APTN National News
As the snow fell softly on Christmas Day it was a somber evening on the Paul First Nation west of Edmonton.
About 200 people gathered in the small community to take part in a candle lit vigil for the 6-year-old girl who was brutally assaulted, left for dead and found naked in the snow there on Dec. 20.
Nearby, four sacred fires burned to show the strength of the four directions and of the people coming together.
Stanna Rabbit, a relative of the girl, organized the event and said she felt happy and blessed by the turnout.
“It feels really good and so heart-warming,” said Rabbit. “This walk (was) in a sense our fight for her. I’ve been praying to God and I’ve asked him to watch over our community as well. And this is a small step toward healing.”
The girl was in a coma for over three days and is recently showing signs of recovery. To the relief and delight of her family, (on Christmas) she woke up and said “Hi, mom” and “Hi, Santa”.
“Your prayers are being heard by the Creator,” said event spokesman Wilson Bearhead. “The power of prayer is something that we cannot forget and something that we need to use each day.”
He said that it was the support and prayers pouring in from around the country that is helping to keep their strength up in this troublesome time.
“When this happened,” said Bearhead, “a lot of people stood in front of the family with their prayers, with their smudge, with their pipes, with their bibles, and we thank them for that. This is to remind everyone that we are not alone. I now know why they stood behind us.”
Elder Mary Rain offered the official prayer for the event and said it’s time to stand together.
“Let’s be strong and let us ask our Creator for a blessing and also for helping this child come back to Paul Band and live a normal, happy life like how she used to live,” said Rain.
Rabbit said although it was extremely difficult to explain to her own children the horrors of what took place; she believes it will benefit them to understand potential dangers in the future.
“I had to tell them the truth. For me as a mother I stress honesty and that’s the best way, is honest from the heart,” said Rabbit.
It is a terrible circumstance that has brought a community and beyond, closer.
Even though tough questions will linger on, Coun. Farron Bull believes now is the time to take action.
“We as a community, we have to stop this. We have to take our community back,” said Bull. “Our elders, our members, let’s unite and live as we did before – in harmony. And let us come together again, not in this way but in happiness and warmth.”
The vigil concluded with a half kilometre walk to the site of the sacred fires. Minimal information on the girl’s condition was released due to the on-going investigation into the matter.
James Clifford Paul, 21, was arrested on the Alexis First Nation on Dec. 21. Paul faces charges of aggravated sexual assault, attempted murder and kidnapping and is due to appear in Stony Plain court on Jan. 7.