By Red Power Media, Staff
Winnipeg— An estimated 1,000 people gathered at an Indigenous smudging ceremony for Cooper Nemeth on Monday night.
The seventeen-year-old’s body was found in North Kildonan almost a week after he disappeared from a party in the same area.
The Winnipeg Police Service said he was murdered.
Nicholas Bell-Wright, 22, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder on Sunday.
The tragedy of Cooper’s death brought family, friends, teammates and members of the indigenous community together to remember the young hockey player at Gateway Recreation Centre.
According to CBC News, the event was organized by James Favel and indigenous elder and educator, Larry Morrissette, from the Bear Clan Patrol, a neighbourhood watch group that monitors North End streets.
“The smudge … is a way of cleaning yourself and sending your own thoughts and prayers and your belief towards Cooper,” said Morrissette.
“We just did a smudge ceremony to help send young Cooper’s soul, spirit home,” Favel said, adding he wasn’t surprised to see so many people attend the ceremony.
When Cooper went missing last week, Bear Clan helped look for him.
Cooper’s mother, father and young sister attended the event. His father, Brent Nemeth, thanked the community for their support.
“In Cooper’s last days, he united the city, province, and humanity in all of us,” said Nemeth.
Cooper’s aunt Laresa Sayles said the community support her family has received restored her faith in Winnipeg.
“I’m hoping that people remember why we live here, and that we are probably the strongest community in the world,” said Sayles.
Both Sayles and Nemeth said Cooper would have loved the ceremony.
The family of Cooper also released a statement to media following the smudging ceremony in honor of their son.
“In Cooper’s last days he united a city, a province, and the humanity in all. He became not only our son, brother, nephew, grandson and great grandson, but yours as well. Regardless of status, race, or upbringing all of you came out to find our boy. We cried, hoped and prayed as one, as it should be. Thank you.”
Our entire family is in awe of the love you all showed for our boy. He has now become Winnipeg’s boy. Thousands of you gave your time, your effort, your resources and all you had to bring Cooper home.
Now you are all supporting us again with your outpouring of condolences, well wishes, and offers of help in our time of sorrow. Thank you.