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The Métis in Western Canada: O-Tee-Paym-Soo-Wuk

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Military Service

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.

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