CBC News
The seven aboriginal students who have died in Thunder Bay since 2000 are, from top left, Jethro Anderson, 15, Curran Strang, 18, Paul Panacheese, 17, Robyn Harper, 18, Reggie Bushie, 15, Kyle Morriseau, 17, and Jordan Wabasse, 15.

Inquest Into Seven Aboriginal Student Deaths in Thunder Bay Adjourns for Year

Cara McKenna

After three months of testimony, an inquest into the deaths of seven indigenous youths in Thunder Bay while they were attending high school far from their remote reserves has adjourned until January 11, according to CBC News.

Racism against indigenous youth in Thunder Bay has been a recurring topic during the inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations high school students, ages 15 to 21, between 2000 and 2011. They died while attending high school in the northwestern Ontario city, with five of them found in waterways.

Over the last several weeks of the inquest, which began in early October, witnesses included former students, the victims’ friends and family members, police and medical experts. A number of people have brought up the ongoing issue of racism in Thunder Bay, and it is an old one, although various programs have tried to address it.

RELATED: Combating Racism, Youth Suicide and Crime With Awareness and Education in Thunder Bay

Alexis Turtle, who went to school with 15-year-old Reggie Bushie before he was found dead in a river in 2007, testified remotely in November from her home in Pikangikum First Nation. She told the inquest that she felt nervous and scared when she left her home community to go to high school Thunder Bay at age 16. She said she and a friend were once waiting at a bus stop when objects were thrown at them from a passing car.

Several other former students described similar experiences. Skye Kakekagumick, who came to Thunder Bay from Keewaywin First Nation when she was 15, told the inquest panel that she was called a “stupid savage” and had food thrown at her, CBC News reported.

"It's very scary," Kakekagumick said. "To them, we are just savages. They think it's funny."

RELATED: Rape, Kidnapping Being Investigated as Hate Crime in Thunder Bay

Kakekagumick said that when she first came to the city, police caught her drinking with friends, and a male officer grabbed her by the hair and slammed her head into a police cruiser, according to CBC. Officers also taunted her with cartoon drawings of native people, the girl said, and added that she and other students turned to alcohol to cope with racism and loneliness.

It has been revealed in the inquest that several of the teens were drinking before they died.

Bushie’s aunt, who took him in when he was a baby, broke into tears when she told the inquest that she “didn’t want to let him go” to Thunder Bay for Grade 9. She said she knew the teen was experimenting with alcohol and was concerned about what might happen with his drinking.

“We loved him, and we really cared for him, and we did not want him to leave,” she said.

Their home community of Poplar Hill First Nation, with a population of about 500, only offers schooling up to Grade 8. She and Bushie’s mother, Rhoda, both testified that they didn’t recall hearing from police when the teen went missing or when he died.

Dora Morris—the aunt of Jethro Anderson, whose body was found in a river in 2000, when he was 15—previously testified that when she reported her nephew missing, an officer told her he was “just out there partying like any native kid.”

Police waited six days to investigate his death, CBC reported. The inquest heard that police announced no foul play was suspected in the death before an autopsy was complete. Although they had received a tip that Anderson had been murdered, they deemed it not credible and did not investigate.

The goal of the inquest is to find ways to prevent further deaths of students who come to the city from remote communities, and it is expected to continue into March and hear a total of about 200 witness testimonies. 

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WinterWindTeacher's picture
Submitted by WinterWindTeacher on
This story is tragic and surreal. It's like living in a nightmare and unable to awake from it. I can relate to the story. To the east of Thunder Bay, approximately 1,162 miles, in the state of New Hampshire and a small town, something very similar took place. The first murder was a grown man, not a student. He was killed, I am interjecting, because he had a disability. Part of his right arm up to his elbow had been amputated. As I can surmise, I am not an expert, the secret 'they', could not tolerate his physical appearance so they had him murdered. I can not find any record of his murder. This took place in 1966 0r 1967. Students were mainly singled out for abuse, in later adult years they would be prepared for self exile or removal. Those chosen scorned for no reason or any reason, but beyond the scope of law, were subjected to absolute isolation for the rest of their lives, hunger, poverty and loneliness. They survived off trash and what nature would provide, occasionally fish from polluted water. Some kids committed suicide. It is difficult to surmise because the victim was always alone. Alone in that the community offered no support. The victims were made to feel ashamed of the abuse being perpetrated upon them so they remained silent. Sometimes whole families were picked out to be harassed, tormented and terrorized. I learned that when visiting a friends home. The whole family was being torn down by constant abuse, people running around in the dark at night and banging on their house to torment the family and frighten them. My step brother was mixed Asian and his eye shape was Asian which the kids at school would make fun of. I have no idea what abuse he experienced, but it may have been severe enough to cause him to commit suicide at 15. He was very shy and never spoke about abuse if it was going on. That the community allows this destructive and evil behavior to go on, and that it is secretive, my guess is that it is tradition, brought to the America's from Europe by 'so-called' 'gentleman' and 'ladies', who were neither, but sick degenerate perverts hiding within the merchant classes and the titled, papered, privileged and appointed. They were the ones who had time to kill among other things and they always had the poor to blame for anything. The poor were generally hated, their poverty was not their fault but a demand of the wealthy to steal their lands, to take everything. In return they were given poverty, starvation and fault for the fiends, filth, and perverts; of every whimsy and debauchery of disgusting inhuman and monstrous acts that they dealt in. It is particularly noticeable in modern political speech; the poor and working class are hardly ever mentioned, except in the context of welfare, as if the government is doing to much, and there is criminal activity by the poor. The opposite is the fact - the criminality is the most severe at the top, and their abuse of welfare is beyond comprehension - they receive the lions share of what ever the treasury holds, that is tradition. The middle class or merchant class is the one who is always in danger according to the official speak. When there is no one left to rob, the poor have nothing, then the middle class has to pay up until the moneyed can find a new target.The real crisis is the middle class/merchant class could wake up one day and join ranks with fellow human beings, the poor. They would then have a super majority and kick the screaming palace perverts out of their golden war laying nests and then set about having an intelligent, honest and open society where tolerance, truth, fairness and sharing would be prized. In the mean time, I think only a private, independent investigator who is competent and has integrity would be able to reveal the truth of what happened to these many young lives. It is usually not in the best interest of the government to tell the truth about much if anything. I think they have a solid reputation of keeping people in the dark, or lying really well. This vicious disease has deep roots which are not native and has been very invasive and evasive. It should by all means be pulled up and removed, its destructiveness is wrenching and has spread the depth and width of the America's. I have only barely survived the experience; it was agreed that I should depart, though I had just arrived, at 8 months of living. Seven youths dead is an astronomical number of lost lives to bullshit and perverts. Who by the way of calling anyone a savage - those words spoken from their mouth need not harm a single person, at least in a personal sense. They person cursing or yelling it is confessing to their own savagery. We are divinely created, all human beings. Even if a person disobeys their own conscience, their mind will tell on them, they do not even realize they are doing it. People can become confused they way it is presented. They wanted to behave in an inhuman way but their mind will not let them get away with it, so their mind tells on them, confesses the truth. They are angry because they still want to do what is not right so they are looking for some vulnerable person to blame their behavior on, and yes they are dangerous, dangerously mad to even kill someone for their ugly behavior - which the next crime will not cover up either. Eventually their mind does go mad because it can not cope with the assaults the one inside committed against it. There is much tradition of madness in Europe, spread far and wide. It is Europe's tragedy and downfall that it will be better remembered as a madhouse than nations. They have done savage things and they are responsible for their savagery. Yet they continue to imperil the planet, the earth, the waters, the people throughout the world, all kinds of animals, tree's, plants, flowers, birds, fish, deer, buffalo, antelope, wolf, bear, all life. The upper atmosphere, the outer atmosphere, the planets, stars, they are all held in some similar contempt and are used as targets and waste areas. The mad thing about it is that they are not arrested and confined, instead they are out in the world with a nuclear button box and when signaled are to open it and activate the buttons so that nuclear missiles will launch and strike at major cities throughout the world in what they feel will certainly be the end of the detestable human race. I would think that just having such a box is an act of terrorism, they call it 'national defense'. I would not think that mass murder could ever be called anything but a crime. The law has been such an arbitrary thing and one can always see it being used as a dart board, sometimes all kinds of points are brought up that are pertinent and all that information is arbitrarily thrown out. Or huge circles and weaving are driven all through it, one can detect that the 'authorities' are trying to avoid the issue or do a cover up. I ask the parents and guardians of the Native youth, why not allow the youth to stay home and do their school work in a safe, non-traumatizing, and comfortable environment? When they have finished their studies then they should be eligible to take a proficiency exam and after passing that they are given their diploma. The community should band together and demand a school be built within the Native community but until that is done than the youth should definitely not attend Thunder Bay or any other similar community. The Youth are being sent into a foreign land that is dangerous and not safe for them. All the Native children must know what has happened and are building up in their whole being and dumping into their blood stream stress hormone, adrenaline, for the fight or flight path they will most likely be confronted with. This will already affect their ability to comprehend the material and do well in their studies. They won't do well, they will be either afraid or angry. They will be distracted by whatever unnecessary non curricular activity is taken place and they will be highly sensitive and reactive to any unusual stimulus to try and keep safe. I would not want to have been in that place myself so long ago. I had to shut down mentally by third or fourth grade, because the emotional suffering is so much to bare that there is not much capacity for anything else. I just could not bare to put my child through or allow them to attend such a school or community where they would be mauled over like that. I would hope to become like mother bear and they would have to deal with me. I have promised myself - I will go crazy on the place if they ever mistreat my child. I went through it, I know what it does to a persons mind, emotions, spirit and the physical suffering inflicted on being. I could not let my child go through that. There is a disease, an addiction to murder, that was brought to the America's so long ago. It has festered and spread all over the world. Some of the most dangerous places in the world to live are found right here on the continent of America. It is hard to be so blunt, but the youth need to know the world has been put into a desperate condition and when going out of the house, or out of the community - to be careful, to be aware, to use caution and evaluate the necessity and their surroundings so they can be attuned and listen and hear themselves if something seems not good, or someone untrustworthy, or situation is messed up. Their inner being can guide them through the mazes they may be in at times, and to safely exit when they want to. A prophecy is being fulfilled that will remove the unnatural, the fiend and filth from the earth and her children. If the youth are well at home than everyone will be able to band together for whatever is coming of difficulty in this cleansing. I think this would be the best preparation for the youth for tomorrow, it may be very difficult and taxing and the community would be devastated if the youth were not there to help them survive until it has passed and taken with it the foul so that life can be clean again, and safe for children and youth to have their play and dream times safe also. I pray that you will not send one more Native youth to Thunder Bay for school or any non-Native community for school which could potentially put them in harms way or burden them with ignorance and fiends doing and saying foul things. If you have to hear it then understand it - the savage is what they did, bible or no bible, shirt and tie, or skirt and purse, they did the savage way. When they scream that name at you, it is their confession of what they have done or allowed to be done or became. They are trying to blame you for their savage behavior, and tell you that they are so powerful, or superior, or etc., it is absurd. We all make decisions how to be, how to live, how to treat life, honestly without making excuses. You can not be blamed for their savagery, it is real, factual and true. It was something they needed for themselves and something they wanted to do, it was something they planned on doing and then commenced it, now they can not logically turn around and tell you that you are at fault. That is dishonest, a lie, and life does not work that way. There is nothing pleasant about being spoken to in such a rude way or badly treated, but until the offense is removed and you have to hear that garbage, you can remember that it is not you. They like false beliefs, you can like truth. They can like violence, you can prefer peace. They can be addicted to hate, you can fall in love with passion. The cleansing is with us and that is what we all have to go thru and that is what will remove the foul, filth, fiend. We will all learn about birth in this I think. Comes the nausea, aches, swelling, soreness and contractions. There is considerable pain, but it will be over with soon as we give birth to a world for life and humanity. We have to breathe and push with the contractions. Necessary to practice breathing and when to push and when to relax. We need to hope that we support each other, birthing a beautiful world for the love of life is a big baby. Please don't throw Native youth into a play pit of foul. They can learn and imagine much, so much more at home. For the youth to stay home, they would be secure and so would the communities. I am not an expert, it is just my opinion and personal experience. The damage done to young people can last a life time, it can not easily, if ever, be undone. I also hope the Native communities can request damages of loss to life and compensation so that there would be enough money from the suit to build their own school on the reservation. It would be your school, it will belong to you and you will know what is going on there and your children and young adults, adolescences would always be home with you at the end of the day. I also pray that you will name the school, or its sub-parts, wings, corridors, gardens, courts - after the students names whose lives were taken from them at Thunder Bay. Those youths would in spirit forever be honored and a reminder to never be forced to give your children or youth to be sent away because of any law or lack of. Children and youth have the right to be with their families, they are bound by more fundamental laws; kinship, but mainly love, which supersedes the oversight, hindsight, or blind-spot of some agency, government office, or so-called authority.