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REF NO.: 98

SUBJECT: Discovering the role of Newfoundland Mi’kmaq in the Great War

DATE: Dec. 12

A humanities professor hopes to shed some light on the involvement of the Newfoundland Mi’kmaq, the Indigenous First Nations people of the island, in the First World War.

 The research of Dr. Maura Hanrahan, assistant professor and chair of the humanities program at Grenfell Campus, will inform a detailed database of Newfoundland Mi’kmaq service personnel and provide details on their home communities, families, ages and occupations when they enlisted, the unit they belonged to, whether they were injured or killed, and details of their death.

 Dr. Hanrahan has devoted much of her career to the understanding of issues that are of importance to the Indigenous peoples of Canada. She recognized a gap in the province’s written military history.

 “I have Mi’kmaq ancestry myself and over the years I’ve heard people in the Mi’kmaq community refer to their grandparents and great-grandparents who enlisted in the First World War,” she said. “Some people expressed regret that these men were never recognized as Mi’kmaq soldiers or sailors and it seemed to be important to people that some form of recognition occurs. Everywhere else across the country Indigenous service personnel in both world wars were recognized as Indigenous but that didn’t happen here, which bothered people. I wanted to respond to this need in the community.”

 Now halfway through the project, Dr. Hanrahan has identified almost 100 Newfoundland Mi’kmaq who took part in the First World War. While she expected that the number would be significant, as other First Nations people across Canada enlisted in high numbers, she was surprised at how high the number actually is.

 “I am being conservative in my methodology so I expect it to increase,” she said. “It is hard to get accurate demographic data but it seemed that in some Mi’kmaq communities, such as those around Flat Bay, virtually everyone who was eligible enlisted. Families had lots of siblings and cousins and, in one case, six brothers, all of whom survived thankfully.”

 Besides the database, this research will be compiled into an academic article, make up a lecture for relevant conferences and symposia, and will be part of a book Dr. Hanrahan is writing.

Partial funding for this project was provided through the Living Memorial Commemoration Fund which provides assistance with the planning and delivery of First World War commemoration activities.

 About Memorial University Memorial University College was established in 1925 as a living memorial to those who lost their lives on active service during the First World War. Through its WW100 commemoration program, the university is undertaking a wide range of initiatives and activities that recognize its origin as a living memorial.

 

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For more information please contact Melanie Callahan, communications co-ordinator, Grenfell Campus, at mcallahan@grenfell.mun.ca or 709-639-2582.

 For a photo of a Cape St. George, N.L., cemetery where Aboriginal soldiers are buried, please visit www.flickr.com/photos/memorialuniversity.

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