First Nations school finishes wall mural started by student who died
'It's almost like a spirit watching over everyone,' Thunder Bay art teacher says
An art project started by a teenager who died in 2007 has now been completed by current students at a First Nations high school in Thunder Bay, Ont.
Reggie Bushie, 15, started the wall mural at Dennis Franklin Cromarty First Nations high school in Thunder Bay during the year that he died.
Bushie's parents were the first to push for an inquest into the deaths of First Nations students, like Reggie, who are from remote First Nations and must leave home for high school. By the time the inquest finally began in 2015, seven students had died while attending school in Thunder Bay.
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"I really think about him, about when he was here, and that he was here such a short time," she said.
Three students from Kingfisher Lake First Nation — Alyssa Sugarhead, Amy Sainnawap and Alana Mamakwa — altered the original design of the mural to make a scene with a mother bear and her two cubs standing beside a tipi.
"The hawk still has the pencil marks that Reggie drew because we didn't want to paint over it," said art teacher Greg Chomut. "And because it has the yellow paint behind it, it's almost like a spirit watching out over everybody."
The bears have several layers of meaning for Norma Kejick, the executive director of Northern Nishnawbe Education Council, which oversees the school.
Six of the seven students who died in Thunder Bay attended Dennis Franklin Cromarty school. Kejick said the completion of the mural brings a measure of closure to staff and students.
The jury at the inquest is expected to deliver recommendations for keeping First Nations students safe in June.
King says she hopes the inquest will mean no other parent suffers the loss she did.