Indigenous contributions to the War of 1812

Throughout Canada's history, Indigenous peoples have helped shape this land into the country we know today. Before Canada became a country, Britain's military alliances with First Nations were a key part of the defensive network of British North America.

During the War of 1812, First Nations warriors and Métis fighters played important roles in the defence of these British territories against invading American forces. Thousands of First Nations warriors and Métis fighters fought beside British troops and Canadian settler militias during the war.

These Indigenous allies were often accompanied by officials from the Indian Department who spoke Indigenous languages and who could help First Nations war chiefs and British military commanders speak to each other.

Battle of Queenston Heights
Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1954-163-1

First Nations and Métis communities sided with the British during the war because they shared a common goal: to resist American expansion. More than 10,000 First Nations warriors from the great lakes region and the St. Lawrence Valley participated in nearly every major battle.

For British military leaders such as Major-General Sir Isaac Brock, commander of Britain's forces, First Nations warriors strengthened local garrisons and were seen as exceptional fighters.

In Canada, the war was fought on three main fronts: in the western great lakes region, the Niagara region and the St. Lawrence region. In each region First Nations warriors helped repel the invading American forces.

First Nations warriors from the Ojibwa and Dakota fought at the Battle of Michilimackinac. The Ojibwa, Odawa, Pottawatomi and Shawnee fought at the capture of Detroit. Six Nations warriors fought during the battles of Queenston Heights and Beaver Dams. The Algonquin, Mohawk, Huron and Abenaki fought at the Battle of Châteauguay.

According to several British commanders, these important battles were won in large part because of the participation of their Indigenous allies. Learn more about the key battles involving First Nations and Métis participation.

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