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Francis Pegahmagabow Monument

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Municipality/Province: Parry Sound, ON

Memorial Number: 35065-046

Type: Sculpture

Address: 2 Bay Street

Location: Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts

GPS Coordinates: Lat: 45.339054   Long: -80.039258

A bronze likeness of Company Sergeant-Major (CSM) Francis Pegahmagabow was unveiled June 21, 2016 on National Aboriginal Day in Parry Sound, Ontario, just a short drive from Sgt Pegahmagabow’s birthplace at Wasauksing First Nation. The event featured a strong military presence, including Lieutenant General Marquis Hainse, Commander of the Canadian Army, and a 50-soldier guard of honour.

The monument was created by Tyler Fauvelle, a sculptor based in Sudbury, Ontario. The statue, which stands approximately 10 feet tall, depicts CSM Pegahmagabow in his wartime uniform with an eagle above and a caribou at his side.

The caribou represents his clan, hunting and sustenance. The caribou pushes up through water, a sign of Pegahmagabow’s battle through the depths of war, a symbol of the spirit of his people crossing the ocean with him and of their own struggle to emerge from the depths of injustice.

The rock at his feet resembles the far-away Canadian Shield.  Even on foreign soil that never knew his ancestors, he was grounded by his home, by the culture written in his heart.

The eagle is the sign of the Thunderbird - the powerful, mystical protector, the first messenger, the prayer carrier.  It calls to mind Pegahmagabow’s dangerous role as a scout and messenger and all the prayers rising up from the battlefield.  It must have seemed like the end of the world and migizi was needed.  The eagle’s acute vision represents Pegahmagabow’s – his sharp sniper’s eye, but also his figurative vision, as a man who saw the vital importance of preserving his people’s language and traditions and of advocating for Indigenous rights.  It echoes the eagle feathers in his Chief’s headdress, reminding us of his lineage and that he twice served as Chief of Wasauksing First Nation. The shock of war followed Francis Pegahmagabow home.  Thunder, artillery and the Thunderbirds would forever be linked in his mind and spirit.

Francis Pegahmagabow is shown in the Canadian Expeditionary Force uniform he would have worn, with the rifle that his own life and the lives of his fellow soldiers depended on.  His pose is noble, uplifted, alluding to his bravery and to his spiritual strength.

The small medicine pouch in his hand, Francis Pegahmagabow said he never knew what was in the pouch he was given. There is no doubt that it was part of the strong sense of spiritual protection that sustained him through some of the Great War’s most horrific battles.

The entire concept came to Tyler in a dream. Although it took months to sculpt, he had the honour of speaking often with members of Francis Pegahmagabow's family and it never really changed much from his first dream.

CSM Pegahmagabow is revered for being the most decorated Indigenous Canadian to fight in the First World War. He is one of only 38 Canadians to have earned the Military Medal (MM) with two bars, each representing an act of valour. He earned the first in 1917 at the Battle of Passchendaele, the successful assault on a ridge in Belgium held by the Germans. He earned the second in 1918, during what would prove to be the final hundred days of the war, by charging into heavy enemy fire to retrieve ammunition for his comrades.

Following his wartime service, CSM Pegahmagabow returned home in 1919 and continued to lead by example as a member of the Non-Permanent Active Militia (now the Canadian Armed Forces Army Reserve) and through political activity in his community, where he served as chief and councillor before his death in 1952.

The Ontario Native Education Counselling Association, a registered charity supporting Indigenous education, commissioned the monument and raised half of the $169,000 needed. The remaining half was provided by the Department of Canadian Heritage. Dr. Brian McInnes, who is a great-grandson of CSM Pegahmagabow and a professor of education at the University of Minnesota, recently completed a book, Sounding Thunder: The Stories of Francis Pegahmagabow, that celebrates CSM Pegahmagabow’s life and accomplishments.

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Inscription found on memorial

[plaque]

Francis Pegahmagabow - Hero of the Great War
June 21, 2016
Sculptor:  Tyler Fauvelle

[plaque]

Chief Francis Pegahmagabow
c. 1889 - 1952

Francis Pegahmagabow, a superior scout and sniper during the First World War, served overseas with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. In Canada's history, no other Indigenous soldier has ever received as many battle awards.  Born in Shawanaga First Nation (Caribou Clan), he settled at Wasauksing First Nation after the war. Twice elected Chief, he became a passionate advocate for Indigenous  rights.

Le Chef Francis Pegahmagabow, héros de la Première Guerre mondiale, est le soldat autochtone canadien ayant reçu le plus grand nombre de décorations en reconnaissance de ses actes de bravoure. Né au sein de la Première Nation de Shawanaga (le clan de caribou), il s'établit parmi la Première Nation Wasauksing aprés la guerre. Deux fois éle chef de bande, il devient ardent défenseur des droits autochtones.

Brave in war, brave in peace
June 21, 2016

Gaa-gimaawid Francis Pegahmagabow
c. 1889 - 1952

Francis Pegahmagabow-ban, gaa-ntaa-ndawaabnjiged miinwaa gaa-giimoodzid netaa-waakwiid gaa-gchi-miigaading Canadian Expeditionary Force wedi gaaming. Gaawiin wiya nishnaabewid gii-te-miin'gozid biiwaabikoonsan gaa-zhiseg Canada. Gii-ondaadzi maa Shawanaga (Adik doodeman), gii-bi-dnizi maa Wasauksing gaa-shkwaa-miigaading. Gii-naabnjigaazo niizhing ji-gimaawid, aapji go weweni gii-bzigwiitood Nishnaabewaadziwin.

Gaa-zoong'dehed miigaading, gaa-zoong'dehed bzaan-teg.
Miin-giizis 21, 2006

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This information is provided by contributors and Veterans Affairs Canada makes it available as a service to the public. Veterans Affairs Canada is not responsible for the accuracy, currency or reliability of the information.

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