Aboriginal Soldiers Documented: Online Archive Launches

April 26, 2016


Biographical details for 8,300 soldiers compiled and searchable online in project commemorating Canada's aboriginal World Wars veterans

Ottawa - The World Wars Aboriginal Veterans Portal (WWAVP), the largest and most comprehensive source of data about aboriginal soldiers of the First and Second World Wars, launches today at http://av.canadiana.ca .

The WWAVP launches documents the lives of 8,300 individuals through images, biographies, and transcriptions of known or accessible biographical details about the soldiers. New records, features and descriptive information will continue to appear through to spring of 2017. Users can query the database using a variety of fields, including name, geographical locations, nation or band, and military units.

This free and publicly accessible database is a project of Canadiana.org, a non-profit digital archive, and was awarded a generous grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage through the World War Commemorations Community Fund. The To help shape and deliver the project and to coordinate the participation of aboriginalcommunities, Canadiana.org partnered with Wampum Records, a leading aboriginal issues research organization.

In the first phase, Canadiana.org meticulously collected and transcribed thousands of pieces of data about Canada’s aboriginal or indigenous World Wars veterans. All data is drawn from verified primary sources, including Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) service files and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

In the second phase, diaries, photographs, and surviving documentary records held by soldiers or their families will be solicited for digitization, creating an extensive online archive that will enrich the study and living memory of Canada’s aboriginal soldiers.

As large amounts of data filters into the database, it is already becoming possible to sketch a sociological portrait of aboriginal soldiers in history. Of a sample of 2,350 CEF names with known occupations, about 20% were labourers, 36% farmers or farmhands, 3.7% fishermen, 3% hunters, and 4.3% trappers. Some 15 clerks, 38 carpenters, 14 axemen, and 10 cowboys stood out among the CEF’s aboriginal contingent. These individuals ranged in age from 15 to 49.

To learn more, or to volunteer a digital image from the life of an aboriginal soldier, please visit the WWAVP project page.