Mountain Horse, Albert

Mountain Horse was born Dec. 25, 1893 on the Blood Indian Reserve, Fort Macleod, Alberta. After studying at St. Paul’s Anglican Boarding School, Mountain Horse was commissioned as a lieutenant in the militia. At the outbreak of war in 1914, he was serving as a cadet instructor with the 23rd Alberta Rangers. He was granted permission to volunteer for the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He enlisted at Valcartier, Quebec on Sept. 23rd, 1914 and is believed to be the first aboriginal from Alberta to sign up.

Within a month of enlisting, he was sent overseas with the 10th Infantry Battalion. Like many in the early days of the war, Mountain Horse was optimistic about the Allies’ war effort, commenting that “I do not think the Germans will stand any chance when we get over there … I am very anxious to get to the war.” In April 1915, he fought in the Second Battle of Ypres. It was during this battle that Germany made large-scale use of poison gas for the first time on the Western Front. Mountain Horse later recounted the episode: “I was in the thick of the fighting at Ypres, and we had to get out of it. The Germans were using the poisonous gas on our men – oh it was awful – it is worse than anything I know of. I don’t mind rifle fire and the shells bursting around us, but this gas is the limit.” Fortunately he survived this battle, but he went on to be gassed on two subsequent occasions. He was hospitalized in May and finally sent back to Canada to convalesce, arriving in Quebec on Nov. 18, 1915. By this point, his lungs had been so weakened by the gas attacks, that tuberculosis had set in. He died just one day after landing in Quebec. His body was shipped home to Macleod where he was given a military funeral. His former schoolmaster, Samuel Henry Middleton, said that Mountain Horse was “One of the Empire’s greatest sons ... and having gained all the honours and respect which can be shown to a soldier and a man, has cast a brilliant reflection on the Blood Indians of Alberta, proving to the world at large he was truly an Indian warrior.”

Albert’s older brothers, Mike and Joe, would go on to enlist in the war, likely in part to avenge their brother’s death. Joe was wounded three times and Mike was buried alive for four days at Cambrai, leading to shell shock. Once sufficiently recovered, Mike continued fighting and was wounded twice. He would attain the rank of sergeant and win the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery. Mike Mountain Horse Elementary School in Lethbridge, Alberta was named after him.

Further Reading

  • James Dempsey, “Mountain Horse, Albert” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003– Retrieved Jan. 18, 2016
  • John Moses, with Donald Graves and Warren Sinclair. A Sketch Account of Aboriginal Peoples in the Canadian Military. [Ottawa]: National Defence, 2004 Retrieved Jan. 18, 2016
  • Timothy Charles Winegard, For King and Kanata: Canadian Indians and the First World War, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, c2012
Biographical Record
Full Name Mountain Horse, Albert
Also Known As Mountain, Albert, Horse, Albert
Heritage Blood
Band Name Bullshields Band
Band Location Fort Macleod, AB
Birth Date 1892-12-25
Birthplace Blood Reserve, AB
Date of Death 1915-11-19
Next of Kin Mother?: Mrs. Mountain Horse
Married before Enlistment Single
Occupation before Enlistment Cadet Instructor
Biographical Notes (Served as Horse, Albert M.). Son of the late "The Horn" and "Black Face" of the Blood REserve, Macleod, AB
Religion Church of England
Conflict WWI
Service Number 30396
Service Files http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/first-world-war-1914-1918-cef/Pages/item.aspx?IdNumber=178858
CEF Unit 10th Bn, 23rd Alta. R. militia, Canadian Army Service Corps
Rank Driver, Lieutenant
Previous Military Experience 23rd Alberta Rangers (6 yrs)
Date of Enlistment 1914-09-23
Location of Enlistment Valcartier, QC
Age at Enlistment 21
Medical History Wounded: gassed, Died of Tuberculosis
Commonwealth War Graves Commission http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2765346/MOUNTAIN-HORSE,%20ALBERT
Age at death 21
Burial location St Paul's Cemetery, Fort Macleod, AB
Notes on Burial Middle Row
Identifier 1191