During the First World War, thousands of Indigenous soldiers served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Many became snipers or reconnaissance scouts, but Indigenous soldiers served in numerous roles throughout the CEF. Fighting in regular military units, over 37 were decorated for bravery during the war.
Despite close camaraderie with non-Indigenous soldiers, their return home was plagued with unequal treatment and marginalization.
Notable Indigenous soldiers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force include long-distance runner Tom Longboat, Cameron Brant, Oliver Milton Martin, Sniper Henry Norwest and Sniper Francis Pegahmagabow whom we featured in our 100 Days of Vimy Post on 13 February 2017.
“The Missing Airman” was written by Nelson Moses, of the Delaware band, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, upon receiving word that his son, Lt. James Moses of 57 Squadron, RAF, had been reported missing-in-action. His body was never identified. Lt. Moses first served in the same 107th (Winnipeg) Battalion as Lt. Milton Martin from our 100 Days of Vimy post of 30 January 2017. (Read it again here: http://www.vimyfoundation.ca/100daysofvimy-january-30-2017/ )
The Missing Airman
By Nelson Moses
O, sometimes yet I feel lonely,
For him who went away overseas;
Time’s healing wing, and time only,
Can soothe the empty heart with ease.
That parting hour was hard to bear,
When we shook hands and said good-bye.
Hope alone breathed over our prayer,
While tears rose up and dimmed each eye.
But our Mother, in sore distress,
Was heard from o’er the restless wave
Her sons falter’d not in her stress,
It was victory, or the grave.
Jim sleeps, with many comrades brave,
Sleep on; your battle is done.
No lonely cross will mark the grave,
Where rests the Empire’s warrior son.