For King and Kanata

Canadian Indians and the First World War


The first comprehensive history of the Aboriginal First World War experience on the battlefield and the home front. When the call to arms was heard at the outbreak of the First World War, Canada’s First Nations pledged their men and money to the Crown to honour their long-standing tradition of forming military alliances with Europeans during times of war, and as a means of resisting cultural assimilation and attaining equality through shared service and sacrifice. Initially, the Canadian government rejected these offers based on the belief that status Indians were unsuited to modern, civilized warfare. But in 1915, Britain intervened and demanded Canada actively recruit Indian soldiers to meet the incessant need for manpower. Thus began the complicated relationships between the Imperial Colonial and War Offices, the Department of Indian Affairs, and the Ministry of Militia that would affect every aspect of the war experience for Canada’s Aboriginal soldiers. In his groundbreaking new book, For King and Kanata,Timothy C. Winegard reveals how national and international forces directly influenced the more than 4,000 status Indians who voluntarily served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force between 1914 and 1919—a per capita percentage equal to that of Euro-Canadians—and how subsequent administrative policies profoundly affected their experiences at home, on the battlefield, and as returning veterans.


For King and Kanata is an important addition to the burgeoning field of indigenous military history in Canada. Winegard has produced a book that will be the first stop for any person interested in learning about First Nations peoples’ roles and experiences in the Great War.”

Literary Review of Canada

"Winegard patiently weaves scholarship with a narrative of courage, loyalty, and distinction which compels all of us to recognize what has been an injustice of omission in the annals of war."

Kane X. Faucher, Western News

"For King and Kanata is written in a lively prose that produces a highly readable narrative. Much more than just a good read, however, this study rests on an excellent foundation of primary research. Winegard is a meticulous researcher, not only in the diffuse Canadian material but also in British imperial records of the Great War."

Scott Sheffield, Canadian Historical Review

"For King and Kanata is the new standard history by which to understand Canada’s First Peoples and the Great War. Through this book, Winegard has become an important new historian in the ranks of Great War and First Peoples scholars."

Tim Cook, Canada's History

"For King and Kanata is a fascinating and sobering account of Canada's native Indian people during the Great War, the pre-war events and treaties which influenced and affected them and the disturbing post-war consequences of their support for Great Britain and its King."

David Filsell, Stand To! Magazine

"The role of Canadian Indians in the Great War has been treated before, but never so thoroughly as by Winegard. Well researched and well written, a most useful study."

JL Granatstein, Choice

"For King and Kanata should be considered a must-read for anyone interested in Canadian military history or the history of federal-Aboriginal relations. It brings to light a forgotten part of the Canadian military's history. And it brings into focus the contributions that Aboriginal communities have made and continue to make to this country."

Major Thomas E.K. Fitzgerald, The Canadian Army Journal

"In addition to its value to the emerging field of Aboriginal military history, For King and Kanata is useful for those studying the First World War, bureaucracy and the Canadian state, and the relationship between late nineteenth-century ideology and governance."

Brian MacDowall, H Net Canada

"A unique story of racism, valor, and the advancement of minorities, For King and Kanata is a strongly recommended read for any assortment focusing on the First Nations or Canadian military history."

Midwest Book Review

"Winegard patiently weaves scholarship with a narrative of courage, loyalty, and distinction which compels all of us to recognize what has been an injustice of omission in the annals of war."

Kane X. Facher, Western News

"A welcome addition to the historiography. In a style both engaging and accessible, Winegard tells the individual and collective stories of those Indian men who enlisted to fight for the Crown."

Robert J. Talbot, Great Plains Quarterly

“Based on a wide-ranging and thorough primary research base in Canada and abroad, Winegard has written what will be *the new go-to source for scholars, students, and the public* on Indigenous soldiers in the First World War. His work in imperial archives brings entirely new material to light that changes and enhances our understanding of major Canadian policy changes.”

Scott Sheffield, Department of History, University of the Fraser Valley

"Winegard enhances our understanding of Indian participation in World War I specifically, as well as the history of Native-newcomer relations in North America more broadly. [...] A versatile resource in the expansive field of indigenous studies."

Happy Avery, Pacific Northwest Quarterly

“In the extremely well-written and thoroughly researched For King and Kanata, Timothy Winegard investigates the intricate relationship between First Nations people, the Canadian government and the British imperial ministries.”

Matthew Barrett,

“Undoubtedly, the greatest strength of this book is its transnational focus. Using extensive materials from the Imperial and Canadian archives, and referencing Indigenous military involvement in other Imperial colonies, Winegard is able to situate Canadian First Nations’ activities within the complex narrative of Empire, adding depth and dimension to our understanding of the war effort.”

Sarah Nickel, BC Studies

About the Author

Timothy C. Winegard served nine years as an officer in the Canadian Forces, including a two-year attachment to the British Army. He is the author of Oka: A Convergence of Cultures and the Canadian Forces and Indigenous Peoples of the British Dominions and the First World War. He teaches at Colorado Mesa University.

Table of Contents

Introduction / Ch 1: Indians and the Settler-State Experience / Ch 2: The Image of the Indian / Ch 3: Modern Warfare and the Noble Savage / Ch 4: The Privileges of Civilized Warfare: 1914 / Ch 5: In the Interest of the Indians: 1915 – 1916 / Ch 6: All the King’s Men: 1917 – 1918 / Ch 7: Indian Soldiers / Ch 8: On the Home Front / Ch 9: Peace and Prejudice / Conclusion / Epilogue