Greyeyes-Steele, David Georges

A grain farmer from Saskatchewan’s Muskeg Lake Cree Band, David George Greyeyes-Steele enlisted in 1940 at the age of 25 and served with the Saskatoon Light Infantry (M.G.) in Sicily, Italy, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Three of his siblings also served in WWII, including Mary Greyeyes, the first Aboriginal woman to join the Canadian Women’s Army Corps.

Known for his skills in machinegun and rifle usage, David George Greyeyes-Steele was selected to join the instructional team for a machinegun reinforcement unit where he became a sergeant and gave advanced weaponry training to reinforcements arriving in Great Britain from Canada. After returning to Canada for five months to undergo officer training, he returned to Great Britain with the new rank of Lieutenant, the first Treaty Indian to be commissioned as an officer overseas.

While deployed overseas, Greyeyes-Steele continued his childhood passion for soccer by playing on the Canadian Machine Gun Reinforcement Unit soccer team and winning the Overseas Army Championship in 1942.

Taking on the role of platoon commander for the Saskatoon Light Infantry, Greyeyes-Steele served across multiple regions over 17 months – Italy, North Africa, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. While fighting in Italy, Lieutenant Greyeyes-Steele commanded a mortar platoon and earned the Greek Military Cross for valour (third class) for his role in supporting the Greek Mountain Brigade.

In September 1944, as the Allies were preparing to launch an attack toward Rimini, the Canadian Corps along with the Greek Mountain Brigade aimed to secure the right flank of the 1st Canadian Division across the Marano River. Lieutenant Greyeyes-Steele led one of four mortar platoons who cleared enemy positions along the route, at a cost of more than 100 casualties. After pushing forward for the entire week, and navigating a dangerously mined airfield, the combined Greek and Canadian forces finally raised both their respective flags at the town hall in Rimini. Greyeyes-Steele, along with 14 other Canadians, earned the Greek Military Cross for their efforts and valour during this operation.

Despite his already long service in Europe, Greyeyes-Steele would volunteer to serve his country again in Japan. However, with the Japanese announcement of surrender in August 1945, he was transferred to serve with the Canadian Occupation Force in Germany as an intelligence officer with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. He would soon return home to Canada, having served in seven different European countries across six years in a variety of roles.

Returning home to the Muskeg Lake Reserve in Saskatchewan, Greyeyes-Steele continued farming and in 1946, married fellow veteran Flora Jeanne of the RCAF Women’s division, one of the first Aboriginal women to serve in the Canadian Air Force.

In 1958, he became chief of the reserve and two years later, he began a fifteen-year career with the federal public service, later becoming the first Aboriginal to hold the position of Regional Director in the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

Following the war, Greyeyes-Steele had continued his involvement in athletics by playing on the Canadian soccer team for the Inter-Allied Games as well as coaching soccer in Marcelin, Saskatchewan. He also represented Saskatchewan in a match against Newcastle United in 1949 while the famed British club was on their North American summer tour.

In 1977, his athletic efforts were officially recognized as he was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame. That same year he was also honoured by his country as he was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada. In 1993, he received the Saskatchewan Order of Merit.

Further reading

  • Brian Mlazgar and Holden Stoffel. Saskatchewan Sports: Lives Past and Present. University of Regina Press, 2007.
  • Jene M. Porter. Perspectives of Saskatchewan. University of Manitoba Press, 2009.
  • John Moses. Aboriginal Participation in Canadian Military Service: Historic and Contemporary Contexts. The Army Doctrine and Training Bulletin: Canada’s Professional Journal on Army
  • Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame. “David Greyeyes”. Retrieved Feb. 12, 2016.
  • Veterans Affairs Canada. “Greyeyes”. Retrieved Feb. 12, 2016
Biographical Record
Full Name Greyeyes-Steele, David Georges
Heritage Cree
Band Name Muskeg Lake Cree Nation
Band Location SK
Date of Death 1996-07-21
Conflict WWII
CEF Unit S.L.I.
Rank Lieutenant
Service History Intell. Officer RWR Occupation Force - 1945
Photo http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/those-who-served/aboriginal-veterans/native-soldiers/conclusion
Identifier 2651