Family legacy of porud military service

·9 min read

Pikwakanagan – On Remembrance Day, Chief Wendy-Anne Jocko will be in Ottawa at the National War Memorial as the guest of the National Chief but her memories will undoubtedly drift back to her home community, her own military service and her family tree with deep roots of proud warriors and veterans.

“I do come from a long line of warriors, my great-grandfather times six was Pierre Louis Constant Pinesi; he was the grand chief of the Algonquins in the 1800s and he did fight in the War of 1812, so we do come from a long line of military people and warriors,” she recalled.

This is only part of a rich military family lineage of military service for Chief Jocko, who is also a very proud veteran herself with 23 years of service. Her family tree, which she had completed as part of researching her Algonquin lineage, shows a thread running through it of military involvement, including not only her famous ancestor, but her father in WW II and her grandfather’s generation dating to WW I.

“If you don’t have knowledge of your grandparents or great-grandparents, it is wonderful to learn these things,” she said. “I never met them.”

While she did meet her grandmother when she was a young child, she had not met her grandfather and some of the family history was lost to her, so learning about her Indigenous ancestry was important and she was very honoured to realize she was descended from a well-known grand chief.

“For Grandfather Pinesi, he was defending his territory,” she noted. “He fought with the British in the War of 1812 and, by 1830 he was Grand Chief of the Algonquins.”

The son of Chief Wambolak, he spoke French and there are records of his marriage in Oka, Quebec, as well as a later marriage.

“The hunting territory of Pinesi’s band was centred at the confluence of the Rideau and Ottawa rivers,” she said. “Constant is known to have lived for several years on the Madawaska River. He died on the 13th of August 1834. There was a cholera epidemic at the time. The mission cemetery where Pinesi’s bones lie is no longer visible; it has been paved over.”

Her connection to this illustrious ancestor makes her very proud, but she is equally proud of family members who served more recently, including in both World War I and World War II.

Learning more about her family tree and connections has been important and something that has happened more in recent years. Her grandfather, Paul, was known as Black Paul and fathered his last child at 67, so she never got to know him.

“They would have called him Makwa – that is dark,” she noted.

Her grandmother, Mary Lavalley, had several brothers who served in World War I. Chief Jocko recalled she was asked by Veteran’s Affairs if she knew of a Peter Lavallee, who had been killed during World War I. When she went to Whitney, where the family came from, she was able to speak to some relatives who told her about Peter who was a young man when he died far from home. His picture, which Chief Jocko has in her home, shows a solemn young man in uniform. A fresh-faced youth in a coat which looks a tad too big.

She learned Peter was born on March 10, 1897, in Combermere and was killed in action in France on April 10, 1917, at the age of 20. He was the son of Jack and Philomena Lavalley, of Whitney, and the younger brother of John and Matthew who also served.

“Peter could not read or write at the time he attested. He is my great uncle,” she said.

Family pictures of her grandmother’s brothers – Matthew, Joe and Peter – are a treasured keepsake for her. The images show the young men dressed in uniform in WW I attire, all with the innocent look of the day in what was billed as the “war to end all wars.”

Other WW I family military connections include Michael Stoqua and Moses Tennisco, who were both honoured recently with a street named after them in Ottawa. Private Stoqua died from his wounds in 1917 in Boulogne, France, as a member of the 75th Overseas Battalion. Private Tennisco was killed in action on June 27, 1917, and is buried at the Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey, United Kingdom.

Pikwakanagan Military Connections

The Algonquins of Pikwakanagan have a strong connection to World War I, as well as later wars.

“All but three members joined the war effort,” she said.

The connection continued in WW II, and many of Chief Jocko’s family served.

“My dad and five of his brothers joined,” she said. “That is significant for my family.”

A framed portrait of the six young men in their military uniforms hangs in her home, another reminder of the legacy of military service which runs through her family. However, it was not just on her Algonquin side of the family.

“My mother was a military person herself as part of the women’s land army in Scotland,” she recalled.

Her parents actually met while her father, Leo Jocko, was in the Forestry Core in Scotland.

“He helped the Scots mill timber,” she said.

Leo and Williamina Barr McKay met during World War II, so Chief Jocko is a product of this wartime romance.

“In some ways I am a war baby,” she laughed.

Like many veterans, her father did not talk about his wartime experiences, but he did tell her about winning a marathon while in the military.

“He was quite the athlete,” she said.

Later, when she decided to join the military as a young woman fresh out of high school, her father was very supportive, she recalled.

“When I told him I joined the military, he told me it was the best thing I could do,” she said.

Learning about her lineage has made her very proud of her ancestors and the family line of service. She has also learned about some connections with other families in Pikwakangan where there are common ancestors and relations. In some cases, they knew they might be related, but the genealogical tracing makes it quite clear. One of her distant relatives is former Chief Kirby Whiteduck.

“If I have this rich history, imagine what others have,” she said.

Chief Jocko has also been able to share about her family history and the traditions of military service at Pikwakangan with national media outlets. It is important for her for the names of those who served to be recognized.

“I went to the cemetery and took down the names so we would have them,” she said.

For a podcast for the Canadian War Museum on Indigenous Veterans Day she made sure to include the names of each veteran from Pikwakangan and read their names so they are remembered.

“We have women veterans, both officers and enlisted. We have veterans awarded the WW1 Canadian Memorial Cross, and multiple other awards and commendations,” she pointed out.

Cost of Service for Algonquins

Serving came at a cost for Algonquins and other First Nations people.

“They lost status if they served,” she recalled. “It is horrible.” There are stories of veterans who came home and were no longer allowed to be on the reserve because they lost their status, so they paid a huge price for serving in Canada’s military, she noted.

“To lose status and then be kicked out of your home is terrible and to not receive the benefits everyone else got,” she noted. “It affects the whole family.”

For Chief Jocko, it is part of the elimination factor of Indigenous people which has happened in Canada.

With her own father and his brothers, some were considered status and some were non-status. Chief Jocko herself only regained her own status in 1985.

Remembrance Day at Pikwakanagan has always been a very special event. Although this year it is a virtual service, pre-COVID it was always a large, well-attended event with a delegation from Garrison Petawawa and community members sharing a meal afterwards. Chief Jocko, who served on council as a councillor prior to her election as chief, was a visible presence in her dual role as a veteran with military medals and ribbons and role on council. In 2019, at the last in-person Remembrance Day services at Pikwakangan she was holding the Veterans Eagle Staff. She explained it represents memories of veterans here and gone.

“It signifies the spirit and pride of the people. It is a salute to the Creator by the families of the community who are representing their family warriors on their behalf,” she noted.

Chief Jocko joined the military when she was only 17. Her mother had to sign because she was still under-age.

“There was a campaign and it was actively recruiting people in 1977,” she recalled.

However, she also remembers as a little girl in Petawawa when she was about four years old being so impressed by the uniforms worn by soldiers she decided then she would one day join the military. Her parents, both proud of their military service and the fact they met during WW II, both supported her decision.

“I joined as a supply technician,” she shared. “During my career I was posted to Edmonton, Calgary, Chilliwack and Petawawa. I had two tours of Duty in Bosnia, ‘93 and ‘98.

“I cannot believe it has been 30 years since the Peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslavia. I was deployed with 1 Service Battalion Calgary in ’93. I was 33 years old at the time. Croatia was a beautiful place. However, it was incredibly sad to see the devastation that war had caused, displaced people, bombed out homes and buildings.

“My vivid memories are of a young mother and her children,” she said. “The Canadian War Museum put up a photo of me with a little girl. Her name was Dragana, her mother’s name was Maria. They lived at the edge of a landfill site.

“When I went back in 98 it was very apparent that rebuilding efforts were in motion,” she said. “People were hustling and bustling about the streets again. I went back to look for Maria and her children, but I was told she moved to Serbia.”

After her military career, Chief Jocko retired with the rank of sergeant and pursued a variety of other interests including training as an undertaker and driving truck prior to returning to the Ottawa Valley and Pikwakanagan and being elected chief.

Remembrance Day continues to be a very special day for her.

“Remembrance reminds me of the bitter cost of war, the most destructive and pitiless of all human activities,” she said. “The colossal loss of life of soldiers, women, children and the atrocities committed in the name of war such as the holocaust.”

There is also a deep feeling of pride and gratitude of those who served, including in her own family and community. That feeling of pride will be with her at the National War Memorial on Remembrance Day and as she reflects on her family legacy dating back to the 1800s as warriors and willingly serving their nation when called.

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader

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