THE OJIBWAYS OF LAKE SUPERIOR
BY W. RUSSELL BROWN
THE PORT ARTHUR ------- unknown name of paper and unknown date/year of article ... we would appreciate it if you can come up with that information - Curator
Looking over a recent issue of the News-Chronicle I noticed a photo of Pte. Joan Martin of the Woman's Auxiliary Army Corps, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ambrose Martin of Nipigon. This reminds me that another generation of our patriotic Indians is coming along to join the forces in which their fathers and forefathers took such a gallant part in the war of 1812-1814 and again in 1914- 1918.
Back in 1814 a war party left Nipigon under young Chief Orkopokeda (or Oskopkeda?) after receiving word that Canada was being invaded. They paddled their canoes around Lake Superior to the Sault and at Garden River several more recruits joined them. On leaving the Garden River settlement for the long paddle to the Niagara Peninsula their party numbered 50 braves. They received no pay or promise of award but had heard that Canada needed fighting men and that the Indian tribes in the East were in the fight under the great Chiefs Tecumseh and Brant.
In 1914 Indians from all over Eastern Canada and the Prairie Provinces began a trek to the recruiting offices which did not end until several thousand were in the armed forces.
In early 1915 when the 52nd was being recruited here, some of the district Indian boys decided that they wanted to get into the fight along with the boys from the towns. The first six came up from Nipigon and wanted to get into the army and it was with pride I took them to the Armoury. Col. Hay had me bring them into his office and after looking them over expressed the wish that more of the same kind would come in.
The 52nd took away 20 district Indians, the 94th some 14 and the 141st "Bull Moose" Batt,, had nearly 100 in its ranks.
Of the 52nd originals I remember Alex Chief, Gus and Pete Belanger, the three DeLarondes, ( grandsons of a Frenchman, Count DeLaronde, who had been factor of the Nipigon Post of the Hudson's Bay Company) , Joe Odawa, Antoine Manitobenis, known as "Dominic", Ambrose and Laurence Martin , and others.
The mothers of some of these boys commenced to worry when they went away to war. I know of one who went to the priest to have prayers said so that her son would not be shot. Another who had two boys also, took the precaution to make a visit to Metemegejic, the medicine man at Sand Point, to get things fixed up so that the bullets would not harm her boys. (One of the district Indians who had attended school and should have known better, told me that he saw some of the pagan Indians at a Pow-wow at Wabigoon where the medicine man fixed things so that you could shoot straight at one of the favoured ones but that no bullets would hurt him. Apparently the bullets would go right through without hurting. I told him that he was crazy to talk so foolishly, but he replied that he had seen this with his own eyes, so I did not argue.
After a big German attack, when the Princess Pats were almost wiped out, and our 52nd , which was alongside of them, suffered enormous losses, the long casualty lists commenced to come in. Col. Hay and his second in command, Major Young, were both killed and the lists contained the names of many local men.
The first of the Indians killed was Dennis DeLaronde. The mother of the boys who had visited the medicine man is reported to have said the his mother should have followed her example and visited Netemigejic, but her faith in the medicine man's magic was to be broken as on the next list one of her sons was posted as killed.
Joe DeLaronde came back with a M.M. and an English wife. When he died he left his wife with a big family, a framed photo of Col. Hay, and an engraved silver watch, which was presented to his father. This watch is inscribed "Presented to Alex DeLaronde by his friend, Major Russell."
The story behind this is that count DeLaronde married an Indian woman and they had three sons, Henry, Charles and Alex. Henry, who did not marry, was known as "the count" after the death of his father. He was a great friend of the Indian people and they went to him with all their troubles.
The treasury of the Township of Nipigon often received donations from the count as almost every Indian who was fined sent to the count to pay the fine. He died in 1918. Charles married an Indian woman and they had three sons, who all went overseas in 1914-1918. Alex left Nipigon during the American Civil War and enlisted in the army of the North. He saved the life of Major Russell, who presented him with the engraved watch. He also married an Indian woman and their son was Pte. Joseph DeLaronde, M.M., of the 52nd. The two sons of this soldier are now in the Canadian army. One could almost write a book on "The Fighting DeLarondes of Nipigon."
Domonic who acted as a scout for Major Lawless was killed in action. Gus Belanger, who also won an M.M. was killed in action. Alex DeLaronde and Serg. Leo Bouchard, D.C.M., are both buried in Riverside Cemetery. Alex Chief came home with twelve wound marks and his body shaken with Tuberculosis. He was given a soldier's burial in Winnipeg. Joe Odawa was wounded and returned to Nipigon.
Laurence Martin was killed overseas and his brother Ambrose was severely wounded. While these two boys were serving in the 52nd, a Provincial Police officer arrested their father, Joe Martin, for shooting a moose. The "law" brought Joe Martin to Nipigon and put him behind the steel bars of the little cement cells and he was not released until the friendly old Count put up some $43.
The Joe Martin wrote me as Indian Agent to get this money back as he was a treaty Indian and the magistrate had no right to fine him as when the Robinson-Superior Treaty was signed in 1850 the Indians were given the right to hunt and fish over Crown Lands forever.
I knew this to be true, but the Dominion Government informed me that nothing could be done as the Province administered the game laws while the then Premier of Ontario told me that his government had not broken any Treaty.
The Treaty was made between the government of Canada representing Her Majesty, Queen Victoria.
It was necessary for me to appeal to the public through the columns of The News-Chronicle for 43 citizens to subscribe $1.00 each and it is needless to say that the sum was soon subscribed.
Thus we have an example of the two Indian boys away over in France fighting the Germans because they broke a treaty while the Government of Canada broke a treaty with their people and arrested and took money from their aged father.
The last time I saw Joe Martin was when I called at an Indian settlement on the outskirts of Nipigon five years ago.
He heard that I was outside in a car so he came out to see me. I noticed this frail old man come out of the door. He moved forward with halting steps until he touched the car, then he felt along it until he came to where I was standing. The tears ran down his cheeks as he shook my hand. He knew that I was his friend. He was a pitiful sight with his withered body and sightless eyes but two sons of this old Indian gentleman had gone overseas in the first Great War and now another is across the water and even his young granddaughter is in the army.
Time marches on but the Provincial Government still prosecutes our Indian population for infractions of the game laws while the Dominion Government does nothing to protect "these wards of the Crown." This is one of the few matters that these tow governments can agree on. Of course Indians - with few exceptions - have no vote.
Only last year a poor pagan Indian from Savanne was brought before our magistrate and sentenced to three months behind steel bars for having beaver skins in his possession. He served the three months. The Count is dead.
"Be ours a nation evermore,
That no oppression blights:
Where justice rules from shore to shore,
From Lakes to Northern Lights."
Russell Brown, author of the above article was Indian Agent from 1914 to 1923, and was made an honorary chief of the Fort William band with the name Clear Sky.
Note by Buzz Lein: Frank Hardy served in WWI. No mention here.
Andrew Hardy served in WW II