INDIGENOUS PEOPLES IN KOREA: KOREAN WAR (1950-1953)
“On our way to Korea, I was outside on the ship standing on the rail just thinking about home and why I had to leave home. Yet, I was very glad I joined the army because my father was in the First World War. My brother was in World War Two and I thought I might as well join the army, too.”
Allan Bird, Korean War veteran
175 Indigenous people were documented as joining the Canadian Army Special Force (CASF) along with an estimated 700 First Nations, Métis and Inuit people not documented.
The Canadian Forces were involved in the 1950–1953 Korean War and its aftermath. Canada participated on the side of the United Nations in the Korean War, with 26,000 Canadian soldier and eight destroyers from its navy. Canadian aircraft provided transport, supply and logistics. 516 Canadians died in the conflict, 312 of the deaths were from combat.
Many of those First Nations, Métis and Inuit people who enlisted had taken part in the Second World War, and service in Korea would see them expanding on their previous duties.
Sergeant Tommy Prince (MM), the much-decorated veteran of the Second World War, re-enlisted with the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry to serve in Korea. There he earned another 3 campaign medals, bringing his total to 11.
An Inuit soldier, Eddie Weetaltuk, enlisted under the name of Eddie Vital, in order to overcome mobility restrictions imposed on Inuit people. Eddie joined the Canadian Army Special Force in 1952, serving for 15 years. Weetaltuk saw action in Korea, and upon his return to Canada took parachute and arctic warfare training. He subsequently served two tours of duty in West Germany before leaving the military to return to Poste-de-la-Baleine (Great Whale River) on James Bay. He hid his identity as an Inuit person for 20 years, at great personal sacrifice. Nonetheless, he returned to his home community of Kuujjuaraapik in 1967.