The Keewaywin First Nation came together to say goodbye to Kyle Morriseau.
“His generosity of sharing and his smile and the friendship he had with the community,” said his father Christian Morriseau.
“While he was here in the community before he left, he was well loved by each and every person that was here and the school that he went to, as well.”
Kyle Morriseau is one of seven First Nation students from across northern Ontario who died while attending high school in Thunder Bay.
An inquest into their deaths recommended that a memorial is held for each of the students.
The chief said the community of about 400 keenly felt his loss.
“It’s been eight years since we’ve lost him,” said Chief Chris Kakegamic. “And through this – the inquest and all the recommendations – it was decided that we would do something to mark this year’s, the day that eight years we pulled him out of the river.”
For communities like Keewaywin, it is customary to hold a memorial feast on the anniversary of a loved one’s passing.
A community breakfast had the school children seated first.
A homemade banner with images of Kyle Morriseau and a passage from the Bible were hung overhead.
Christian Morriseau said the day was uplifting for himself, and his family.
“I get to take a deep breath today and enjoy my day with all these people that are gathered together but I got to live with this for the rest of my life,” he said. “Not only me but all the other families as well with the six other parents that are out there, that they have to live with, as well.”
One of those other six parents is Tina Harper.
Also from Keewaywin, her daughter Robyn was 18 when she died in Thunder Bay.
Now almost 11 years later, it’s still emotional for her to talk about the last time she saw her youngest daughter.
The family had just spent Christmas together and Robyn was at the airport waiting to fly out to Thunder Bay for high school.
“They were waiting for the plane, there were so many that went out for school,” said Tina Harper.
Six more student memorials will be held – with the focus on healing.
“We want to find a way of healing as opposed to opening wounds and blame,” said Kakegamic. “Asking more questions than the answers that we will probably never get.”
Kyle Morriseau was the nephew of the Norval Morrisseau, a world famous painter.
Art, it seems, runs in the family.
His father Christian Morriseau said because of art, he is left with memories of his son that he will never forget.
“As a father, will always have to be the night I had my first art show with him,” he said. “It’s one of the best memories- proudest moments – I’ll actually have with him, with him doing that. He wants to pick up the tradition that my father Norval Morriseau left and that he wants to continue.”