Calgarians of all backgrounds gathered at Olympic Plaza Friday evening for a candlelight vigil for the victims of and families affected by the mass stabbing at the James Smith Cree Nation in Saskatchewan.
The evening was marked with an honour song, traditional prayers from elders and speeches from various Treaty 7 Indigenous leaders. Jingle dancers proffered healing dances and the vigil concluded with a round dance.
Organizer Alycia Two Bears said it was important for Treaty 7 residents to show unity with the Treaty 6 First Nation that suffered the deaths of nine victims (a tenth victim was from Weldon, Sask.) and two suspects, as well as injuries to 18 more people.
“This is to help them with their healing and to show solidarity with them as they navigate this really difficult time,” Two Bears said. “To show that even though they’re a really small nation in the middle of Saskatchewan, there are those of us also from middle-of-nowhere Saskatchewan who live here in Calgary and want to tell them, like, ‘You’re loved and you’re held and you deserve this healing and compassion from everybody.’”
Calgarians rally to help James Smith Cree Nation survivors
Isaac Racette, a Métis man, had a personal connection to the events in the neighbouring province.
“I have family on Cowessess First Nation and we had some friends in Saskatoon with the same last name as the killers, as the victims,” Racette told Global News. “So I have friends who have personal connections and relations with people on that reserve that were killed.”
Racette said the events at the James Smith Cree Nation hurt because of a lack of supports available to the community.
“What we were taught from a young age is that every Indigenous person, whether you be Métis, Inuit or First Nations blood, they’re your brothers and sisters,” he said. “And in a time of struggle, when the community calls out and they need help, it doesn’t matter if you’re from up north or you’re from down south, we’re going to show up for you because that’s what family does.
“Those are our brothers and sisters that that were caught in that tragedy, and families were torn apart.”
Taylor Dumais is a jingle dancer from Kehewin Cree Nation near Bonnyville, Alta.
The mass stabbing in the remote First Nation left her with a sense of anger.
“As a society, we’re failing our Indigenous people and we are not providing the right resources for them,” Dumais said. “We’re leaving them to fend for themselves and without the proper mental health resources. There’s so many people falling through the cracks.
“It needs all of us to come together, to pray for each other, to help each other, to extend that hand and let people know that we’re here for you.”
Dumais was invited by Two Bears to dance at the Calgary vigil.
“Hopefully coming together, the four of us will be able to put some prayers into that community, and the medicine in the jingle dress will carry up and hopefully provide that community with some healing,” she said.
The vigil organizers were also gathering cards of condolence and gift cards.
Two Bears urged compassion for the James Smith Cree Nation, especially given Canada’s commitment to truth and reconciliation.
“We have a lot of conversation right now around truth and reconciliation, particularly around residential school, and it’s viewed as a historical past event. This is an event happening currently, and so we can still show up now and immediately support.”
–with files from Sarah Offin, Global News
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