Thunder Bay·Audio

Families 'reliving the past' through First Nations student death inquest

About two dozen people gathered at the Kaministiquia River Heritage River park in Thunder Bay, Ont., on Wednesday night to remember Jethro Anderson. The body of the teen from Kasabonika Lake First Nation was pulled from the river on Remembrance Day 2000.

Flowers, candles, tears drop in Kaministiquia River at Remembrance Day vigil for Jethro Anderson

Tom Morris, left, helped organize the vigil for his nephew Jethro Anderson, 15, whose body was found in the Kaministiquia River on Remembrance Day, 2000. (Jody Porter/CBC)
A gathering at the water's edge. A vigil last night marked 15 years since Jethro Anderson's body was pulled from the Kaministiquia River. His death, along with that of six other First Nations students is the subject of an inquest underway in the city. 3:37
About two dozen people gathered at the Kaministiquia River Heritage River park in Thunder Bay, Ont., on Wednesday night to remember Jethro Anderson. The body of the teen from Kasabonika Lake First Nation was pulled from the river on Remembrance Day 2000.
Jethro Anderson of Kasabonika Lake First Nation died in 2000 while attending high school in Thunder Bay. He was 15. (CBC)

Anderson was attending Dennis Franklin Cromarty First Nations high school in Thunder Bay when he disappeared on Oct. 28, 2000. He had just turned 15 years old earlier that month.

Anderson's death, along with that of six other First Nations students, is the subject of an inquest underway in Thunder Bay.

"It seems as if we're re-living the past and at the same time, because of what we're hearing for the first time, stuff that we didn't know, it seems to hit on us a bit more," said Anderson's uncle Tom Morris.

Anderson was living with Morris at the time he disappeared. Morris' wife Dora testified at the inquest last week, highlighting the six days it took for Thunder Bay police to launch a criminal investigation after she filed a missing persons report.

Another witness testified that volunteer searchers from Kasabonika Lake First Nation, using borrowed boats and a hand-made dredge, found Anderson's body in the river.

Morely Anderson (no relation to Jethro) told the inquest that he held the boy's lifeless body in his arms for about half an hour before firefighters from the city of Thunder Bay came with a stretcher in their own boat to relieve the volunteers.

Salt to 'wash away the hurt'

Several gospel hymns were sung at the vigil on Wednesday night and a passage of scripture was read while salt was sprinkled in the river.

Tom Morris said he understood the purpose of the salt was to "wash away the hurt and wash away what's been happening to the youth in the city."

The flowers, he said, are a symbol of the family's remembrance of Anderson, who has now been dead for as many years as he was alive.

Morris said he hopes the inquest will bring "good recommendations that will highlight what needs to be done here in the city, what needs to be done by our leadership, what needs to be done by the funders" to keep First Nations students safe in Thunder Bay.

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