Funeral Tuesday for drowned Pauingassi boy
A funeral will be held Tuesday for Adam Keeper, a six-year-old boy who died last week on the Pauingassi First Nation.
RCMP allege three boys between seven and nine years of age bullied Keeper into taking off his clothes and forced him into Fishing Lake. He was unable to swim and drowned.
The boy's fatherfound him naked on the lakeshore a few hours after he disappeared, says band police officer Nicholas Fisher.
"When he found him, it hurt us real bad cause the way he saw him … he was the one that found him," he said.
Adam's mother, Rosalee, said her son liked to play video games and had a lot of friends.
"I'm shocked," she said. "He was a good kid."
Boys headed to Winnipeg
The isolated community of 350 people that is 280 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg is nowdealing with the aftermath of the drowning.
The three boys alleged to be responsible for the death are too young to be charged criminally. Local child and family services workers say the boys have been removed from their homes in Pauingassi, and will be placed in foster care in Winnipeg. In some cases, the children's family members will also travel to Winnipeg to support them.
Band officials admit while kids can be cruel anywhere, Pauingassi is a particularly difficult place to grow up.
Keeper'scaseis thethirdviolent deathin the community in the last 18 months, with all involving children.
In May, two girls, 13 and 15 years old, were charged in connection with the beating death of a 22-year-old woman.
Last August, two men and a 15-year-old boy were charged after two men were badlyhurt and a third killed in attacks with weapons on the reserve.
Cultural, employmentprogramming needed: chief
Chief Harold Crowe blames the reserve's problems on alcohol. He estimates half of the community's residents are alcoholics, leaving many children without positive role models.
"All they do is watch people drink," he said. "And then they portray what they see, and that has to be changed."
Pauingassi has struggled to deal with substance-abuse issues in recent years.
Over the past year, the community spent thousands on treatment, recreational and cultural programs in an attempt to control an epidemic of gas sniffing once thought to affect half of the reserve's children.
The path to a successful future lies in dealing with the roots of the addiction, Crowe said. Returning to traditional ways and finding employment for the First Nation's youth are key.
The main industries at Pauingassi are trapping, fishing and rice harvesting.
Less than 20 people on the reserve hold full-time jobs, although trapping occupies most of the men during a three-month period and almost everyone on the reserve is involved in rice harvesting in the fall.