By Angela Brown
The scent of ceremonial pipe smoke mingled with warm stew and duck soup filled the community hall on the Red Pheasant Cree Nation at a memorial feast marking a year since the death of Colten Boushie.
Colten, 22, died from a gunshot wound at a Biggar-area property on Aug. 9, 2016.
About 120 family, friends, guests and supporters came together Wednesday’s ceremony.
After an opening prayer, people sat in a large circle and ate a meal of traditional foods, including bannock, rice, and fruits.
At the end, family passed a framed picture of Colten around the circle.
Alvin Baptiste, Colten’s uncle, said he appreciated all the people who came to the event.
“We still miss Colten very much; he is always going to be in our hearts,” said Baptiste. “He is not going to be forgotten.”
Several Battlefords RCMP officers who were invited attended in plain clothes, as requested by the family.
Baptiste said he appreciated seeing the RCMP members showing their respect.
“They are here to represent the RCMP,” added Baptiste. “I’m grateful to them attending the ceremony, and joining us in our healing journey.”
Baptiste described the ceremony as a First Nation custom.
“When our loved ones pass away, one year after we have a feast for them,” he said. “I am a little sad in a way thinking about Colten, but I’m very grateful for the support throughout the communities of Canada, and the chiefs. It’s a good day today to have this feast.”
A representative from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations also attended with gifts and a painting of an eagle from Chief Bobby Cameron.
Gerald Stanley, 55, is set to go to trial in January charged with second-degree murder in Colten’s death.
Baptiste said the court process so far has often re-opened wounds and brought back painful memories for the family
“It’s hard to move forward in healing,” he said.
William Boushie, Colten’s brother, was touched to see First Nations and non-First Nations people alike attending the feast.
“I’m happy to see there are other supporters out there – that people are still tuning in to keep an ear and eye to what happened last year,” he said.
He added he hopes the memorial helps raise awareness.
“We don’t want this to be somebody else’s son,” he said. “It puzzled me on the way here… I was holding my youngest son’s hands. And to think that could have been my son. It scared me. I couldn’t fathom what my mom had to go through… This shouldn’t happen to anybody’s kid.”
William described his brother Colten as a good man who approached everyone with a smile.
“He was just a human being; there is no other way to put it. We all (drink) the same water and wake up to the new day.”
Jade Tootoosis, Colten’s cousin, said he would have beeen “very humbled” to see so many attending the feast.
“I think we are gathered in a good way to remember him. This is how we were taught, and this is what our family does at this time – gathering together to share that meal and remember Colten,” she said.
Battlefords Anglican Deacon Gordon Yarde also attended. He also serves as the deacon for Red Pheasant.
He said some people attending the feast came from the Battlefords, Meadow Lake and Prince Albert.
“It’s not taking sides, but you support people in their tragedy,” said Yarde.
Sandra Semchuk attended.from Murray Lake
“It was very important for me to come today to support the family,” she said. “The crisis they are in is a crisis that is a nationwide story.”
Stanleys send condolences
Scott Spencer, Stanley’s defence lawyer, released a statement on behalf of his client and his family.
“The Stanley family expressed its condolences to the Boushie family a year ago, and does so again on this very sad day,” Scott Spencer wrote.
He went on, saying the Stanleys don’t pretend to know the difficulties of losing a child.
“Hopefully when all the facts come out, the Boushie family will better understand how the tragedy came to be and that it will be easier for them to heal,” Spencer said.
“In the circumstances of this event, and the unpleasant aftermath, it is important that both families show mutual respect for each other and allow the legal process to run its course.”
-with files from CKOM News