Thomas Charles Longboat, distance runner (born 4 July 1886 in Ohsweken, Six Nations Grand River reserve; died 9 January 1949). Tom Longboat (Haudenosaunee name Cogwagee) was an Onondaga distance runner from the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation reserve near Brantford, Ontario. Largely because of his ability to dominate any race and his spectacular finishing sprints, he was one of the most celebrated athletes before the First World War.
Charles Marvin Tomkins (also known as Checker Tomkins), Métis, Second World War veteran and translator (born 8 January 1918 in Grouard, AB, northeast of Grande Prairie; died 20 August 2003 in Calgary, AB). Charles served as a soldier in the Canadian Army and as a code talker in US Air Force for two years during the war. In this role, he translated secret military messages from English into the Cree language as a means of disguising the content from enemies. The subject of a 2016 short documentary, Cree Code Talker, Charles and the other code talkers are credited with having helped the Allies win the war.
First Nations and Métis peoples played a significant role in Canada in the War of 1812. The conflict forced various Indigenous peoples to overcome longstanding differences and unite against a common enemy. It also strained alliances, such as those in the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy in which some branches were allied with American forces. Most First Nations strategically allied themselves with Great Britain during the war, seeing the British as the lesser of two colonial evils and the group most interested in maintaining traditional territories and trade.
John Brant (Ahyonwaeghs), Mohawk Grand Chief, Indian Superintendent (b near Brantford, Ont, 27 Sep 1794; d there 27 Aug 1832). John Brant was the son of Joseph Brant, Mohawk chieftain and the first Aboriginal to receive a commission in the British Army, as a captain in 1757.
Joseph Brant, or Thayendanegea, Mohawk war chief, Loyalist, statesman (born circa March 1742/43 in Cayahoga [near Akron, Ohio]; died 24 November 1807 at Burlington Bay, Upper Canada); brother of Mary (Molly) Brant. In May 1784, following the American Revolution, Joseph Brant led the Mohawk Loyalists and some other Indigenous peoples to a large tract of land on the Grand River granted them in compensation for their losses in the war.
Francis “Peggy” Pegahmagabow, Anishnaabe (Ojibwa) chief, Aboriginal rights advocate, war hero (born on 9 March 1889 on the Parry Island reserve, ON; died 5 August 1952 at Parry Island, ON). One of the most highly decorated Indigenous people in Canada during the First World War, Pegahmagabow became a vocal advocate for Indigenous rights and self-determination.2
Canada is a country so vast that too often, it seems, its history is lost inside its geography. A striking example is the history of Indigenous peoples, whose long, rich narrative is well-preserved by them, but seldom gets the same attention on a broader scale — even when their stories affect us all.
Red Jacket (Otetiani), Aboriginal leader (b near Conaga, Seneca County, NY 1750; d at Seneca Village, near Buffalo, NY, 30 Jan 1830). Otetiani was also known as Red Jacket because of an ornate red officer's coat he received from the British in recognition of wartime service during the American Revolution. He supported the American side during the War of 1812.
On October 4, 1813, the eve of the Battle of Moraviantown, the great Shawnee chief Tecumseh had a foreboding. Our lives are in the hands of the Great Spirit, he said, We are determined to defend our lands, and if it is His will, we wish to leave our bones upon them.