The scent of the ceremonial pipe mingled with warm stew and duck soup filled the hall for the memorial feast to honour Colten Boushie at Red Pheasant Cree Nation’s community hall Wednesday afternoon, marking the one-year anniversary since Boushie’s death.
Boushie died from a gunshot wound at a Biggar-area property on August 9, 2016.
About 120 family, friends, guests and supporters came together for the ceremony that started with a prayer.
People sat in a large circle and received a meal of traditional foods, including bannock, rice, and fruits.
At the end, family passed a framed-picture of Colten around the circle.
“I’m really happy with the outcome of this feast,” said Boushie’s uncle Alvin Baptiste. “I really appreciate all the people who have attended.”
“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 appreciates 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.
Baptiste said with the trial of Gerald Stanley coming up in January related to Colten’s death, it keeps “opening the wounds and memories. It’s hard to move forward in healing.”
Stanley has been charged with second degree murder in the death of Colten Boushie.
William Boushie, Colten's brother, was touched to see people attended the feast from First Nations and non First Nations alike.
“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.”
Boushie describes his brother Colten as “a good guy.”
He said Colten would approach 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.”
Colten’s cousin Jade Tootoosis said Colten would be “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 is also the deacon designated for Red Pheasant.
He said some people attending the feast came from the Battlefords, Meadow Lake, as well as Prince Albert.
“It’s not taking sides, but you support people in their tragedy,” said Yarde.
From Murray Lake, Sandra Semchuk also attended.
“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.”
On Twitter: @battlefordsNOW
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