Francis Pegahmagabow in CEF Uniform | Photo Source: Tyler Fauvelle
For Immediate Release – September 22, 2015
NAUGHTON, Ontario – Roger Chum, President of the Ontario Native Education Counselling Association (ONECA), announces major funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage for a project honouring Francis Pegahmagabow, the most highly-decorated First Nations soldier in Canadian history. ONECA has also received a significant donation from the Royal Canadian Regiment Trust Fund.
ONECA leads a committee dedicated to the installation of the first life-sized bronze sculpture honouring the legendary hero of the Great War. The bronze and granite monument will be located at the Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts in Parry Sound, Ontario, overlooking Wasauksing First Nation (Parry Island). It will be unveiled June 21, 2016. Tyler Fauvelle, a professional sculptor based in Sudbury, Ontario, will create the monumental sculpture. (www.tylerfauvelle.ca)
The Department of Canadian Heritage, through its World War Commemorations Community Fund, has confirmed that it will contribute $80,000 to the Pegahmagabow commemoration, representing about 50% of the project’s budget.
“We were pleased and grateful to hear that the Government of Canada supports our effort to honour this extraordinary First Nations soldier,” said Mr. Chum. “We want Canadians to hear Pegahmagabow’s amazing story of skill and courage, to remember him, and to learn more about Aboriginal people’s valiant military service to Canada.”
ONECA has also received a donation of $10,000 from the Royal Canadian Regiment Trust Fund. Francis Pegahmagabow served in the 1st Canadian Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), which was disbanded during the military reorganization following the end of the Great War. However, Canada ensures that honours earned on the field of battle are preserved when regiments are disbanded or amalgamated. In his letter to ONECA, the Regimental Major for the RCR Trust, Major Brian J. Wright, said: “As the regiment on whose Colours the battle honours of the 1st Battalion CEF are now emblazoned, the RCR has a sacred duty to honour the memories of the 1st Battalion CEF and Francis Pegahmagabow.”
Francis Pegahmagabow volunteered in 1914. He was one of the few Canadians to fight for almost the entire war, surviving some of its most horrific battles: Second Battle of Ypres, the Somme (where he was wounded), Passchendaele, and the Battle of the Scarpe. A superior scout and sniper, he was awarded the Military Medal (MM) in 1916, and later received two silver bars to the MM, denoting further acts of valour. Fewer than 40 Canadians have ever been awarded the Military Medal and two bars; to this day, no Aboriginal soldier has ever received as many battle awards.
Pegahmagabow continued to fight when he came home, but this time the enemy was oppression and racism. Fueled by pride in his Great War accomplishments, Pegahmagabow persistently agitated for change. He twice served as Chief of the Parry Island Band (Wasauksing First Nation), and as Supreme Chief of the Native Independent Government, an early aboriginal political organization.
Suffering from lung damage caused by chlorine gas during the war, Francis Pegahmagabow died in 1952.
Donations can be made by cheque payable to “Parry Island Hero”, and sent to ONECA, P.O. Box 220, 37 A Reserve Road, Naughton, Ontario, P0M 2M0, or online (via Pay Pal) at www.oneca.com/francis-pegahmagabow-commemoration-2016
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