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Here's how Indigenous soldiers helped code messages in the Second World War

In this edition of Remember This, the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre looks back on part one of three of the efforts of many in the world wars
2021-10-29 billy turner
Billy Turner, a young Indigenous man, was the first solider from Timmins to enlist in Second World War.

Many First Nations answered the call to arms during both World Wars and the Korean War. Indigenous men and women from our community served in the war overseas as well as supported the efforts from home. 

After December 1915, the Dominions were asked to start recruitment for Indigenous soldiers, which led to recruitment on reserves. When it became clear the war was not going to be over soon, an aggressive military recruitment campaign was launched in northern communities. 

Approximately 6,000 Indigenous soldiers from across Canada served in the First World War alone. For the Indigenous soldiers, some had difficulties transitioning into the military life but many had successful military careers with at least 37 of them being decorated for bravery in action. 

During the Second World War, code talkers were used to disguise Allied communications from the enemy. The job of a code talker was to translate codes containing vital information about Allied forces. They used Indigenous soldiers to code messages in over 33 different indigenous languages.

For example, the word fire was “iskotew” and it was the code word for the Spitfire plane. “Pakwatastim” meaning “wild horse” was the code word for Mustang aircraft.

Each week, the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre provides TimminsToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

Find out more of what the Timmins Museum has to offer here and look for more Remember This? columns here.