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15-25 August 1917
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The Story of Mike Mountain Horse

In 1917, the average Canadian soldier was of British descent, Christian and English-speaking, but Mike Mountain Horse was not an average soldier. He was a member of the First Nations Blood Tribe. Mountain Horse came from a family of warriors, and after working with the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) in Lethbridge as a scout, he enlisted in the First World War in 1916.

Mountain Horse enlisted partly to avenge his brother’s death — Albert who was injured in action in 1915 and later died from his injuries — but mostly because he supported the cause. He also wanted to prove that the First Nation warrior ethic had not been dampened by reserve life. First Nations fighters encountered cultural differences on the front lines. For many, the war was their first exposure to Western culture. Some Native soldiers didn’t speak English and displayed their own warrior ethic on the front line by letting out war whoops and adding good luck charms to their uniforms.

When Mike Mountain Horse returned home, he was recognized as a hero by the Blood Tribe and was celebrated at sun dances, powwows and grand entries. When Native soldiers came back from war and were discharged, nothing really changed for them; they went back to the reserve lifestyle. But Mountain Horse’s work with the NWMP meant the white community also saw him as a hero and included him in veterans’ celebrations. His recognition was perhaps more widespread in the white community than the recognition other Blood soldiers received.

Mountain Horse recorded his war experience in a unique way. Using a cowhide robe as his canvas, Mountain Horse drew significant events he had experienced during the war.

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