Mi’kmaw communities across Nova Scotia, also known as the ancestral territory of Mi’kma’ki, are showing their support for the victims of a mass shooting that spanned 50 kilometres across the province.
The 12-hour ordeal began late Saturday, and resulted in a gunman killing at least 20 people, including an RCMP officer. It’s considered to be one of the worst mass killings in Canadian history.
On Sunday evening in Sipekne’katik First Nation, just a short drive away from at least two locations where shooting occurred, RCMP Cpl. De-Anne Sack, members of the drum group Eastern Eagle, and other Sipekne’katik members honoured the victims and police with prayers and song outside the community’s RCMP detachment.
“We’re at a loss. We’re all empty, and we all hurt,” said Sack, who’s been an RCMP member for 23 years.
“The only thing we could think to do was that Honour Song. To pay tribute to everybody in a kind and gentle way.”
Sack said she and the other community members had no intention of posting the video online, but a passerby asked if they could share the song through a Facebook livestream. Sack began by reading a prayer specifically for police officers.
In her career, Sack said she’d occasionally crossed paths with 23-year RCMP veteran Const. Heidi Stevenson, who was killed in the attack. Sack said Stevenson was well-liked in the Mi’kmaw communities she frequented, attending events and ceremonies.
“In any situation, she was kind, compassionate, caring and thoughtful. When you’re in Mi’kmaw communities, that’s what people look [for]. Somebody that’s down to earth,” said Sack.
“She’s somebody’s daughter. She was a mother. She was a sister, a comrade and I was so numb. I was shocked as the day progressed and the tragedies continue to unfold like a horrific nightmare.”
The Assembly for Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs — elected officials from the 13 communities — offered their condolences to those affected in a statement released Monday.
“We all have been shaken by what has happened in our region and the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia mourn the losses of these individuals alongside our family, friends and neighbours,” said Chief Sidney Peters, co-chair of the assembly, in the statement.
“Our police officers work tirelessly everyday to protect the lives of all of us. Yesterday’s incident was a clear indication of the sacrifice they, and their families make, to serve and protect.”
Sacred fire burning
Trevor Chenier, an Ojibway man from Michipicoten First Nation in Ontario who is living in N.S., is working with Mi’kmaw friends and colleagues to begin a sacred fire outside the RCMP detachment in Enfield, N.S.
Chenier said the idea came from a conversation with Enfield RCMP officials, after he’d visited a community memorial outside the detachment to perform a personal smudging ceremony.
“I offered to gather the Mi’kmaw community here and arrange a sacred fire to honour the tragic passing of Heidi Stevenson and all others that we lost,” said Chenier.
“[The sacred fire] is to help everyone cope.”
Chenier said that as per cultural practice, the fire will burn for four days to honour the victims and to help others acknowledge the tragedy. He said he’ll be keeping a 24-hour vigil.