JAMES SMITH CREE NATION, Saskatchewan—On a recent day in this small community on the Canadian prairie, people gathered in the school gym listening to traditional indigenous drums and mournful music at back-to-back funerals. Outside, people huddled in groups, crying and smoking.
It has been two weeks since this territory of 2,000 people became the scene of one of the worst mass killings in Canadian history. Two brothers allegedly went on a rampage that left 10 dead and 18 injured. Locals said there are still many unanswered questions about what triggered the attacks, how they unfolded and why law enforcement failed to track down one of the brothers, a violent offender, after he disappeared in May.
The brothers, Myles and Damien Sanderson, began their stabbing spree the morning of Sept. 4, police said. Damien Sanderson, 31, was found dead on Sept. 5of wounds that the police said weren’t self-inflicted, and his brother, Myles Sanderson, 32, was located and captured by police two days later. He was pronounced dead at a Saskatchewan hospital after suffering “medical distress,” according to police.
“It was so horrific, I kept asking my elders, ‘What am I supposed to do?’” said Chief Wally Burns, one of the reserve’s leaders. “Why did this happen? What is the meaning?”
Chiefs and community leaders said it isn’t clear what triggered the violent outburst, and police so far haven’t offered a motive. They said Myles Sanderson, who was from the reserve, knew some of his victims—Earl Burns was the father of Myles’s common-law spouse, Vanessa Burns—but said some of the other attacks were random. Wesley Petterson, a man in the nearby town of Weldon who had no connection to the reserve, also was killed, police said.
James Smith Cree Nation officials also want to know why parole officers never informed them that Myles Sanderson, who had a history of violent and criminal behavior, according to parole documents and people who knew him, was at large, said Chief Calvin Sanderson, leader of the Chakastaypasin band on the reserve. He isn’t related to Myles and Damien Sanderson.
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