Francis Pegahmagabow is not a well-known name, but he was a Canadian First Nation sniper-hero of World War One and the most-awarded native soldier in the Canadian military.
Francis first signed up to join the Canadian Army at the beginning of World War One, and he served right through to the end in 1918. Of the more than 600,000 Canadian troops who served during the war, he was one of only 39 soldiers to be awarded the Canadian Military Medal and two bars for valor.
Francis was laid to rest in an old cemetery on Wasauksing First Nation in 1952, and it is still regularly visited by his 81-year-old daughter in law, Priscilla Pegahmagabow and her daughter, Teresa McInnes Pegahmagabow. Priscilla says that her father-in-law had been a good soldier and man. Both she and her daughter are very sad that they didn’t know him better, but Teresa was born just after Francis died.
Francis was a member of the Wasauksing First Nation; he became a musician and worked as a marine fireman on the lake. Francis would tell the story of meeting an Ojibwa medicine man who told him that he would face great danger in his life, and gave him a pouch of medicine that he said would help to keep Francis safe.
Then World War One arrived and the call for men to join the Armed Forces began. The Canadian Government had stopped native Canadians from joining the army, but Francis was accepted nevertheless and was one of the first men to join the 23rd Northern Pioneers, who were deployed overseas.
Now a new biography written by Adrian Hayes states that Francis thought he was invincible; he took his medicine pouch with him throughout his tour of duty in Europe. Adrian says that his belief in the old man’s medicine may have even saved his life.