A new monument to one of Canada’s most decorated aboriginal soldiers was unveiled Sunday in a ceremony that brought together descendants of Sgt. Tommy Prince, dignitaries, military veterans and a cadet corps named in the soldier’s honour.
The boulder with Prince’s name is located at the Veteran Military Plaza located south of Battery Street and Selkirk Avenue. It replaces one that was vandalized. It caps 16 years of efforts by former serviceman Donald Mackey to honour Prince, a man he knew when both were in the military in the 1950s.
"I’m just realizing I’m going to be winding this down," said Mackey at the conclusion of the event, marked by prayers, an elder’s sage-smudge, a lament on the bagpipes and the presence of some of Prince’s family.
Tommy Prince Jr., the soldier’s son, said his father would have been happy with the memorial and the turnout.
"I was touched, very touched," said Prince. My father would have been very happy if he was here with everything being done. The family appreciates Mr. Mackey."
Starting in 1997, Mackey spearheaded countless tributes, gathering public and military support for initiatives that included a cadet corps set up in Prince’s name, murals on Sgt. Tommy Prince Street, the park that was the site of the unveil, named in his honour and displays installed at Sgt. Tommy Prince School in Brokenhead First Nation where Prince grew up, and at Sir Sam Steele Legion on Salter Street.
Another monument Mackey raised money for can be seen at the Freight House on Isabel Street in Winnipeg.
Brokenhead Chief Jim Bear, a nephew of Prince’s, attended the ceremony and recalled the time he and Mackey teamed up to save Tommy Prince’s medals. Prince had sold his military medals and they changed hands several times before coming up for auction in 2001. Bear organized a fundraising campaign to buy them and donated them to the Manitoba Museum in a lasting tribute.
"We got ‘em back," Bear said as the two men reminisced after the ceremony.
It was replicas of those medals that were drilled out of the original monument at the park on Battery Street in the act of vandalism which defaced the original monument that this latest one replaced Sunday.