The Picture of Mary Grayeyes

This photo from the Library and Archives of Canada is currently captioned "Mary Greyeyes being blessed by her native Chief prior to leaving for service in the CWAC, 1942. Source: Library and Archives Canada/Department of National Defence fonds/PA-129070." But Mary Greyeyes Reid's daughter-in-law tells a very different story of what happened when it was taken. Mary, a Cree, was the first full-blooded native to join the Canadian Women's Army Corp.

One day her sergeant and two Mounties showed up and said, "We'll give you a good new uniform and a good lunch. We want you to take a picture."

And this is the picture.

They drove over out to the Piapot reserve. The man standing there is a man named Harry Ball. He's a World War One veteran. He wasn't the chief of the Piapot reserve [at the time he was a councilor, and later became chief], but he was a vet. And he happened to be hanging around.

The regalia that he's wearing was cobbled together by the Mounties. They went into people's houses and pulled out a blanket here, an old headdress from a powwow there. And they found a pipe. The stem on it was pieced together with some tape and a bit of twine one of the Mounties had.

And they told them to pose. And this picture is apparently an Indian princess getting a blessing from the chief of her tribe.

That's only a small piece of Mary's story. Read the rest at The Tyee. Link -via Nag on the Lake


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What an interesting story - great find, Miss C! My favorite lines:

And Mary and Harry are talking. Mary says, "Christ." (They're speaking in Cree, and this is Mary's story now, I'm telling you.)

And Harry says, "God it's hot. What did you get for this?"

Mary says, "I get a good lunch."

Harry says, "I got 20 bucks."

Mary says, "So what are you bitching about? You get 20 bucks and I'm down here with bugs."
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