Why all Canadians should know the story of a Great War hero known as ‘Peggy’
It’s not straightforward to search out the final resting spot of Cpl. Francis Pegahmagabow.
Whether or not by design or happenstance, the First World War sniper’s grave sits other than the bigger cemetery within the Wasauksing First Nation close to Parry Sound, Ont. Nonetheless, it’s doubtless the person often known as “Peggy” would have thought of the spot to be excellent.
Pegahmagabow isn’t a reputation that first involves thoughts when discussing the Nice Battle, which speaks extra to his ancestry than the actual fact he’s probably the most adorned Indigenous soldier in Canadian historical past.
“Francis’s story is a narrative that I wouldn’t say was forgotten, nevertheless it actually was a type of sleeping tales in our historical past,” says his great-grandson, Brian McInnis.
He was credited with 378 kills, making him the deadliest sniper of the struggle. Nonetheless, he by no means used a spotter when coming into no-man’s land between the trenches so there was by no means a second individual to verify his kills. Whereas some would possibly dispute his claims, there’s no dispute over the 300 German troopers he captured or his work as a scout operating out and in of battles.
“He gained the navy medal thrice, and is considered one of 38 Canadians to ever do that and people are awarded by the Battalion Brigade Commander,” notes creator and historian Timothy Winegard.
So how is it that Pegahmagabow’s exploits are usually not taught in Canadian historical past? Or that he solely had a statue in Parry Sound devoted in his honour in 2016? To grasp that’s to return 100 years when Indigenous individuals, then known as Indians, weren’t allowed to volunteer to battle within the struggle.
It was solely after Canadian Forces started to undergo important losses that Pegahmagabow was allowed to enlist. Over the following 4 years, he fought in probably the most horrific battles of the struggle, together with Passchendaele, Somme and the second battle of Ypres when the Germans used chlorine fuel. In his e-book Sounding Thunder, McInnes recounts a narrative about Pegahmagabow’s superiors asking him to make use of a conventional tobacco providing to vary the course of the winds.
The tales that do exist come largely from his fellow troopers or the write-ups he obtained for his medals. Nice-granddaughter Julia Pegahmagabow remembers a childhood the place the one time she would see Francis open up was round different veterans. His struggle report and life story, she says, must be extra extensively identified.
“There’s a hole in our within the historical past being informed about Canada regarding the work Indigenous individuals did,” she says.
Instantly after the struggle, Indigenous veterans have been extra involved about their high quality of life than recognition for what they did. When Pegahmagabow returned to the shores of Georgian Bay, he nonetheless didn’t have Canadian citizenship. He would die in 1952, 4 years earlier than the Canadian citizenship Act allowed First Nations individuals to qualify for that proper. And the poverty and persecution he knew earlier than the struggle was nonetheless there after it.
“I feel there was a stark realization that, ‘oh, nothing has modified,’” says McInnes. “And if something, when you attempt to make change, you truly expertise an enhanced oppression, an enhanced colonial impact I suppose you might say, and that was one thing that did shock him within the worst method.”
His largest criticism was concerning the so-called Indian Brokers, representatives of the federal government who have been tasked with administering the day-to-day affairs on reserves. Pegahmagabow at one level wanted cash to purchase a pair of footwear however was denied, simply as he was when he utilized for cash by way of the Troopers Settlement Act.
That authorities insurance policies have been in a position to management a person corresponding to Pegahmagabow, says Timothy Winegard, was seen as a propaganda software by Indian Affairs. In the meantime, all Pegahmagabow and different veterans wished was to be accepted.
“They have been attempting to show themselves as equals, to not assimilate, however to show themselves as equals, as Indigenous males, as Indigenous Canadians,” says Winegard.
Pegahmagabow would spend the remainder of his life attempting to attain equality and see management on reserves shift from Indian Brokers to Band Councils. Sadly, he didn’t reside lengthy sufficient to see the fruits of his labour.
He additionally by no means noticed the respect afforded different heroes from the Nice Battle. However over the past decade, that’s begun to vary.
In 2016, a life-size bronze statue of Cpl. Francis Pegahmagabow was in unveiled Parry Sound and the threerd Canadian Ranger Patrol Group HQ Constructing at CFB Borden now bears his identify.
“I feel we’re coming into a future by which there’s the potential for the accomplishments of historic veterans like Francis Pegahmagabow, and all Indigenous veterans, to be informed,” says McInnes.
“I feel additionally we’re in a singular current and place for the longer term, whereby the persevering with accomplishments of our Indigenous service individuals can be informed and acknowledged.”
© 2021 World Information, a division of Corus Leisure Inc.