The story of Métis service in the military focuses on three sections.
The first is the period when the Métis community military focus the
procurement of their own land and communities. That section of Métis
history has already been covered. The second section is concerns Métis
involvement in the Canadian contribution to international affairs. The
third section is the story of Canadian government interactions with its
Métis veterans. Most of this story will deal with the second section of
Métis military service.
The first time Canadians used Métis volunteers in a military
endeavour was an expedition known as "Voyageurs On The Nile." It was
British General Sir Garnet Wolseley's Nile expedition to help rescue
Major-General Charles Gordon who was besieged at the Sudanese capital of
Khartoum, south of Cairo. The expedition marked the first time that a
Canadian contingent served overseas. These men were hired as a result of
Wolseley's experiences leading an expedition against Métis leader Louis
Riel during the Red RiverRebellion of 1870. The Canadian contingent was
about half English- and half French-speaking, while over 100 were
Indians or Métis.
In Manitoba, 45-year-old Lieutenant-Colonel William Kennedy was
responsible for enlistment. Several serving Canadian military personnel
accompanied the expedition to command and administer the Canadians. The
commanding officer was another Red River veteran, Major Frederick
Denison, 37, of the Governor General's Body Guard. Denison, a Toronto
lawyer and alderman, was promoted lieutenant-colonel for the expedition.
Kennedy, senior in rank to Denison, inserted himself into the contingent
with the support of a large number of Manitoba Ojibwas. He dropped a
rank to major, and was appointed paymaster.
The Nile Voyageurs left Egypt for England on 13 March 1885, and
sailed for home on 15 May. Wolseley’s report acknowledged the important
part played by Canadians in the expedition.