Nov. 8 marks National Indigenous Veterans Day, a day to recognize First Nations, Métis, and Inuit contributions to military service. Meet eight veterans from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, Que., who served in Canadian and American armed forces from the First World War to the war in Afghanistan.
Simon Kaponicin, Frank James Gagnon and Holenger Gagnon
Three of Cecile Natawesi’s sons fought in the First World War: Simon Kaponicin, who enlisted as Sam Gagnon, and his two stepbrothers Holenger Gagnon and Frank James Gagnon. Kaponicin enlisted with the 77th Overseas Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, while the other two brothers were members of the 38th Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force.
They fought at the Battle of the Somme where their battalion attacked a German trench on Nov. 18, 1916 and had to fight off repeated German counter attacks throughout the rest of the night. While Holenger Gagnon was wounded, Frank James Gagnon was one of the 117 soldiers of the 38th Battalion killed in action. He is buried at the Regina Trench Canadian Military Cemetery in France.
His military marker reads “In memory of a loving son altho’ he rests so far over the seas – Mother.”
William Mitchell was an Algonquin soldier from Kitigan Zibi, Que., who served with the Royal 22nd Regiment of the Canadian Army during the First World War. He was wounded by a shell blast in 1916, and then by poison gas at Vimy Ridge in 1917. He was discharged in January 1919 and lived at a boarding room in Ottawa prior to joining the RCMP in 1920, when he was posted to northern Manitoba.
Basil Alias Odjick and Robert Simon Odjick
Brothers Basil Alias Odjick and Robert Simon Odjick were both killed in action during the Second World War. Robert enlisted on Aug. 31, 1943 while his younger brother Basil enlisted on Feb. 11, 1944. Both were members of the Royal Regiment of Canada. Basil was one of 13 Royals killed in the French town of St. Ouen-de-Tilleul during the last battle of the Normandy Campaign in 1944. His war grave is at the Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian military cemetery. Robert died a year later in 1954 while serving with the Royal Regiment of Canada, and is buried at the Holten Canadian War Cemetery, Netherlands.
Christopher R. Printup
Christopher Printup was a veteran of the Vietnam War. His mother was from Kitigan Zibi and his father was from the Tuscarora Nation in New York State. Printup was a point man on jungle patrols with the United States Army’s 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles during his first tour, and was assigned to the air assault teams during his second tour. He died in 2013 at the age of 61.
Dustin Cote is one of two living veterans from Kitigan Zibi, Que. He served two tours in the War in Afghanistan. He started his first tour in 2006 at age 22 as a member of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, a crew member inside a LAV III armoured troop-carrier. He signed on for a second tour in October 2009 and returned to Canada in May 2010.