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James Smith Cree Nation holds first powwow since mass stabbing

James Smith Cree Nation had its first powwow since the mass stabbing that happened in late 2022. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC News - image credit)
James Smith Cree Nation had its first powwow since the mass stabbing that happened in late 2022. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC News - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

On Thursday, the small northern Saskatchewan community of James Smith Cree Nation (JSCN) held a powwow for the first time since the mass stabbing there last year.

On September 4, 2022 Miles Sanderson carried out a mass stabbing, killing 11 people and injuring 18 others.

Community members said the powwow was a time to heal from trauma with cultural traditions.

Bonnie Burns was among those who died in the attacks. Her goddaughter Samara Stonestand was at the powwow on Thursday, and paid tribute during a women's traditional event dedicated to Burns.

Richard Agecoutay/CBC News
Richard Agecoutay/CBC News

Stonestand said it has been "a tough couple of months," but that the powwow helped.

"It makes me happy," said Stonestand. "It finally feels like real something real."

Stonestand is 17 years old and said she wants to be a criminal investigator once she graduates from high school. She said her family and boyfriend have helped her get through the tough times.

"I'm taking it kind of hard. Some days it hits, some days it doesn't, but I am moving forward with it," said Stonestand.

Cierra Twist, the cultural co-ordinator at JSCN's health clinic, was also at the powwow. She said she tries to keep busy to deal with the grief and loss.

"I woke up with a lump in my throat this morning," said Twist.

Twist organizes bingos, regalia making and painting classes. She also made her three daughters regalia for the powwow.

Richard Agecoutay
Richard Agecoutay

Focusing on the children

Randy Constant, the director of education for JSCN, said the nation's goal moving forward is to deal with the effects of the trauma, and that the children are a priority.

"The culture is gonna get us through this," said Constant. "The language, the protocols, the rituals, the ceremonies will take us further than we can ever go. Prayer is powerful."

He said it will be a delicate process that will require policies regarding trauma sensitivities.

According to Constant, there is a priority action plan for education with "13 pieces to address the short and long-term opportunities for trauma."

Richard Agecoutay
Richard Agecoutay

Support is available for anyone affected. You can talk to a mental health professional via Wellness Together Canada by calling 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 686868 for youth or 741741 for adults. It is free and confidential. 

The Hope for Wellness hotline offers immediate help to Indigenous people across Canada. Mental health counselling and crisis support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca.