by Floyd P. Favel
SWEETGRASS FIRST NATION — There are not many surviving World War II veterans and so they are an important cultural resource for us today. They are representatives of our great warrior tradition and of a generation who volunteered to fight in a war that they did not have to fight in, as being Treaty Indians, they were not obligated to fight. They were not even citizens of this country that this generation fought and risked their lives for. Many of our warriors lost their lives on these fields of battle across the Big Water, in Europe. Many came back scarred by their memories and many found it difficult to talk about their experiences in this last great world war.
If there is such a thing as a just war, WWII was the last just war in which it was clearly defined as to what the war was about. The recent wars of this generation are in many ways less defined as to who is in the wrong and who is in the right.
Philip Favel, of Sweetgrass First Nation, is a proud veteran of WWII. Still hale and hearty after a lifetime of hard work and raising a large family, Favel recently harrowed and planted a garden around his house with a tractor that he repairs and maintains on his own. He learned his mechanical skills from this experiences in the war, where he served as a supply truck driver. He arrived in Normandy on June 7, 1944. D-Day had started the day before, on June 6, 1944. “Yes, I was scared,” he confided. “If anyone says they were not scared then they are lying,” I remember him saying to me, as I sat with him on the north end of the Sundance grounds on Sweetgrass in the summer of 2011, at a Sundance that he was sponsoring.
Over the course of his long and eventful life, Philip has done many things, including being a cultural leader passing down our great Cree traditions to his large family and to the younger generations. He is a proud Cree Indian and at the same time proud of his ancestry which originates from Métis fur trader and medicine man Thomas Favel, (b. 1804) who originated from the Métis settlement of Red River, in present day Manitoba. His father, William Favel was the son of this Thomas Favel, known as Kinowaskowanase-Tall Man in the Cree language and who spent his last years on the Poundmaker Reserve, where he was buried in 1896.
Philip has also served as elected Grand Chief of the Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association– a post he proudly held. Those of us who know him, related or not, are proud to call him Moshom, and he is a Moshom to many people across this country. He is a representative of a generation that is slowly retreating into the mists of time, of a warrior and cultural tradition that uniquely defines us as Plains Cree people. We honor him, and all other First Nations veterans, for all that they have done for all our people.•
by Armand LaPlante
Henry Beaudry, order WWII Veteran, 1921-2016.
Henry Beaudry’s passing on October 3, 2016, marked a time of mourning for many communities, but it also was a time to reflect on the remarkable life he lived.
Beaudry was a Pow Wow dancer, artist, and World War II veteran with remarkable stories. The great-grandson of Chief Poundmaker, Beaudry was born at Poundmaker First Nation in 1921. It was in 1941 when he decided to join the army after seeing a poster that said “Join the army, see the world.” After enlisting, Beaudry was sent to southern Europe where he saw action but soon after was captured in Italy by the Nazis and sent to Stalag VII-A: Germany’s largest Prisoner of War camp in WWII.
Despite being in a desperate situation, Beaudry always believed in the Creator. Before going to the war, a man named Thomas Moosomin gave Beaudry an eagle feather and told him “this will keep you while you’re in the army.” Beaudry took that eagle feather overseas with him, but lost it when he got captured by the Nazis.
Beaudry spent several months in the POW camp in dire conditions, there was one night in particular he was sure he was going to die. Beaudry and some other prisoners were in a boxcar and had gone 6 days without water; he was almost dying. That night he prayed and prayed to the creator; he was praying as he prepared to pass on into the afterlife as he thought about his family. The next morning they couldn’t believe it, there were icicles right along the train. The prisoners shared the icicles and they were all right for another day.
While in the camp Beaudry befriended a man from the Russian army and finally they both managed to escape. Beaudry recalled walking for so long and hiding under various things when necessary. He and the Russian didn’t speak the same language so they improvised and spoke in sign language. Beaudry eventually made it to Holland and then joined up with the Americans with whom he fought alongside.
After the war, back home in the prairies, an envelope showed up one day and all it said was “Beaudry”. Upon opening the envelope, Beaudry found the same feather the old man had given him before the war. Beaudry went to a Sundance and placed that feather on the pole of the tent. Early in the morning, he suddenly heard the eagle coming down. The eagle grabbed the feather and flew off. After that, Beaudry knew it was the eagle that had kept him through all and brought him safely home. Beaudry had told that story to his children many times and stated that one day when he died he would fly away like the eagle.
Beaudry worked hard after the war: on farms, on the railroad, and eventually also as a prolific artist. During his time in Kindersley, Beaudry began doing sketches, painting on cardboard boxes and became a talented, self-taught artist. His family recalls him trading his art for comic books for his son. Beaudry eventually started painting about the stories the elders would tell him, and also his memories from Poundmaker, Red Pheasant, and in Mosquito. His paintings all have stories. They have been featured around many places including Wanuskewin and the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. Battleford Furniture has a notable collection. Even the Queen of England has a Henry Beaudry painting in her collection.
Beaudry was always deeply rooted in his Indigenous culture. Traditional Pow Wow dancing was an important part of his life; his daughter remembers the whole family attending many pow-wows during the 60s and 70s. Beaudry would teach his children traditional knowledge including how to put up a tipi, and to smudge and pray.
Into his old age Beaudry maintained a sense of humor, as well as his independence. He lost his first wife tragically and eventually remarried at Sweetgrass. When his wife had to move into a nursing home, Beaudry did not, saying that it wasn’t his time. He lived with his daughter and even continued driving until 2013 when his family decided it may be too much of a risk.
Despite his fame as an artist Beaudry always remained humble, often reminding others that he need not be immortalized; but his story is so remarkable it is impossible not to share and listen in awe. His life story even caught the attention of the actor Johnny Depp. At some point, the Beaudry family plans to release a book about his life. The Gold Eagle Casino in North Battleford will be doing a special tribute to Henry Beaudry at their Remembrance Day ceremony this year. May Henry Beaudry rest in peace, and fly like the eagle. •