Remembering the 10 people who lost their lives during mass stabbing in Saskatchewan
The community is grappling with the weight of the horrific tragedy
WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
Relatives, friends and other locals have struggled to comprehend the loss of their loved ones who died during the violent mass stabbings in two small Saskatchewan communities.
Ten people were killed and 18 injured on the James Smith Cree Nation and in the nearby village of Weldon, Sask., on Sept. 4, 2022.
The two people wanted by police in connection with the stabbings are also both dead. Myles Sanderson, 32, was arrested on Sept. 7 and died shortly after.
His brother, Damien Sanderson, 31, was found dead Sept. 5.
Nearly one month after the stabbings, police said that Myles did all of the killing — classifying his brother as the 11th fatally wounded victim of the tragedy.
The Saskatchewan Coroners Service and RCMP confirmed the identities of all of the deceased victims of the attacks on Sept. 7.
This story is a work in progress. It will be updated as more information about the victims is shared.
Lydia Gloria Burns, 61, James Smith Cree Nation
Lydia Gloria Burns, known as Gloria by her loved ones, died while trying to save others.
"My sister was a very caring person. She devoted her life [to] helping people," her brother Darryl said.
He and his brother, Ivor, said Gloria, 61, worked at the James Smith Cree Nation health clinic. She was responding to a crisis call on the First Nation as the stabbings unfolded and she was killed.
Her brothers describe her as friendly, kind and selfless.
"For her to go into a situation like this where [she was] helping people, even though it cost her life ... that's who she was," Darryl said.
Lana Head, 49, James Smith Cree Nation
Lana Head, 49, is one of the deceased from James Smith Cree Nation. She leaves behind four daughters and a son.
Head's former partner, Michael Brett Burns, said she worked as a security guard at Northern Lights Casino and was also a commissionaire officer.
Her death was first reported by APTN. Head had posted on Facebook that she had "so many good memories to cherish," just hours before the mass stabbing.
Now, the social media page is filled with tributes from her loved ones.
"I am going to miss your sweet hellos and messages. I will forever cherish your sweet demeanour and caring ways," wrote one of Head's friends.
Wesley Petterson, 78, Weldon, Sask.
Flowers were placed near the home of victim Wes Petterson, a 78-year-old widower from Weldon.
"If someone needed a hand, he helped. He was a kind-hearted man," said village resident Ruby Works. She had known Petterson since she was a little girl and saw him as an uncle-figure.
Works said she remembers Petterson as a kind-hearted man who loved his cats named Buddy and Mouse, and enjoyed his homemade Saskatoon berry jam.
She said she collapsed to the ground in shock when she heard he had been killed.
"I couldn't even breathe. I couldn't even catch my breath," she said. "He didn't deserve this."
Earl Burns Sr., 66, James Smith Cree Nation
Earl Burns Sr., an Indigenous veteran and residential school survivor, was also among the deceased. His daughter described him as a community minded school bus driver who loved spending time outdoors in the bush or on one of his boats fishing.
She said he also loved spending time with his grandchildren.
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The Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association also sent their condolences to the Burns family after his death.
Veterans Voices of Canada also posted a tribute to him on social media, writing "hero lost, never to be forgotten."
The organization said it would honour Burns Sr. with a plaque of honour at their Veterans Voices of Canada Flags of Remembrance tribute happening this weekend in Sylvan Lake, Alta.
"A veteran of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, Earl Burns gave his life to save his wife and grandchildren during the terrible attack," they wrote. "May he Rest In Peace and rise in glory to be greeted in honour by the Elders who preceded him."
Bonnie Goodvoice-Burns, 48, James Smith Cree Nation
Family members of Bonnie Goodvoice-Burns spoke about her and her son, Gregory Burns, at a news conference in Saskatoon.
Mark Arcand, Bonnie's brother, said she died saving her family. He pointed out that in addition to Gregory, Bonnie left behind five kids, two of them foster kids.
"She was protecting her son. She was protecting these three little boys. She's a true matriarch. She's a hero," he said.
Showing a picture of Bonnie, Arcand said she was a "mama bear [who] took care of her cubs".
"I want people to remember how she laughed, how she told stories at Christmas celebrations, kid's birthdays and weddings. She made a difference in people's lives."
Gregory Burns, 28, James Smith Cree Nation
Mark Arcand said Gregory "Jonesy" Burns is survived by two children and had a third one on the way.
"This young man had opportunities to work, he was fully employable. He was a great kid," he said.
"He worked in the community, built houses. He did whatever he could for his family and tried to help his mum and dad and take care of his three brothers. Those are the things we want people to recognize and remember."
The family of Bonnie and Gregory Burns family is asking the public to contribute to a Go Fund Me campaign to support Bonnie's surviving sons and Gregory's children.
"My sister was a hero, my nephew was a hero. They died saving their family."
Christian Head, 54, James Smith Cree Nation
"[Christian] was a good, humble, generous loving guy," said Geoffrey Sandfly, who called Head was one of his best friends.
They grew close while living together at a healing lodge, both being fluent in Cree and passionate about sports.
"I'd seek advice from him whenever I needed [it]," Sandfly said. Once out of the lodge, they remained close even though Sandfly lives at Big Island Lake Cree Nation, several hours from JSCN.
Sandfly started an ATV club as a healthy way to occupy his free time after leaving the lodge. The group made Head an honorary member.
According to Sandfly, Head was president of James Smith sports events committee, and he invited their group to a quad rally in his community. They travelled to the Cree Nation just a few weeks before Head's death.
"He hugs us, which makes [some] of my ATV club members nervous because they never experienced that kind of affection from another human being, because they never got that from their inner circle," he said.
"He was a real humble man and it's just unfortunate that his life was taken. He could have done so much."
Carol Burns, 46, James Smith Cree Nation
John Kelly Burns said his mom, Carol, had a knack for talking people out of their negative states of mind.
"Now that she's gone, they don't have that."
He said she was a joyful person who worked at SaskTel for close to two decades.
"She had a lot of friends and coworkers that treated her like family."
Burns said Carol and his brother Thomas lived with him in Prince Albert.
Thomas and Carol had been visiting "Grannie," who had been struggling with her health, at James Smith Cree Nation when the stabbing attacks occurred.
Thomas Burns, 23, James Smith Cree Nation
John Kelly Burns, 27, also said that his younger brother Thomas was a happy and outgoing young man.
"He had a lot of friends, and a lot of coworkers [who] admired him."
John and Thomas's cousin Janelle Kinch added that Thomas leaves behind a two-and-a-half-year-old son.
Robert Sanderson, 49, James Smith Cree Nation
Support is available for anyone affected by the latest reports. You can talk to a mental health professional via Wellness Together Canada by calling 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 686868 for youth or 741741 for adults. It is free and confidential.
The Hope for Wellness hotline offers immediate help to Indigenous people across Canada. Mental health counselling and crisis support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca.
- A previous version of this story stated Lana Head left behind two daughters. In fact, she left behind four daughters and a son.Sep 06, 2022 12:12 PM CT
with files from Kendall Latimer, Yasmine Ghania, Devin Heroux, Karen Pauls, Dayne Patterson, Reuters