THUNDER BAY – Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler and Nibinamik First Nation Chief Johnny Yellowhead have released the following statements on the death of Moses Amik Beaver earlier this week and the death of his sister, Mary Wabasse, three days later.
“The sudden and unexplained death of Moses Beaver was devastating to his family and everyone in Nibinamik. Their grieving had barely started when we were shocked by the tragic news that his sister, Mary Wabasse, was killed in a motor vehicle accident while traveling to Thunder Bay to join with other members of the family,” said Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “For Moses to die under these circumstances is troubling on so many levels, especially as his death has not been officially acknowledged by those responsible for his care. We are doing everything possible to support Chief and Council and the family of Moses Beaver, and we will demand an investigation into the circumstances around his passing.”
A renowned Woodlands artist, Moses Beaver is believed to have died in a Thunder Bay jail on Monday, but his death has not officially been confirmed. The Thunder Bay Police Service has not confirmed that he was in custody, local correctional officials have not commented, the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services will only confirm there was a death, and the regional coroner has not confirmed that an inmate who died at the jail on Monday was Moses Beaver.
Tragically, his sister, Mary Wabasse, was killed in a motor-vehicle accident on Wednesday that injured several members of Moses’s family. They were traveling to comfort family members in Thunder Bay and make funeral arrangements.
“Our dear friend Moses Beaver had struggled for many years with mental health issues but we do not understand why he was in custody or the circumstances that led to his death. Our community had barely begun to mourn his loss when the news came that his sister Mary was killed in an accident on her way to comfort and care for family members in Thunder Bay,” said Nibinamik First Nation Chief Johnny Yellowhead. “It is clear that Moses needed professional help and a psychiatric assessment, and we demand to know why this didn’t happen. It is disturbing that there has been no formal statement acknowledging his death, and we are left to grieve two deaths with more questions than answers. We implore the appropriate officials to provide these answers as quickly as possible, and conduct a full investigation into the death of Moses Beaver and what could have been done to prevent it.”
Fiddler also questioned the actions of the Ontario Provincial Police, who issued a traffic citation to a family member involved in the accident in front of grieving family at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre just minutes after the death of Mary Wabasse.
“We do not fully understand the circumstances around this accident or question the duty of police to investigate, but issuing a citation to a grieving family member in front of a room full of family immediately after the death of a loved one is unacceptably callous and offensive,” said Fiddler, who was with the family at the time. “Members of the police, correctional services and ministry officials have spoken at length about fostering better, more culturally appropriate relations with First Nations, but their actions and lack of accountability in the days following the death of Moses Beaver leaves us to question their commitment.”
Funeral arrangements for Moses Beaver and Mary Wabasse have not been confirmed.