Winnipeg display honours life and service of highly-decorated Indigenous war hero Tommy Prince

A new display has been unveiled in Winnipeg that tells the story of and honours the life and the service of one of Canada’s most decorated Indigenous war heroes.

Relatives of the late Sgt. Tommy Prince gathered with City of Winnipeg officials Friday morning at Sergeant Tommy Prince Place in north Winnipeg to unveil a brand new interactive display in the facility that tells the story of Prince’s life before, during, and after he served in the Canadian Military, and in the Second World War and the Korean War.

Prince was awarded a total of 11 medals for service to his country.

But it has been well documented that when he and other Indigenous soldiers returned home after war at that time they faced issues of systemic racism, and did not receive the same opportunities that many non-Indigenous soldiers received, including not even being able to vote in a federal election after serving in the Second World War, and not receiving many of the benefits that non-Indigenous veterans received once they were discharged.

According to the City, the new display tells the story of Prince at each stage of his life, “from being uprooted from his home and sent to a residential school as a child, to demonstrating outstanding skill, bravery, and leadership during several key battles over three tours of duty, to his later life, where he endured the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and racism, while simultaneously advocating for increased opportunities for Indigenous peoples.”

Despite those hardships, Prince’s son Tommy Prince Jr. said his father was known as someone who fought for the rights of Indigenous people and veterans, and who served his country with bravery.

“My father was not a selfish man,” Prince Jr. said. “He would rather praise the men of his unit than take praise himself, he’d give his last dollar to someone in need, and he worked hard for Indigenous Manitobans.”

Coun. Ross Eadie (Mynarski) said on Friday he now hopes the display will work to ensure that the life and legacy of Prince and all Indigenous Veterans are never forgotten.

“The racism and trauma that Sgt. Tommy Prince suffered from was an all-too-common experience for many Indigenous Veterans who have since passed away,” Eadie said. “Today’s unveiling recalls the adage that we must remember the sacrifices of our veterans, lest we forget.

“These displays will serve as that reminder for all generations of Winnipeggers.”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun