises emanating from the tent, and the tent began to shake and eventually levitated off the ground.

Once the tent came back down to earth, the shaman emerged -unbound- and told the gathering that he received communications from the spirits that told him what would happen to the young men from the community who were going off to war.

He said that all the men -save one- would be injured overseas, but that they would all come back alive...and that is exactly what happened. As I said in my original post, my Grandpa almost died of the influenza overseas, as did a few of the other lads from the community. A couple did receive war wounds, and the one fellow who saw combat as a sniper was the only one who remained unscathed during the course of the war.

Still gives me chills when I think about that. I often wonder if any of the Aboriginal people who fought with the Aussie, NZ or other Commonwealth armies had ceremonies like that before going to war.

Steve

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Hi Steve,

We have had several discussions regarding Black troops serving in units, but what I recall, I think that Indian (ie. First Nations) men had little difficulty in enlisting in the CEF, certainly in battalions here in the Maritimes. There were a fairly large number of Micmac and Maliseet in the 26th Battalion.

Cheers from New Brunswick,

Terry

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There are, as far as known, two Canadian soldiers from Indian origin commemorated on the Menin Gate:

FOXHEAD, Private, MIKE, 895403. 50th Bn. Canadian Infantry (Alberta Regt.). 23rd October 1917. Age 20. Son of the late Fox Head and his wife, Mary Many Shots, of Blackfoot Indian Reservation. A Blackfoot Indian of Alberta. Panel 24 - 28 - 30

CORNELIUS, Private, WALTER, 802632. 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles (Quebec Regt.). 30th October 1917. Age 30. Son of Richard Cornelius, of Morrow. Ontario, and the late Julia Cornelius. Member of the Oneida Tribe of the Six Nations. Panel 30 and 32

Jacky

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Guest Steve Turner

Terry:

I have some Mik'maq (that's the way in which they refer to themselves in print....everyone else calls them "Micmac") friends from the coast here in Toronto.

I'm aware that they signed up in large numbers, but of particular interest is one of these folks - a Mik'maq lady from Newfoundland- who says that her home community (Conn River(?)), suffered terribly as a result of what happened to the Newfoundland Regiment at at Beaumont-Hamel on 1 July, 1916.

I had no realization that so many people from those communities entered the British army during that War. She said her Grandfather was the only boy left in the family solely because he was too young to serve. All his older brothers were killed that day.

I think I'll tell her to come and check out this forum because she would like to know more about her deceased family, and pre-confederated Newfoundland would have to be covered by British records, I assume.

Steve

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Guest Steve Turner

Jacky:

I noted that you are from Ypres. If you find out any further information on Cdn Indian soldiers from Six Nations, I'd be very interested in finding that out too (my mom is from Six Nations, and my Six Nations grandpa served as a sapper over there).

I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the descriptions you provided made mention of "an Onieda from Six Nations". Even in Canada, many people don't realize that there actually are Six different Indian nations that make up the Iroquois Confederacy - The Onieda, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Tuscarora and the "scary" Mohawk (not scary to me...I work with some Mohawk folks and I regularly tease them...they get all upset, but I'm bigger than they are! haha).

You may notice that some names are the same. This is very usual on Cdn Indian reservations. Some of the big family names from the Six Nations area are:

Hill, Lickers, Staats, Mt. Pleasant, Styres, Longboat, Johnson, Brant, Beaver and Maracle.

If you recognize any of these last names on the Menin Gate, I'd like to let folks on that reserve know about it.

Thanx;

Steve

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Steve,

I do look forward to seeing your photographs.

Here's another obituary from my files. I don't get too many Native Canadians in my files, but then again I've only gone through 1916 & 1918 for the Toronto papers.

Marika

post-1-1108658596.jpg

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Guest Steve Turner

Here is a picture of my Grandpa and the fellows he joined up with. My Grandpa is the fellow in the middle, back row. The picture came from a scan of an old postcard. on the back the title of the card is "The Kaiser's Nightmare"

post-1-1108661872.jpg

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Guest Steve Turner

Paul:

In respect to your post about Standing Buffalo, do you know if his community was called Dakota? The only Sioux reserve in Canada is the Dakota reserve south of Winnipeg. It would make sense that the gentleman was in a Manitoba regiment.

Steve

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Steve,

Possibly found another one on the Menin Gate:

LICKERS, Private, THOMAS, 452459. 2nd Bn. Canadian Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regt.). 26th April 1916. Panel 10 - 26 - 28

Checked database adress is:

Six Nation Res. Brantford?

If you have other names I will look on the register of the Menin Gate.

Cheers,

Jacky

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Steve,

That's a great photo - particularly interesting is the "Kaiser's Nightmare" comment.

Here's another one - the great great grandson of Chief Joseph Brant (Thayendenaga) -

and also killed in one of the earlier engagements for the Canadians - the 2nd battle of Ypres. Lt. Cameron Donald Brant, 4th Batt. CEF

Here's some info on Brant from the Brant Museum website (where there is also a genealogical analysis of the Brant family):

Cameron Donald Brant was born on Aug. 12, 1887 in New Credit Indian Reserve, Brant County, Ontario, Canada. He was described as 5 foot 5", brown eyes, dark brown hair (source - military attestation / Sept. 22 1914). His name is on the Menin Gate on Panel 18-24-26-30.

He was the great great grandson of Joseph Brant [Thayendanegea] on both his mother and father’s side. His great grandfather had converted to Methodism and the Brants were very involved with the Methodist Church at New Credit. Brant attended school at New Credit and then attended Hagersville High School.

After graduating from high school he attended military school at Wolseley Barracks in London. He served for six years with the 37th Regiment, Haldimand Rifles before resigning in 1912 and moving to Hamilton, Ontario. He enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on August 7, 1914, and was the first member from the Six Nations Reserve to do so.

He received a lieutenant’s commission at Valcartier, Quebec while assigned to the 4th Infantry Battalion. The battalion was shipped out for Europe on October 3, 1914, as part of the first Canadian contingent. In February of 1915 the battalion was sent to France and the next month Brant’s commanding officer said of him "The boys will follow him anywhere."

In Canada’s first major conflict of WWI, the Battle of Ypres in Belgium, he led his men ‘over the top’ and he was killed on April 23, 1915, and his body was never recovered. Brant was the first of thirty members of the Six Nations to be killed in World War One. He was a member of the Military Orange Lodge that was formed among the members and officers of the 4th Battalion.

In 1919 the council of the Six Nations honoured his memory when the Mississaugas erected a memorial tablet in the New Credit Methodist Church in recognition of his service to his country.

**********

Marika (I worked two summers at the Joseph Brant museum)

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Guest Steve Turner

Jacky:

If there is anyway that you could get a digital photo of any of these names on the gate (within reach), I be greatly in your debt. I have a friend named Pat Lickers whose Grandfather was captured around the same time that Donald Brant was killed -during 2nd Ypres. Chances are very likely that the Thomas Lickers you located and Pat's Grandfather (his name escapes me) were relations. I know that Pat loves to acquire more info on this subject because he didn't grow up on the reserve. The Lickers are primarily from the Cayuga Nation, but have also married into nearly every other nation from the Confederacy.

If it is too much of a hassle to get a digital, don't worry about it. It just means that I'll have to wait a few more years before I get a chance to make it across the pond.

Meegwetch (means thank you in Algonquin/Ojibway)

Steve

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Paul:

In respect to your post about Standing Buffalo, do you know if his community was called Dakota?  The only Sioux reserve in Canada is the Dakota reserve south of Winnipeg.  It would make sense that the gentleman was in a Manitoba regiment.

Steve

Well Steve I can't figure out why but I can't find him on the casualty list of Commonwealth War Graves Commsssion though I have found him before, pisses me off, buried at Ayette.

Another native Canadian I know of is Lance Corporal John Shiwak, Newfoundland Regiment, an Inuit from Rigolet Labrador where family members still live, KIA 20 11 17. In Memoirs of a Blue Puttee there is a picture of John wearing a kilt! He is named on Newfoundland Memorial Beaumont Hamel Somme.

As you know there is a fine memorial to native Canadian soldiers in Ottawa near Parliament Hill.

Well I finally found it by finding the cemetery name then looked through the names in the cemetery , can't figure why I could not find him usual way.

Bucqoy Road Cemetery Ficheux on D919 between Arras & Ayette. KIA 29 9 18, pivate 2413310 son of Sioux Chief Julius Standing Buffalo Fort Qu Appelle Manitoba.

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