Year after year we wear poppies to commemorate Remembrance Day and give thanks to all of the fallen and wounded soldiers who served their country. First Nations soldiers played an important role in both World War I and II and today we are honoured to bring you the story of Private Andrew Wapachee.
Andrew Wapachee was born in 1900 in a Hudson’s Bay trading post that later became Hannah Bay Goose Camp located about 45 km east of Moose Factory. His father was William Wapachee from Nemaska. His mother passed away within a few hours after his birth, and he only survived as result of the other women at the post, who graciously cared for and fed him. Andrew’s father was a trapper and spent his time in the bush and as a result, Andrew was raised by his Grandmother.
At the young age of 17, Andrew heard about the Great War and left to enlist. He left his Grandmother and paddled to Moose Factory to answer the call to fight in the war. Andrew didn’t speak English and enlisted with the help of a translator named Bertie Morrison. Andrew was sent to the east coast of Canada, then to England for training and then to the European battlefields of France, Belgium and Germany.
During one battle, after an explosion, Andrew found himself under a pile of bodies. After trying to crawl out he saw the enemy advancing and shooting his comrades who were still alive. In order to survive, he played dead and after this ordeal, Andrew was able to flee and return to his battalion where he continued to serve. When the First World War ended, Andrew was on the outskirts of Bonn, Germany and when they entered the city and marched through the streets, Andrew and his battalion were greeted with roaring cheers from both sides of the streets.
Andrew later mentioned to his son Bert Wapachee that he often prayed during the war and attributes his survival to this. When the 2nd Great War started, Andrew once again tried to answer the call to fight, however by this time, he had a family and was prevented from leaving after his wife convinced him that he had served enough.
This is one shining story of many from the Cree Nation; if you have a story about your family serving, please share it with us. We would love to hear them. Aanischaaukamikw Cree Cultural Institute