Mary Greyeyes and First World War veteran Harry Ball. PHOTO: LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA PA-129070
It’s an iconic photo: a young native woman being blessed by a chief in full headdress.
A set-up. Like the famous Times Square kiss. Though touted at the time as that of an Indian princess being blessed by her father and chief, in fact the two subjects had never met before posing for the photo. The man had been paid $20 for posing in a get-up scavenged from many sources; the young woman got a new uniform and a lunch out of the deal.
It took nearly 70 years to set the record straight—all thanks to the perseverance of the daughter-in-law of the of the young private—not a princess—of the Canadian Women’s Army Corp.
The soldier was Mary Reid, Mary Greyeyes as was, who’d joined up on a Cree reservation north of Saskatoon, Sask. Although used as a poster child on several occasions, during which she got to meet the Queen Mother, King George VI and the future queen and then princess Elizabeth, Reid faced discrimination in barracks.
It’s a fascinating story, lovingly told by her daughter-in-law Melanie Fahlman Reid, an instructor at Capilano University. The sidebar on the three captions for the photo is equally fascinating.
On the web, the caption reads “Mary Greyeyes being blessed by her native Chief prior to leaving for service in the CWAC.”