THUNDER BAY – Residents of Nibinamik First Nation are in mourning after the tragic deaths of two of its residents.
Aboriginal artist Moses Amik Beaver died Monday while incarcerated at the Thunder Bay District Jail. Three days later his sister, Mary Wabasse, was killed in a collision on Highway 102 on her way to Thunder Bay for her brother’s funeral.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said the two deaths have devastated the community and left plenty of questions in their wake.
“For Moses to die under these circumstances is troubling on so many levels, especially as his death has not been officially acknowledged by those responsible for his care,” Fiddler said in a release issued on Thursday.
“We are doing everything possible to support chief and council and the family of Moses Beaver, and we will demand an investigation into the circumstances around his passing.”
The grand chief said police have not officially confirmed Beaver was in custody, nor have local corrections officials.
The crash involving a transport that killed Wabasse also injured several members of her family.
Nibminamik first Nation Chief Johnny Yellowhead said Beaver had struggled with mental health issues for a number of years and struggled to get the treatment he needed.
“It is clear that Moses needed professional help and a psychiatric assessment and we demand to know why this didn’t happen,” Yellowhead said in a statement.
“It is disturbing that there has been no formal statement in acknowledging his death and that we are left to grieve two deaths with more question and answers.”
Yellowhead also called for a full investigation into Beaver’s untimely death behind bars.
Fiddler also accused the OPP for issuing a traffic citation to a family member involved in the collision in front of a room full of grieving relatives, which he called callous and offensive.
“Members of the police, correctional services and ministry officials have spoken at length about fostering better, more culturally appropriate relations with First Nations, but their actions and a lack of accountability in the days following the death of Moses Beaver leaves us to question their commitment,” Fiddler said.
The driver of the SUV faces a charge of drive left of centre.