Read All Over reviews, April
By Kane X. Faucher
April 26, 2012
For King and Kanata: Canadian Indians and
the First World War
Timothy C. Winegard
University of Manitoba Press, 2012. 224 pgs.
Although they fought with loyalty and distinction in the First World War, the engagement of Indians in the European theatre is perplexingly underreported, with records being scant, but their sacrifices real.
Winegard opts for the politically loaded word of Indian to denote all those belonging to Aboriginals or First Nations as a means of fidelity to the understanding of these groups during this time period, not as a pejorative.
Around 300 Canadian Indians gave their lives in the war. The inclusion of Indians followed British-Canada’s pragmatic approach in employing them on account of their skills, a belief (following the naive racial theories of the time) in their martial abilities, and the need for manpower for replacement troops.
Indian allegiance was less indexed on Canada as such, and more to the British Crown. It was believed in certain Canadian political circles that Indian participation in war could function as assimilation by other means. What is of particular interest in the Indian deployment was that no specifically Indian unit was created; instead, Indians were scattered throughout regiments, generally assigned duties as scouts and snipers.
If Indian communities felt their active participation in the war would lead to better enfranchisement, the postwar years of continued control, paternalism, denial of equal rights and privileges and degradation of socioeconomic conditions proved a bitter disillusionment. Indians fought and died as equals on the battlefield, but their contribution and sacrifice was conveniently forgotten by those who needed them most.
Winegard patiently weaves scholarship with a narrative of courage, loyalty, and distinction which compels all of us to recognize what has been an injustice of omission in the annals of war.
8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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