Putting it into Perspective: First Nations Soldiers in the First World War

In this lesson students explore the experiences and contributions of Aboriginal soldiers to Canada’s role in the First World War.

Created by Connie Wyatt Anderson Governor General's History Awards Winner 2014 recipient of the Governor General's History Award for Excellence in Teaching

September 3, 2013

Lesson Overview

In this lesson students explore the experiences and contributions of Aboriginal soldiers to Canada’s role in the First World War. They draw links between the treaty relationship and First Nations’ wartime involvement with a focus on the experiences of soldier Francis Pegahmagabow.

Time Required

2 - 3 lessons  

Historical Thinking Concept(s)

This lesson plan uses the following historical thinking concepts: establish historical significance, identify continuity and change, analyze cause and consequence, take a historical perspective, and understand the ethical dimension of historical interpretations.

Learning Outcomes

Student will:

  • Identify Aboriginal contributions to Canada’s First World War effort.
  • Explore and describe the life of First Nation soldier Francis Pegahmagabow.
  • Design a bulletin board highlighting the life of Francis Pegahmagabow.

Background Information

During the First World War, thousands of Aboriginal people voluntarily enlisted in the Canadian military. While the exact enlistment number is unknown, it is estimated that well over 4,000 Aboriginal people served in the Canadian forces during the conflict – about one in three. Aboriginal soldiers served in units with other Canadians throughout the Canadian Expeditionary Force. They served in every major theatre of the war and participated in all of the major battles in which Canadian troops fought. Hundreds were wounded or lost their lives on foreign battlefields.

The Lesson Activity

Activating: 

  • Divide the class into four-member groups.
  • Pass around a replica image of a Treaty Medal to each group.
  • Have the students take note of the imagery: the two men shaking hands, the buried hatchet, the sun, the grass, the river. What do they symbolize?
  • In what ways is the Treaty Relationship connected to Aboriginal involvement the First World War?

Acquiring: 

  • Access and show a chart/information depicting the statistics pertaining to Aboriginal soldiers in the war.
  • Ask: How many men were eligible to enlist? What percent of the Canadian population were Aboriginal peoples in 1914? How many Aboriginal men went to war? What percent of this population is this? How does Aboriginal enlistment compare with non-Aboriginal on a percentage basis?

Applying:

  • Read a short biography on the life of First Nation soldier Francis Pegahmagabow.
  • Have the students write a journal entry describing five things they learned about Pegahmagabow.
  • Have the class make a bulletin board display with images, maps, facts, quotes, etc. about the life of Pegahmagabow.
  • Before the bulletin board art activity, hand each student a rubric that sets standards for their group display. as well as, a goal setting card and instruct them to complete. After the project, the teacher and the student will complete a performance assessment.

Materials/Resources

Skip social share links

Related to Lesson Plans