New stamp of Manitoba war hero a testament to his resilience and strength: Brokenhead chief

Canada Post unveiled a new stamp honouring a Manitoba-born First Nations war hero, Sgt. Tommy Prince.

A ceremony was held on Monday at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to unveil the stamp and remember the man who was a member of Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, about 65 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

“He is remembered for his resilience and his strength, and his fight for equality of Indigenous rights … It is a great honour to be able to tell the great story of Sgt. Tommy Prince,” said current Brokenhead chief Gordon Bluesky.

Prince was awarded 11 medals for his service during the Second World War and Korean War, making him the most decorated Indigenous veteran of those wars.

In 1944, during his service in the Second World War, Prince endured a gruelling trek across rugged terrain to locate an enemy camp, travelling without food or water for 72 hours. 

Sgt. Tommy Prince is the most decorated First Nations veteran of the Second World War and the Korean War. (Manitoba Archives)

When he returned to the allied camp, he led the brigade back to the German camp, leading to the capture of more than 1,000 soldiers.

“This goes to show his dedication and willpower … Think about what it took to do that as an individual,” Bluesky said at the ceremony.

The chief wants to see the decorated war hero’s story captured on the silver screen, and known by everyone across the world.

“I’ve been looking at the Hollywood and I’ve been seeing all these Superman 14 and Spider-Man 8, and so on, and I just think, when are they going to start telling real stories about people like Sgt. Tommy Prince,” Bluesky said.

Returning from war another battle

When he returned, racist federal policies meant he and thousands of other Indigenous veterans were denied many of the benefits given to other veterans.

When Prince died in 1977, he was homeless.

His son, Tommy Prince Jr., helped unveil the stamp on Monday, alongside John Williams, the director of communications, strategy and external engagement with Canada Post.

It features Prince in his Korean War uniform with northern lights in the background.

“I would just like to say thank you for honouring my deceased father,” Prince Jr. said at the ceremony.

He remembers his late father as a giving, funny man, in spite of the challenges he faced after his military service.

“If he had a dollar in his pocket and you needed it more than he did, he would gladly give it to you. He was a loving, caring man. He liked to make people laugh. He liked to be a jokester,” Prince Jr. said.

Prince called out racism when he saw it, advocating to abolish the Indian Act and on behalf of Indigenous rights.

The stamp will be officially issued on Oct. 28.

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