Today in celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day the Port Moody Station Museum invites you to a virtual tour of our Great War trench.
In 1914 two-thirds of the Canadian Expeditionary Force may have been British born, but there were also Indigenous Canadians, Japanese Canadians, French-speakers from Quebec and Black Canadians among the fighting men.
Most likely the first Indigenous solider killed in the Great War was Angus Laforce, from Kahnawake, Quebec. He was killed on April 2, 1915. Sadly, his body was never recovered. Lieutenant Cameron D. Brand, from the Six Nations people from Grand River was killed during the counter attack at Ypres. In the beginning of the war racist attitudes prevented active recruitment of Indigenous people. But despite such obstacles, men like Lt. Brand and Laforce found their way into the military.
When World War One started it was not just a European war but a world war. It is estimated that around 4 million non-white men were mobilized in both combat and non-combat roles.
Racialized attitudes gave colonialists and settlers a sense of entitlement to rule their colonial possessions and to involve some subjects in the war.
Resistance to the recruiting of non-white soldiers was based on similar racialized notions. Administrators feared that weapons and training might endanger the white rule status quo. Contrary to such fears there was no uprising in the colonies or Canada.
In fact many Indigenous and other non-white soldiers hoped that their participation in the war would lead to greater recognition and bring about a greater equality. Unfortunately, this hope remained a dream. Individual recognition was achieved, when soldiers earned medals. However systematic racism blocked any true change.
The museum has compiled a short video about Indigenous participation in the Great War.
The video features the museum’s trench display and historical facts and images.
The music: Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag, which would have been a popular piece during the Great War.
The video ends with a short morse code message – not a historic message but a simple tribute to the sniper Francis Pegahmagabow. The simple words “over there” in Ojibwe “iwidi”
Online Image: Lt. James David Moses was a Delaware from the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve near Brantford, Ontario. Moses served with the 107th in France for several months before being seconded in 1917 to the 57th Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps as an aerial observer and gunner. On April 1, 1918, he and his pilot, South African Douglas Trollip, climbed into their DH 4 bomber and flew off on a mission against the Germans and never returned.