He is one of Canada’s most-decorated Indigenous war veterans.
And on Saturday more accolades were heaped on Sgt. Tommy Prince of Manitoba.
“(We have) designated Tommy Prince as a person of national historic significance,” Indigenous MP Robert Falcon-Ouellette told a crowd of military, political and Indigenous dignitaries at Lower Fort Garry outside Winnipeg.
“This is the highest form of historical commemoration available to the government.”
WATCH THE CEREMONY HERE
A plaque was also unveiled under a hot, cloudless sky after a Hercules jet did a fly past.
And there was a military parade, a guard of honour and photos with his surviving family members at the federal historical site.
Then his son, Tommy Prince Jr., injected a dose of reality.
“My father died homeless on the streets of Winnipeg,” he said of Prince Sr., who was a member of Manitoba’s Brokenhead First Nation.
“I’m sorry to say that.”
Guard of Honour at ceremony for Tommy Prince. (Kathleen Martens/APTN)
That’s why Prince Jr. said he works with Homes for Heroes, an organization that builds tiny homes for veterans.
He said they have funds to build and maintain the homes, but need donations of land.
He was disappointed when the city of Winnipeg wouldn’t agree to help.
“It strikes me funny there’s lots of land in Winnipeg for other things,” Prince Jr. said in a speech.
Homelessness, addiction and racism colour the return to civilian life for many veterans already hobbled by physical and mental illnesses, Prince Jr. said.
It was the one battle his father, who served in the Second World War and Korean War, couldn’t conquer.
“There’s something definitely wrong with the government,” Prince said to applause.
“They have to step up to the plate and say, ‘Hey, we mistreated you.’”
Flags of Canada, Manitoba and seven First Nations. (Kathleen Martens/APTN)
The pomp and ceremony were held at the former fort because that’s where Treaty 1 was signed. Prince’s grandfather – Chief Henry Prince – was a signatory to the treaty.
After the various Indigenous nations agreed to ally themselves with the settlers they were exempted from military service.
But Prince volunteered anyway almost eight decades ago, using his brawn and brain to help defeat the enemy.
Brig-Gen. Stephen Lacroix, commander of 3rd division, Canadian Army, marvelled at Prince’s extraordinary abilities.
“I would love to have a beer with him and ask him how he came to do this,” he told the crowd.