Cooper Nemeth's family holds dinner for Bear Clan

Cooper Nemeth's family prepared a feast Friday night to thank the Bear Clan, a patrol group that helped search for the 17 year old, then held a smudging ceremony in his honour after his body was found last week.

Volunteer street patrol group searched day and night for teen, held ceremony once he was found

Members of the Nemeth family stand with members of the Bear Clan, a North End street patrol that helped search for Cooper Nemeth. The 17-year-old was missing for about a week before his body was found in a trash bin on Feb. 20. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

Cooper Nemeth's family prepared a feast Friday night to thank the Bear Clan, a patrol group that helped search for the 17 year old, then held a smudging ceremony in his honour after his body was found last week.

The Bear Clan showed up at the Gateway Recreation Centre last week without even being asked, Nemeth's family said. 

"We did what we did because it was the right thing to do for us here, so we can sleep at night," Bear Clan member James Favel said.

"It had a real benefit for their family as well and our community and our city at large."

Like hundreds of other volunteers, the group spent countless hours searching for the teen.

"We're non-indigenous. They're indigenous. It's pretty rare that those communities from both sides reach out to each other," said Laresa Sayles, Nemeth's aunt.
Members of the Bear Clan held a smudge and drum ceremony for Cooper Nemeth, his family and the community Monday night (Bear Clan/Facebook)

"These people came with open and loving arms to us and wanted to help, and they went to the scariest and toughest places in the city and searched for Cooper. To me, that shows you they are true and genuine salt of the earth."

Bear Clan co-founder Larry Morrissette echoed Sayles words, lauding community members who came together in search of Nemeth.

"I grew up around here. It's a really good thing to see these barriers coming down and people starting to accept one another," Morrissette said. "I think what's gone on has been really tragic but really positive at the same time."

Members of Nemeth's family spent the day cooking turkey, lasagna, wings, asparagus and apple crisp. They also used a lot of the donated food they received during Nemeth's search for the big meal.

The Nemeth family brought the dinner to the the Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre, where they ate with members of the Bear Clan.

"We are just wanting to give back to them. I know food is just such a small thing but for us, it brings a lot of comfort," said Sayles. "It brings people together."

Sayles added it's a way to focus on the positive, and keep momentum going on bridging Winnipeg's communities.

"Everything they've said to us, even during the smudge and drum ceremony, was so sincere and loving. Brent and Gaylene, Cooper's parents, finally slept after the drum ceremony and smudge. There was so much peace."
James Favel attends a smudging ceremony for slain teen Cooper Nemeth. (CBC)

Sayles said she's also grateful to Winnipeg police and the community for their help in the search. But the Bear Clan isn't paid for what they do, she said, and they didn't even know Nemeth or his family before coming out to help.

"The Bear Clan doesn't get any funding, and it's just a small token of saying thank you to them. It's so minimal compared to what we want to do to help them, but it's a start," she said.

"These are the kind of people and this is the kind of organization that this city really needs right now."

Sayles said it will be a long road to recovery for her and her family, but she takes comfort in the fact that some good has come from Nemeth's death.

"We hope others in Winnipeg will reach out to them as well, because this is the start of something big and something wonderful. And it's going to bring a lot of change to this city and the safety of our children, our indigenous women, anyone that's gone missing."

About 40 Bear Clan members went out on their normal Friday rounds through the North End following the dinner.

Meet Me at the Bell Tower honoured the Bear Clan after the dinner. Organizers with the North End anti-violence weekly meetup presented Favel with a wooden box with an eagle on it for the work his group does to prevent violence. 

Nemeth's family held a wreath for Cooper, smudged with the group and rang the bell at the corner of Selkirk Avenue and Powers Street after the short service.