At 5:40 AM on Sunday, September 4, 2022, Canadian police were called to the James Smith Cree Nation, a reservation for indigenous people in the province of Saskatchewan. Minutes later, more calls came in from different locations in the same community. Throughout the course of the next few hours, stabbing victims would be found in twelve different locations on the reservation, as well as one in Weldon, a nearby village.
In total, 10 died and 18 were injured, although police believe there may be more injured victims who transported themselves to get medical help. The victims ranged in age from 23 to 78 years old and police believe that some people were targeted, while others were attacked at random.
Police were on the lookout for two suspects: Damien and Myles Sanderson, brothers.
Damien was found dead on Monday, September 5 with wounds that did not seem to be self-inflicted. Myles, though, was arrested by police when he was found speeding in a stolen vehicle on a highway, and then later died of medical distress after being taken to the hospital on Wednesday, September 7.
Myles had a lengthy history of criminal activity. “Myles’ record dates back quite a number of years and it includes both property and persons crimes,” said Rhonda Blackmore, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner. He was put on parole after a ruling by the Parole Board of Canada on February 1, 2022. They thought that he would not be a danger to the community and could be released, although their ruling did include a note about his history, stating, “Your criminal history is very concerning, including the use of violence and weapons related to your index offences, and your history of domestic violence which victimized family, including your children, and non-family.” He violated his parole in May, however, by not meeting with his parole officer; and police had been looking for him since that time.
Damien, on the other hand, did not have this extensive record. Many of the people on the reserve think that he actually tried to stop Myles and that he did not have a role in the stabbings; they remember him as a family-oriented and positive man and think he could have been very easily influenced by his brother.
The community in the James Smith Cree Nation is coming together to get through this difficult time. They are telling stories of the dead, having community meals together, and paying their respects. Community members have even spoken on how they have forgiven those involved and are trying to move past the incident. Chief Wally Burns told Global News, “We have to forgive. How are we going to get better if we don’t forgive? Holding on to anger is a sickness. We need to talk about it, deal with it and expose it. If we tackle this as a community, we’ll get over this.”
Since Myles had a history of abusing alcohol and drugs, the leaders of the James Smith Cree Nation have set the ambitious goal of eliminating substances in their reserve, thinking they played a part in the murders.