Decorated aboriginal soldier honoured in Parry Sound
Published Tuesday, June 21, 2016 6:46PM EDT
A statue was unveiled on Tuesday in Parry Sound to honour the most decorated aboriginal soldier in Canadian history.
The descendants of Francis Pegahmagabow were just some of the people on hand for the statue unveiling on this National Aboriginal Day. He went beyond the history books by influencing many First Nations people.
"Over the years now that he's being acknowledged more I really felt that he's within me as a person,” says Hilton King, Pegahmagabow’s grandson. “You know because of some of my things that I work through in my life. He showed so much perseverance.”
The animals on Pegahmagabow's statue represent First Nations culture. The caribou represents his clan, while the eagle is his spirit animal. It shows strength and unity.
"I think he did the aboriginal community a tremendous honour, and I think it's really telling now,” says Maj. Lorraine MacDonald. “He's being recognized for his accomplishments, both as a Canadian and First Nations warrior.”
Pegahmagabow fought in the First World War and was considered an expert sniper. He's credited with killing 378 German soldiers, and capturing 300 more.
Pegahmagabow earned the military medal three times.
After serving his country, Pegahmagabow came home to continuing discrimination. In an effort to spark change, he became the chief of Wasauksing First Nation.
He was part of the national delegation which negotiated the policy change and tax exemption for aboriginals.
"When those doors got slammed in his face, he just kept on walking. He’d walk around or he'd find a way to get around,” says his granddaughter Laura Pegahmagabow. “To me that signifies who we are today.”
As people left the ceremony, they were asked to walk by the statue and say the word "Miigwech," which means thank you in Ojibwe.
“He fought for what he believed in, and we went to make sure that we had freedom."