James Smith Cree Nation Marks First Anniversary of Mass Stabbing with Mourning and Resolve

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A blend of sorrow and celebration permeated through James Smith Cree Nation on the first anniversary of the shocking mass stabbing that snuffed out 11 lives and injured 17 more. Chief Wally Burns eloquently voiced the shared feelings of the community, revealing the mingled melancholy and resilience.

“A great many people are saddened, reflecting on what occurred a year ago,” Burns said. “However, I also perceive this gathering as a celebration of life, love, and respect.”

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On the fateful day, September 4, 2022, Myles Sanderson had unleashed a lethal stabbing frenzy, leaving a trail of carnage in the First Nation and the neighboring town of Weldon. This tragic anniversary saw the community convening to honor the memory of those they had tragically lost following two days of communing and celebrating life. This commemoration symbolized a poignant pause for mourning, remembrance, and contemplation.

Patty Hajdu, Federal Minister of Indigenous Services, graced the ceremonies with her presence, expressing that the unfortunate incident was no mere accident. Hajdu recognized the profound, entrenched issues that span generations, borne out of enduring loss, grief, and trauma, the poisonous aftermath of colonialism.

Hajdu further underscored the federal government’s commitment to helping the First Nation heal, highlighted by the provision of over $9.3 million in the past year, along with the promise of an additional $42.5 million spread across the next six years. These funds are earmarked for the establishment of a mental wellness center, with the First Nation community empowered to decide its form.

Private gatherings and ceremonies coursed through the James Smith Cree Nation community from Friday, deliberately excluding outsiders and media to afford members a secluded sanctuary for their grief.

Robert Head, a community member, painted a solemn image of the day, reporting that many individuals, each at different stages of trauma, sought solace in therapy. For some, their healing journeys have yet to enable them to partake in public events.

The ripple effect of the horrifying incidents touched Weldon, particularly with the demise of Wes Petterson, Sanderson’s final victim and a cherished member of the local coffee club. Residents formed a tight-knit circle around the fire, reminiscing about Petterson. “We, who are part of the Silver Tone club, gathered, memory of our friend warming the air,” Mabe Nesbitt, a resident of Weldon, said.

Through a collective experience marked by tragedy, the communities of James Smith Cree Nation and its neighbors found consolation in unity. Together, they harnessed a powerful resolve to remember and heal, striving towards a future that would never forget the tragic events that unfolded that fateful day one year ago.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.