Gateway Gazette

The Government of Canada Honours Decorated Indigenous Veteran Sergeant Tommy Prince

Ceremony held on the grounds of Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site


August 3, 2019                       Winnipeg, Manitoba                             Parks Canada Agency

Today, Parks Canada, in collaboration with Treaty No.1 First Nations and the Canadian Armed Forces, held a ceremony to pay tribute to the late Thomas “Tommy” Prince, one of Canada’s most decorated Indigenous veterans. The veteran of the Second World War and Korean War was recognized for his efforts, achievements, and sacrifices while serving with the Royal Canadian Engineers, the First Special Service Force (commonly known as “the Devil’s Brigade”), and later the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.

An Anishnaabe activist, war hero, and the father of five, Sgt Tommy Prince remains a source of inspiration and pride for his people and for Canada. Following his honourable discharge from the army, Prince became a prominent leader of the First Nations rights movement. However, military service had taken a heavy toll on his health and he faced a difficult return to civilian life in Manitoba, enduring discrimination, illness, and poverty in the years prior to his death in 1977.

Prince’s legacy lives on with the naming of a cadet corps, roadways, buildings, scholarships, and programs in his honour, as well as a monument in Winnipeg’s Kildonan Park. Parks Canada is pleased to pay tribute to Sgt Tommy Prince as a “Hometown Hero,” and to recognize the many veteran members of the seven Treaty No. 1 First Nations.

The commemorative ceremony was held on the grounds of Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site with hundreds of community members and dignitaries in attendance. The event featured the firing of a historic cannon, a military band and parade, ceremonial hand drumming, the unveiling of a story panel, and ended with a fly pass from the Royal Canadian Air Force.

The Government of Canada is committed to developing a system of national heritage places that commemorates the contributions of Indigenous peoples, their history and cultures, and respects the special relationship Indigenous peoples have with traditional lands and waters.

Sgt Prince joins a growing list of Canadians who have been recognized for their achievements during the First or Second World Wars. Launched by Parks Canada in 2015 as a community-based initiative, Hometown Heroes honours and tells the stories of ordinary citizens, both military and civilian, who contributed to Allied efforts during the two World Wars, and also provides Canadians with unique opportunities to connect with their history.

Quotes

“I’m honoured to join Treaty No.1 First Nations at Lower Fort Garry to recognize Sergeant Tommy Prince. A true Hometown Hero, Sergeant Prince resolutely accomplished many extraordinary feats in the face of adversity and uncertainty. It is so important to commemorate the individuals who contributed so much to the war effort, helping us sustain a legacy that Canadians will remember and learn from for generations to come.”

Robert-Falcon Ouellette
Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre

“For generations, the Indigenous Peoples of Canada have carried on the legacy of heroes such as Sgt Tommy Prince and continue to be outstanding members of the military community today. I am very proud to celebrate Sgt Prince’s remarkable contributions to the defence of Canada. He remains the Canadian Armed Forces’ most decorated Indigenous soldier and stands as an example of gallantry, sacrifice and dedication to service for us all.”  

Lieutenant-General Jean-Marc Lanthier, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff and Defence Team Champion for Indigenous Peoples

Quick facts

  • Thomas George “Tommy” Prince (1915–1977) was recently designated a person of national significance. Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of Environment and Climate Change regarding the national significance of people, places, and events that have marked Canada’s history. Together with Parks Canada, the Board ensures that subjects of national historic significance are recognized and these important stories are shared with Canadians.
  • Sgt Prince was among the thousands of First Nations members, plus an unknown number of Métis and Inuit, who served in uniform during the Second World War.
  • Raised as a member of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation in Manitoba, Sgt Prince repeatedly tried to enlist in the military but was initially refused until he was finally accepted into the Canadian Army in 1940.
  • Parks Canada’s Hometown Heroes is a community-based initiative that honours men and women, both in the armed forces and civilian, who contributed to the cause of freedom and embodied Canadian values. To date, more than 135 Canadians from across the country have been recognized through interpretive panels displayed in their hometown and on Parks Canada’s website.

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