Metis Soldiers of Saskatchewan

19 August 2014

Métis Soldiers of Saskatchewan: 1914-1953
by Cathy Littlejohn
Published by Gabriel Dumont Institute
Review by Keith Foster
$25.00 ISBN 978-1-926795-10-2

They were there – at Vimy Ridge, Dieppe, Ortona in Italy, and Juno Beach on D-Day. In every major campaign of the First and Second World Wars and in a hundred skirmishes in Korea, Saskatchewan Métis soldiers were there, fighting for Canada.

Their exploits are chronicled in Cathy Littlejohn’s Métis Soldiers of Saskatchewan: 1914-1953. Métis were readily accepted into the military because they already knew how to handle firearms and often brought certain skills useful in warfare.
Littlejohn tells many of the stories in the soldiers’ own words, gleaned from transcripts in the Gabriel Dumont Institute. “My officer asked where I got the jug,” one Métis said, after crawling across no man’s land in the First World War. “I told him that I got it off the Germans in the frontline. He said that I had risked my life and they gave me a medal.”

During the Second World War, Métis troops were among those captured when Hong Kong surrendered to the Japanese on Christmas Day, 1941. As prisoners of war, they endured near-starvation. One soldier was so hungry he caught a snake and ate it.

Métis also fought in the joint Canadian-American First Special Service Force. This elite commando unit was known to the Germans as the “black devils” because of their ability to sneak up on the enemy unnoticed.

When they returned home, many Métis veterans “went from being respected soldiers to being treated like bums and vagrants.” Littlejohn points out that these same veterans are still fighting for the recognition and respect they earned on the battlefield, and paid for in blood.

Saskatchewan Métis soldiers participated in the three largest international wars of the 20th century. Every Canadian should be justifiably proud and grateful they were there.


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