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Indigenous Veterans Day: Kelowna student honours ancestors in writing

Placed second at Royal Canadian Legion Remembrance Day Writing Contest this past summer
Finn Campbell and his brother travelled to the locations where his ancestors fought in WW1. (Submitted)

Nov. 8 is Indigenous Veterans Day across Canada.

Find below the award-winning story Kelowna Christian School student Finn Campbell wrote from the perspective of his great-great grandfather, who served in the 107th Timber Wolves, an Indigenous World-War I battalion.

“My name is Jack Campbell. I was born in 1889 in Manitoba. My mother, Harriet, was Ojibway and the daughter of Chief Keeseekoowenin. The reserve I was born on was named after my grandfather. I soon moved to Gilbert Plains and went to the University of Manitoba to become a pharmacist. I loved sports and played on the Tammany Tigers (soon to become the Winnipeg Blue Bombers). Everything was going fine until 1914 when war broke out in Europe. In 1915, I signed up for the army. My father, Glen Campbell, had encouraged me to sign up so we could both serve our country. I loved my dad and was proud when he succeeded in creating an indigenous battalion, the 107th Timber Wolves.

“We started basic training, and we were sent to England. I began hearing rumors of the horrors on the French front line that I was about to be a part of; the more I heard, the more I became nervous. Still, we arrived in England and began training, unfortunately, delayed by a three-month measles outbreak. Finally, we went to Vimy, France, and began building the tunnels underneath the battlefield. As we waited for action, we would carve our regimental logos into the chalk walls. Since we were an engineering battalion, we built light railways, dug trenches, and layed communication lines; anything that could help us win this battle. This was a fight where we could prove to the world that Canada could fight for our Commonwealth’s freedom.

“The allies suffered many casualties trying to take Vimy Ridge, and we were their last hope. We knew we had to try something new, so we used underground tunnels to achieve victory. Every night we would go outside and dig trenches, build railroads and fix communications; we had some of the most dangerous jobs. Eventually, the battle began. I now fully understood how terrifying war was; it was so unexplainably horrific, like the constant artillery barrages. Every moment would haunt me for the rest of my life. We saw every awful thing you could imagine, but we emerged victorious in our fight. The victory was won, but the war was far from over. In 1917, we marched North to Passchendaele, and my life would never be the same. My father had died from sepsis, a common cause of death on the front lines. The news tore me apart; I wanted out of this war. My father had been so kind toward First Nations people like myself. I will never forget him. After our final battle, the 107th Timber Wolf Warriors were done, but history should not ever forget my father’s work. Lest we forget.”