A blue, red, and yellow starblanket lay on the casket of Elder Michael Pinay Thursday morning as people filed past to pay their respects.
His viewing was held at the First Nations University of Canada. Drumming and singing led the way into the building as Pinay’s casket was carried inside; his family followed, then the rest of the mourners.
Many hugs were given out, and tears flowed freely. A First Nations prayer was said over his body and a drum circle sang just to the right. A wide wall of windows filled the room with light, though the mood inside was sombre.
The ceremony and viewing at the university is offered to people of special importance, and was a testament to how respected Pinay was to the community.
Jim Pratt knew Pinay for 30 years as an adopted brother. Pratt spoke fondly of Pinay outside the viewing, saying the elder was a caring and helpful man who would give someone the shirt off his back.
“He was one of these guys that if someone called him at 1 o’clock in the morning at his home, he’d get up, dress up and go out and do prayers for them, or talk to someone who was having problems,” Pratt said.
Pinay was also a big advocate for education and working to help First Nations youth.
“He always preached the good road all the time, going out to get stuff that you wanted because you could get those things through education and improving yourself,” Pratt said.
Pratt also remembered Pinay as a teacher, saying he considered himself a student or apprentice of Pinay. Pratt called him a “library of traditions”.
“Mike was the type of person who would only give you so much – he would give you three-quarters of his teaching then you had to go find the other quarter as to complete that teaching that he gave you. He was like that, he didn’t give you all the information because you had to go seek it yourself.”
Pinay was very active in the community, working with the Bold Eagle Program, he was a part of the Regina Police Service’s Elders Advisory Board for several years.
Pratt said Pinay was also a pow wow announcer and would help organize sweat lodges.
Pratt said he’ll miss Pinay a lot, and though he was so influential Pratt’s fondest memories of the elder are of his humour.
“We teased each other lots, we’re kind of like two big kids, we’d meet and we’d tease, and we’d end up play punching each other … if I knew Mike was around I’d be looking behind my back because he’d sneak up on me and give me a shot in the ribs,” Pratt joked.
Pinay died Tuesday at the age of 69 after a long illness. A funeral service will be held for him Friday afternoon in his home of Lebret, Sask, located in the Qu’Appelle Valley.