Generational feud gripping Manitoba Cree community with gunplay, beatings

A generations-old feud is threatening to spiral out of control on a Manitoba First Nation following a month that has seen shootings and beatings in tit-for-tat strikes, community members say.

By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
A generations-old feud is threatening to spiral out of control on a Manitoba First Nation following a month that has seen shootings and beatings in tit-for-tat strikes, community members say.

A band meeting is scheduled in Misipawistik Cree Nation, also known as Grand Rapids, for Aug. 7 to discuss the flaring violence. Community members say that the chief is mulling banning people from the reserve.

The violence has put people on edge.

“I think there is going to be more of it coming and coming,” said one local resident, whose relative was beaten with a bat, but asked to remain anonymous over safety concerns. “I don’t think it’s going to stop.”

Misipawistik Cree Nation sits near the point where the Saskatchewan River meets Lake Winnipeg, about 440 kilometres north of Winnipeg and 330 kilometres south of Thompson, Man. The Cree community’s name means “Rushing Rapids” in Cree, but a hydro dam completed in 1968 silence those rapids, forever.

The Cree community, which has an on-reserve population of about 700, has experienced periodic bursts of violence in recent years, most of it fueled by a volatile mix of long-held animosity between families and struggles over the cocaine and pills trade. Misipawistik is a transit point for drugs coming up from Winnipeg to Thompson, local residents say.

Misipawistik Cree Nation Chief Harold Turner announced the band meeting on his personal Facebook page Sunday.

“5 p.m., community concerns, gang activity on reserve,” wrote Turner.

He could not be reached for comment.

Former Assembly of First Nations national chief Ovide Mercredi is also a band councillor there. He could not be reached for comment.

Alice Cook said the latest round of violence, which was sparked by a shooting earlier this month, followed a period of relative calm that began after a fight during a pow wow about five years ago led the community to come together and settle things down.

“Everything seemed to be resolved and everything was quiet and then it started up again,” said Cook, 60. “People are afraid; many in our community live in fear. It goes from one extreme to another.”

According to the Grand Rapids RCMP, the shooting that began the latest cycle happened on the evening of July 8 after a 22 year-old man was shot while driving an all-terrain vehicle. The RCMP said in a statement that a 20 year-old man named Alexander Joe Sanderson had been charged with two counts of attempted murder in relation to the incident.

Wayne Scott’s son was riding on the ATV with the 22 year-old who was shot. Scott, who is a Pentecostal pastor in the community, said the 22 year-old was shot in the arm with buckshot from a sawed-off shotgun as he drove by a house party. Some of the pellets went through his son’s hoodie.

“There was a party that the Sandersons were having and they waited for them to come back,” said Scott.

Then, this past Saturday, Scott’s 18 year-old son, who was about 100 yards away from home, was shot in the leg with a . 22 during a drive-by shooting.

“He was in a quite a bit of pain, but he was okay, he’ll tough it out,” said Scott.

Some of Scott’s family members, however, immediately retaliated and attacked a member of the rival clan, beating him with a bat.

“My nephews, they went to chase them down and they caught them and they beat one almost half to death,” he said.

Now, Scott said, one of the main drug dealers in the community is texting people, offering money to go shoot up his relative’s houses in retaliation.

“The biggest problem we have are the drugs and the drug dealers. These are the drug dealers that came over here, that tried to shoot my son,” he said.

And Scott feels the RCMP is doing nothing to stop the violence. After the first shooting earlier this month, he said one of the officers told him it was too dangerous to go directly after the shooter. Scott said the local RCMP is doing little to investigate his son’s shooting.

“I had tried to talk to the police, to give them tips, the neighbourhood talks and let us know it was,” he said. “But they said they couldn’t do anything, that they didn’t have enough evidence, that people have to testify. They don’t want to do the footwork.”

Scott said a senior officer suggested that the beating in retaliation to the second shooting had evened things up.

“He said something like, that should settle it…we shouldn’t have to worry about it too much anymore,” he said. “They are dragging their feet about the investigation. They don’t want to do nothing. I shook my head walking away from the police yesterday.”

RCMP Cpl. Richard Young denied that a police officer had suggested that to Scott.

“Absolutely there is an investigation that is ongoing,” said Young, before referring further queries to the division’s communications department.

“At this juncture, I can’t confirm who or what, may or may not be the subject of an investigation. To do so may infringe on the privacy of individuals directly or indirectly and also, to do so, could jeopardize the integrity of any possible ongoing investigation,” said Sgt. Line Karpish, media relations officer for the RCMP’s D Division.

For Cook, the only solution is for the community to take control of the situation.

“This feud, or whatever you want to call it, goes back a long way,” she said. “People are trying to get even, trying to get back at each other. A lot of crap is going on.”

This past Sunday, Cook woke up to see the windows in her brother’s van smashed. She said she stood on the road with her face in her hands and suddenly felt she had to do something.

“And I started walking through the whole reserve and then with 12 or 15 people,” said Cook. “We have to take our community back, to get on track. We have too much drugs in our community. It’s destroying families…We have to do something positive and say to these people that enough is enough,” she said. “These people that sell the drugs, that sell the pills, you look at their yes and there is no life in those eyes, they don’t have anything, that spirit is gone.”

Many in the community believe the poison that runs through the reserve surfaced after a massive hydro development on the Saskatchewan River silenced the rapids and destroyed a way of life that had existed for centuries.

“Grand Rapids was not born with drugs and alcohol; we were not born with boredom and idleness. There are a lot of things that our families and our communities were not prepared for. We weren’t prepared for that change,” said one band member, who requested anonymity.

The area around the rapids had been a gathering place for the Crees since time immemorial. Year-round settlements formed around the fur trade in the 1700s.

Before the construction of the Grand Rapids dam by Manitoba Hydro in the 1960s, the Cree in the area lived off the land, hunting, trapping and fishing. There was no road linking them to the rest of the province and they lived in homes they built themselves.

In 2012, Manitoba Hydro signed a $58 million compensation deal with the Misipawistik Cree Nation to allow for the renewal of the dam’s provincial license. Most of the money, under the deal, will be paid out to the Cree over the next 50 years.

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@JorgeBarrera

Online Producer / Ottawa

Before moving to become the APTN News social media producer, Mark was the executive producer for the news in eastern Canada. Before starting with APTN in 2009, Mark worked at CBC Radio and Television in Newfoundland and Labrador and Ottawa.

1 thought on “Generational feud gripping Manitoba Cree community with gunplay, beatings

  1. This is the community my Grandfather raised me in. I am now living in Calgary Alberta and going into my second year of university. I fought in these confrontations for 3 years (13-16-17), and my last one was when I went back at 18. Haven’t really visited for more than a week since then, I am now 23.

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