Local volunteers set up donation drive for JSCN
A starter donation drive that hopes to help out long-term
A few weeks ago, Chief Wally Burns of James Smith Cree Nation called out to allies to aid his community. Now, a Regina woman is helping answer those demands.
Kelsey Dumont has been rounding up donations to send up to the reserve by charter. Beading supplies, disposable eating utensils, and gift cards are just some of the things that she was collecting and storing at the Newo Yotina Friendship Centre and The Collective YQR before they were sent up to JSCN on Wednesday, September 21.
On Sunday, September 4, JSCN and the nearby community of Weldon were attacked in a stabbing rampage by suspect Myles Sanderson that left 11 dead and 18 injured. Sanderson was caught by police forces after a three-day manhunt on Highway 11 outside of Rosthern, but went into medical distress and died at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon.
“There’s just no words,” said Dumont. “Your heart breaks. Just thinking that something tragic has happened to you or your loved ones. Some of these families have kids who have lost their parents, or maybe kids who saw their parents be killed or injured. Those who have witnessed some of the attacks that occurred is something that stays with you forever.”
While Sanderson is gone, Dumont said there will be a long road to recovery to help the community cope with the incident. Dumont was originally approached by the JSCN crisis response team asking if she could organize the donation drive on the ground in Regina. She immediately jumped at the idea.
“Some of our volunteers have been up there on the ground,” said Dumont. “I was not one of those individuals, I couldn’t take time away from my work, unfortunately.”
Dumont said she would have loved to be a part of the efforts helping at JSCN but she is happy to organize her surroundings here as well. Canvasing local businesses for paper plates and disposable cutlery donations was the next task on her list. Many of the donations are toys and games for children to keep busy while they are away from home. Monetary funds and gift cards will be put towards ceremonial feasts and services to provide relief for families.
Dumont said local volunteers from Regina are currently on scene, a part of the crisis response team. Dumont said they have been a large part of childcare for adults who need a moment to grieve, cook meals for feasts, and partake in ceremonies for those who lost their lives.
“As you can imagine, there’s been a lot of ceremony, a lot of sweats, week’s funeral services, so there’s been a need for volunteers on the ground,” said Dumont. “Quite a few people that volunteer and do outreach with on the ground have been up there. We just want to do something to help out those folks in the community.”
Dumont said many people either cannot return to their homes, or chose to stay with relatives while police and forensic experts continue to search their homes.
“People were displaced, they weren’t allowed back in their homes,” said Dumont. “I’m not sure if some of them are now able to return home at this point, but even if they are able to go back into their home, it’s a crime scene, and loved ones were attacked there. Whether they are physically able to go back home or mentally, there’s definitely displacement.”
Fundraising for gift card for gas and food are just preliminary steps to the healing journey, according to Dumont. It is important that they remain vigilant on providing appropriate trauma therapy, and that counselling services continue to progress on the reserve. “We need to invest in mental health, and we need to invest in mental health supports quickly,” said Dumont.
There is only one counsellor for a community of 700 right now on the reserve.
“I can only imagine what type of violation that would feel,” said Dumont. “Would you feel safe in your home anymore? Would you feel safe with your kids in your house anymore? Is there a crime scene in your living room that you have to clean up? It’s not just a couple-of-week inconvenience and it’s over, this is going to be lasting effects on these individuals.”
For Dumont, the opportunity to help organize the donation drive was a “gift” more than anything else. Most importantly, the donation drive was approved by the leadership at JSCN.
“You want to make sure that your money or your donations are going to the place that they’re intended to,” said Dumont. Not only is it important to have it approved by leadership to prevent forgeries, but also to make sure that the community is getting the items and support they need. Respectful actions and proceeding follow in suit of Truth and Reconciliation.
Dumont is grateful for the support that has been show by Saskatchewan, but is also troubled to see how quickly the media shifted away from coverage as soon as the manhunt concluded. Less than 24 hours after Myles was found, Queen Elizabeth II died.
Condolences directed towards those who were victim of the stabbing spree were given in a final address from Queen Elizabeth II. “I would like to extend my condolences to those who have lost loved ones in the attacks that occurred this past weekend in Saskatchewan,” said the Queen. “My thoughts and prayers are with those recovering from injuries, and grieving such horrific losses. I mourn with all Canadians at this tragic time.”
“It doesn’t help that the Queen died a day after the manhunt finished,” said Dumont. “Now the whole world two weeks later is mourning a 96-year-old person. I know she’s a person, and she deserves to be mourned, but just how quickly everything shifted was so abrupt.
“The Queen dies, and the rest of Saskatchewan just carries on like everything else is normal again, and just breaks my heart.” For support to continue, Dumont said that conversation is needed to continue. The donations were sent up on September 21 by a free charter from Majestic Limousine and Charter Service. If you are interested in joining local volunteers, please reach out to Warriors of Hope Community Support on social media.