'Our brother's laying dead here': James Smith Cree Nation man describes tragic scene which followed attack
Just after 6:30 in the morning, Stewart Head received a phone call relaying unthinkably tragic news.
“I always talked about this community exploding one of these days and it sure as hell did,” he told CTV News.
Over the phone, Head's sister frantically described a horrific scene.
“She told me, our brother’s laying dead here, in the house. She said they found him dead, and there’s blood all over the place. He’s not breathing. He’s got no pulse,” he said.
Head’s younger brother, Christian, died after he was stabbed on James Smith Cree Nation the morning of Sept. 4.
Christian was one of 10 victims killed in the stabbings which left 18 injured.
“I didn’t know all of these people were dead. Then they tell me that Earl Burns is dead, Bobby’s (Robert Sanderson) is dead and that Tommy (Thomas Burns) is dead, Greg Burns is dead. Oh my God, it was so heartbreaking to find out all these people were dead,” said Stewart.
Christian’s partner, Lana, was also stabbed at the home and died from her wounds.
Head said he immediately drove to the scene after his sister's phone call.
Also in the home at the time, was Christian’s daughter — and Head's niece. She was stabbed in the neck four times and three times in her side, according to Head.
Head's niece survived and is out of the hospital but he said his family was concerned about another man injured at the scene who was on life support and remains in hospital.
“They got away but had some serious injuries," Head said.
"Really scary stuff, the amount of damage those boys caused.”
Head said he stayed at the blood-stained home where Christian and Lana lay dead, keeping watch until the authorities arrived.
“We thought Myles would come back,” he said.
Myles Sanderson, 30, was one of two suspects in the mass stabbing, he died after he went into medical distress after his Sept. 7 arrest which followed a nearly four-day manhunt.
The other suspect, Sanderson's brother Damien, 31, was found dead in a grassy area on James Smith Cree Nation a day after the attacks — from injuries police do not believe were self-inflicted.
Earlier in the week, Saskatchewan's chief coroner Clive Weighill announced a pair of inquests.
One will examine the mass stabbing that left 11 dead — including Damien.
The other will focus on Myles' in-custody death. When announcing the inquests, Weighill revealed that preliminary autopsy results showed no "blunt force trauma" that may have led to Myles' death.
The home where Christian and Lana were killed was one of more than a dozen crime scenes on the First Nation and in the village of Weldon processed by RCMP in the days following the attacks.
There is furniture missing from the house where his brother died and no one knows where it went, Head told CTV News.
Blood stains remain on the floor and walls that they have to clean, he said.
“It’s going to take us a really long time to heal from this.”
Christian was 54 years old when he died and would have turned 55 in October, according to Head.
“He was one of those guys, if you needed help, he was right there for you … he’d come give you a hand to fix things,” Head said.
“He was a lot like me and took care of his family first.”
Head said says he was taken aback by the number of people at his brother’s funeral.
“I was extremely overwhelmed when I saw the amount of people at my brother’s funeral. There was no place to park and you could feel the hurt and sorrow,” he said.
Head said two deaths on the First Nation, one year before the mass stabbing, should have served as a wake-up call for the community.
On Sept. 6, 2021, RCMP issued an emergency alert in connection to a violent incident and subsequent manhunt for a 33-year-old male suspect.
A man and woman were killed and another person was injured on the First Nation in the incident, according to police.
The suspect was later taken into custody.
“There’s crystal meth here, drug and alcohol problems that have to be addressed. We have to close those down. It will never get better here if we have drugs and alcohol,” Head said.
Following the mass stabbing, the community's leaders have called for more support for dealing with addictions, including additional treatment centres.
Head said he doesn’t know why Myles and Damien Sanderson allegedly killed Christian and Lana Head.
“A lot of people say he had a hit list. If he didn’t like you in the past, you were on that list.”
He says Myles and Damien’s parents separated when the boys were young and as children, the brothers spent a lot of time living with their grandparents who were good people.
“Once they passed away, those boys changed and they changed for the worse.”
Head said intergenerational trauma also looms large in the community.
Head ran away from a Prince Albert residential school when he was ten and he walked home to James Smith by following the railroad tracks.
While at the school, he was abused, harshly punished and ridiculed by school staff, Head said.
“You have to live the way we lived to know what we went through.”
Stewart said in the wake of the tragedy, he’s seen acts of kindness and donations from outsiders such as food and supplies from stores in Carrot River and Kinistino — two nearby communities.
“We had so much support it made us feel a little bit better, a little bit stronger. People came from all over the place, every province.”
He said they were touched by strangers in the town of Melfort who paid for groceries.
“That was something. I asked if they got their names and they said 'No, we just hugged in the Co-op store.'”
With files from Josh Lynn.
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