“We could walk right over where there had been fighting. It was an awful sight – buildings in rubble, trees burnt, spent shells all over the place, whole towns blown up.”
— Charlotte Edith Anderson Monture
Overseas many women were nurses. The number of Indigenous nurses from Canada is unknown as it is possible that Indigenous women’s service as nurses went unrecorded. However, we know that Indigenous women did serve in the wars. For example, Charlotte Edith Anderson Monture, from the Six Nations Grand River Reserve, Ontario, served as a nurse overseas in the First World War.
Indigenous women’s societies raised thousands of dollars for the war effort. The first Indigenous women’s patriotic organization was the Six Nations Women’s Patriotic League (SNWPL), which was formed on-reserve in Ontario in October 1914. The SNWPL and other, similar, organizations contributed to the war effort by providing comforts to the soldiers such as knitted socks, sweaters, mufflers, and bandages.
Indigenous women contributed valuable skills and services to all three wars. They helped raise money, knitted for soldiers or worked in factories. They also collected clothing, money and food to be sent overseas. They organized events where traditional crafts, hand-baskets, and beadwork were sold to raise money for the war efforts. Even young girls in Indigenous communities produced handmade items to send to soldiers.
Often women struggled to survive financially without the men of their families and communities. There were many Indigenous people, particularly women, who opposed Indigenous participation in the war and sought to have their husbands, sons, fathers, and brothers brought home.