Pegahmagabow: Legendary Warrior, Forgotten Hero
by Adrian Hayes
NOTE: The Fox Meadow edition of Pegahmagabow is now out of print. A new edition is being published by Blue Butterfly Books and will be available in 2009.
Cover photographs show Francis Pegahmagabow in uniform with his numerous medals and decorations not long after the war, as well as view of the infamous trenches. Above is a picture of Pegahmagabow in 1945 while attending a conference in Ottawa where the National Indian Government was formed.
Young and idealistic, Francis Pegahmagabow of the Parry Island Indian Reserve (now Wasauksing First Nation), near Parry Sound, joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War I. On the battlefields of France and Belgium he distinguished himself by winning three decorations for bravery, more than any other Canadian aboriginal soldier.
Treated as an equal among his white comrades, he was in for a rude awakening when he returned home to the Reserve after the war and discovered that attitudes, particular that of the tyrannical Department of Indian Affairs, hadn’t changed at all. He was still an Indian, and treated as a second-class citizen.
For the rest of his life, Pegahmagabow championed the cause of native rights, being one of the early activists in this long, exhausting battle to achieve the right of aboriginal peoples to control their own destiny.
Adrian Hayes’s well-researched, illustrated biography of Pegahmagabow will help ensure this long-forgotten hero receives the recognition he deserves for his dedication on the battlefields of Europe and the battlefields of social justice.
Francis Pegahmagabow was also the inspiration for Elijah Weesageechak, the main character in Canadian author Joseph Boyden’s critically acclaimed Three Day Road (Viking Penguin, 2005), a novel of World War I.