Pubdate: Thu, 16 Aug 2001
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2001 The LeaderPost Ltd.
Author: Pamela Cowan


OKANESE FIRST NATION -- Rocked by multiple murders on Balcarres-area 
reserves, First Nations leaders contend drug and alcohol abuse led to 
the deaths.

"Drugs and alcohol were involved here -- it was a party gone bad," 
said Mike Pinay, an elder co-ordinator for the File Hills community. 
"We're going to have to talk to the young people. We have to go to 
the root of where this comes from, which is drugs and alcohol -- 
that's our enemy. We aren't the enemy of each other -- it's the drugs 
and alcohol that are hurting our people."

On Saturday, the body of SaskTel worker John Charles Davies, 45, was 
found on the Star Blanket First Nation. A 17-year-old teen, of the 
Okanese First Nation near Balcarres, appeared in court Tuesday 
charged with second-degree murder. Police found two more bodies of 
youths, from the Little Black Bear First Nation, in dense bush on the 
neighbouring Star Blanket First Nation on Tuesday around 5 p.m.

Pinay stayed with the grandmother and mother of one of the two youths 
Tuesday night.

Waiting for police to identify the youths is traumatic, Pinay said in 
a Wednesday morning interview.

"It's especially hard on mothers and grandmothers because they are 
the ones who bring life into this world," he said. "You always think 
you will leave before your children."

Pinay said the dead boys, aged 14 and 16, were like "grandsons" to him.

"The boys were cousins -- everybody is related on the reserves," he 
said. "You see these young boys when they're babies and you watch 
them grow up and we try to steer their lives in a good way. We are 
making progress, but this is a big setback. This tragedy affects all 
our people. I'm walking around with a very heavy heart today."

Pinay also lost his long-time friend, Bradley Paul Bellegarde, 41, 
whose body was found inside a residence on the Little Black Bear 
First Nation, which neighbours Star Blanket, on Sunday afternoon.

"We spent years hunting together and today he's gone too," Pinay 
said. "I'm very close with all the families and my sympathy goes to 
the SaskTel worker's family. It's very tragic. I know how they're 

"I also understand the public's anger towards First Nations people. 
This can happen anywhere and it's happened in other areas. 
Unfortunately this happened in our community and we have to deal with 
it. Our old people used to say, 'To take someone's life is the 
ultimate.' Long ago, there was no such thing as murder. That's what 
our people have learned over the years: drugs, booze and murder."

First Nations must take a stand against alcohol and drugs, said Chief 
Marie Ann Daywalker of Okanese First Nation at a Wednesday afternoon 
news conference held at File Hills Agency Health Centre on Okanese.

"We will continue to consult with elders, as well as the provincial 
and federal governments and relevant health agencies to develop a 
strategy to ensure that this type of tragedy will not happen again," 
Daywalker said.

When media asked Daywalker what evidence she had that alcohol and 
drugs were involved, she said: "I don't believe that a person in 
their right mind, without alcohol and drugs, would go and kill 
another person."

On behalf of the File Hills community, Daywalker delivered an 
emotional message of sympathy and an apology.

"We want to express our deepest sympathy to the family and co-workers 
of Mr. Davies," she said. "We are so very sorry for your loss and our 
prayers are with you and your family at this time. As well, our 
deepest sympathy goes out to the families' of the victims...We would 
also like to apologize to our good neighbours in the surrounding 
communities for the fear that they experienced this weekend. We ask 
for their support in the hopes that together we will all heal from 
the effects of these senseless tragedies."

First Nations communities have been screaming for help with drug and 
alcohol problems for years, said Lawrence Joseph, a Federation of 
Saskatchewan Indian Nations spokesman.

"As you know, not only in the communities in File Hills, the 
population is extremely young and very well educated and I guess it's 
safe to say very bored with life, with the fact there is very little 
to do," Joseph said.

What's needed is holistic help -- including public education and 
health agencies to provide physical and mental health resources, he 
said. There is a lot of tension in the File Hills communities because 
there are few answers to the murders, Joseph said.

"Understandably, emotions are going to run high, but I appeal to the 
community and also to families to give the due process the time to 
complete its course," Joseph said. "The police are doing everything 
they can."

To aid grieving members, a trauma team will stay at the File Hills 
Agency Office on Okanese for as long as needed. Daywalker urged band 
members to seek counselling from elders and trained professionals.

Although there is not a sense of fear, there is "hesitancy about what 
has happened", said Chief Cliff Starr of the Star Blanket First 

"Nobody is fearing for their life, but they are concerned that maybe 
all the people haven't been arrested that have been involved in the 
case, so far," Starr said.

As a precaution and to help restore a sense of safety, the RCMP will 
increase their presence on the reserves.

"Once the investigations are complete, we have requested additional 
officers out here just to work with our crisis and trauma team," 
Daywalker said.
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