Wednesday 8 November 2023

Indigenous Veterans Day

 Each November 8th we celebrate and honour the contributions of our Indigenous brothers and Sisters to Canadian's war efforts.

This year's entry comes courtesy of the Lethbridge Historical Society's Facebook page.

The Victorian Society of Alberta.

Indigenous Veterans Day, 2023

Each November 8 is Indigenous Veterans Day, which is marked each year to honour the important contributions of Indigenous Peoples in service to Canada. It is part of Veterans Week that leads up to Remembrance Day.

There are many incredible Indigenous veterans from across southern Alberta and this year we highlight Maisstooina (Joe Crow Chief) who, with his brother Nick King, served in the First World War. Their older brother, Bumblebee, tried to enlist but was not accepted into the military.

Maisstooina’s attestation papers note that he was born in 1894 and worked as a labourer prior to enlisting. He enlisted on 15 July 1916 at Macleod, at the age of 22. He enlisted with the 91st battalion and served overseas in the 50th battalion. While overseas, Maisstooina served at many important First World War battles, including Vimy Ridge, and was wounded on 9 September 1918. He was discharged 6 June 1919.

These are the basic facts which can be discovered in his First World War personnel records – just the bare facts.

Fortunately, in 2020, Elder Charlie Crow Chief, Maisstooina’s son, was interviewed by Tim Kalinowski of the Lethbridge Herald (article ran 7 November 2020, Lethbridge Herald).

This interview provides much more detailed information about Maisstooina’s service, including that the two brothers made a pledge to each other prior to enlisting.

“The two men went to a local Sundance together in their white buckskins. On that day in 1916, Joe rode into the Sundance on a white horse and his brother, Nick, on a black horse. The two men vowed to each other when they returned after the war one day they would go to another Sundance, and this time Nick would ride the white horse and Joe the black.” This they did in 1920.

The article also provides details of Maaisstooina’s time in combat:

“One of these night raids almost cost Joe his life when his squadron came under attack from enemy mustard gas shells. Joe was the only survivor. He had lung problems for the rest of his life as a result of this 10month, prolonged exposure on the Western Front to various gas attacks.” (7 Nov 2020)

As well as of his bravery and actions at Vimy Ridge. His “was one of the first in his battalion to make it over the top. His backpack was shredded from constant fire and the heel of his boot had been shot off by the time he got there, but nonetheless Joe and his sergeant managed to get around and in behind the German defences.”

“The sergeant and my dad went right up to the barricade behind the snipers, and when my dad got on top he did the (Blackfoot) War Cry, and the Germans dropped their weapons.’”

As with so many veterans, Maaisstooina had difficulty speaking about his time in combat and would often tell his grandchildren that “he just took care of the horses.”

“When Joe returned to Canada he simply abandoned his unit in Medicine Hat and later became a farmer.”

Maaisstooina passed away on 27 July 1976. Nick King passed away in June 1957.

The photograph shows local Indigenous soldiers in the First World War.

Photo: L-R back row: George Coming Singer; Joe Crow Chief; Dave Mills; George Strangling Wolf; Mike Foxhead (Siksika).
L-R front row: Nick King; Harold Chief Moon; Sergeant Major Bryan; Joe Mountain Horse; Mike Mountain Horse.

No comments:

Post a Comment