Student doc highlights Indigenous soldier’s legacy

His name is only one line on the large University College plaque honouring soldiers from Middlesex County who died in the First World War.

Bottom right.

In the middle.

Below the label reading ‘Indian Reserves.’

Logan, Arnold, Pte.

In the cemetery near his home at Munsee-Delaware Nation, west of London, Arnold Logan is remembered on a much grander scale with a statue of him in uniform, and in an oral history that resonates through the community more than a century later.

Now, Logan is profiled in For Home and Native Land, a 30-minute documentary completed by fourth-year students in Western’s School for Advanced Studies in Arts and Humanities (SASAH).

Posted on YouTube on Canada Day, the film examines not only Logan’s life and sacrifice, but it highlights the legacy of Indigenous soldiers who fought and died for a country whose official policies identified them as less than Canadian.

Special to Western NewsPte. Arnold Logan is profiled in For Home and Native Land, a 30-minute student-produced documentary examining not only Logan’s life and sacrifice, but highlighting the legacy of Indigenous soldiers.

The story is told through the eyes of community members, Logan’s great-nephew Ian McCallum, and historians. The documentary aims to help viewers understand how the stories of the past reverberate in today’s narratives of truth and reconciliation.

“It was a huge honour to tell a story that doesn’t get much attention at all,” said SASAH student Nara Monteiro, one of the film’s producers. “It has reinforced the message that we need to listen to these narratives. The real point is to amplify their messages and to listen.”

Logan was born in 1896 in Munsee-Delaware. Along with his older sister and two brothers, he lived with his family in a log cabin (which still stands) until sent to Mt. Elgin Residential School nearby.

On Sept. 14, 1914, he became one of the first young men to join the 25th Elgin Regiment and went overseas. Oral histories and documentation show he worked on railway-building and engineering and then was assigned to specialized training on the machine gun.

In April 1916, at Ypres, Belgium, his machine gun took a direct hit from a German shell. Logan and his comrades were killed and later buried at Hooge Crater Memorial Cemetery.

“I spent quite a bit of time at University College, but I had never seen the plaque while I was there,” explained Summer Bressette, BA’01, MEd’13. Now Indigenous Legacies Project Manager at Museum London, her role in the documentary helps place Logan’s service in the context of the times.

Bressette explained there were many reasons Indigenous young men joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force, including as an escape from the horrors of residential schools, for a paycheque and three meals a day, for the opportunity to show themselves as citizens and eschew their official status as mere wards of the Crown, even as a chance to highlight a proud warrior tradition.

Historians have noted that Canada came of age during the First World War, but Indigenous soldiers were all but forgotten by the country for which they fought. They were not entitled to land; they had no home territory; they were awarded no veterans’ benefits unless they renounced their Indian status.

“To say they were treated unfairly is an understatement of what happened. What happened to the soldiers when they returned home was heartbreaking,” Bressette continued.

Many of those stories have been forgotten in popular histories, However, at home, they remained alive in oral histories.

“Within our family we have always remembered family members who participated in World War I and World War II, the War of 1812. It’s a big point of pride for people to remember,” Bressette said.

Now, in addition to being a part of Indigenous memory-keeping and storytelling, this documentary provides a step towards Canada’s reconciliation and relationship-building with its Indigenous Peoples, she said.

“It’s very timely that we collect these stories, that we hear these stories, that we witness them.”

Modern Languages and Literatures professor Laurence DeLooze, who facilitated the project, said students had little experience with Indigenous stories or documentary filmmaking. Yet, they had many community supports to bring the story together.

“I knew this group and I knew what they were capable of,” he said.

The program capstone project was an opportunity for students “to build allyship” with local First Nations communities. Additionally, students consulted, listened, researched, interviewed, edited and even composed the music for the video – all in a matter of about three months.

“They wanted to tell a truthful and engaging story that few people knew about” explained Jen Tramble, SASAH Program Coordinator. “I was amazed at what a beautiful job they did, in a respectful way.”

Patrick Mahon, SASAH Director, said the film connects historical experiences to current work recognizing systemic racism and efforts at reconciliation. “It doesn’t feel as if we’re only looking into the past; it feels as if we’re looking into the present as well,” he said.