Thunder Bay funeral opens offering traditional burial ceremonies

A funeral home in Thunder Bay is offering First Nation families, and friends the option of choosing a more traditional ceremony for saying goodbye.

“We’re just trying to offer as many services that we can to suit the needs of the families that we serve,” said Todd Darrach, manager of the Jenkens Funeral home.

Thunder Bay is a known service hub for many surrounding First Nations.

This includes funeral services when a family member or friend dies.

Darrach said clients should be able to practice their own traditions.

“Again half of the families that we serve are from the Indigenous community and we honor and respect them and their traditions.”

The funeral home offers a sacred fire and other services.

Often families will hold a wake and services in the city before going back home for the burial. At times, the person is buried in the city.

Gerry Baxter is from the Whitesand First Nation and works at the funeral home.

“As Anishinaabe we offer in many different ways and one of the ways is the sacred fire,” said Baxter. “As Anishinaabe we offer in many different ways and one of the ways is that sacred fire.

“It is comforting to know that a person in mourning that could come here and sit with the fire, give that hurt to the fire and energy will take care of that hurt, that loss.”

Funeral assistant Tiffany Byers said they also offer smudging in their chapel and four day wakes.

“We see a lot of families that suffer that can’t continue the way their traditions are, so it’s nice to be able to offer that back to the families,” she said.

Leon Jourdain from Lac La Croix lost his two nieces recently.

He commends the funeral home for offering these services.

“It gives respect back to the people, it heals the injured spirit that has been injured for hundreds of years because of the denial of our own method of how we buried people, how we send them off to the other world,” he said.

Jourdain said it’s damaging when families don’t have access to their own practices.

“It makes it more difficult for them to believe that their loved one is at rest and has gone to the place where our people go,” Jourdain said.

The funeral home requires a special permit and blessing for the sacred fire which will be available 24 hours a day to anyone who needs it.

“They need it to heal, this is part of their culture, they need it to feel whole again,” said Byers.



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