It was a terrible incident by any measure. And now it has turned fatal. Barbara Kentner, an indigenous woman hit in the stomach last January by a trailer hitch aimed at her from a moving car, has died of her injuries.
The 36-year-old mother of a teenager was walking with her sister, Melissa Kentner, at around 1 a.m. on January 29 when the hitch came flying out of a vehicle window, hitting the Anishinaabe woman of Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation in the abdomen.
“ ‘Oh, I got one,’ ” were the words that Melissa Kentner heard, she told CBC News at the time. She retrieved the rusting hitch from where it had fallen.
Doctors operated, but the hitch had ruptured Barbara Kentner’s small intestine, her sister said, and even several surgeries could not repair the damage. Despite five hours of emergency surgery, bacteria were “everywhere,” Melissa Kentner told Maclean’s, and began attacking Barbara’s organs. Doctors told her it would just be a matter of time.
That time came on July 4, at around 5 a.m., when she died in hospice surrounded by her family, according to Maclean’s.
“I heard her take her last breath,” said Melissa Kentner, according to the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN).
Eighteen-year-0ld Brayden Bushby was charged initially with aggravated assault, APTN reported. There were three others in the car that night, according to Maclean’s. In February, Barbara Kentner was released from the hospital and participated in a walk held in her honor, but was soon back in the hospital. It was not clear as of Friday July 7 whether Bushby will face more charges. To date, he has not commented publicly nor have efforts to reach him been successful.
Having bottles, eggs, garbage and even feces thrown at them from moving vehicles is a common occurrence for indigenous people walking along the streets of Thunder Bay, Ontario, according to APTN and other news outlets. Melissa Kentner called the incident a hate-crime-fueled murder, and so did at least one indigenous leader.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Barbara Kentner of Waabigon Saaga’igan Anishinaabeg (Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation),” said Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum in a statement upon Kentner’s passing. “We all must work together to acknowledge that racism exists. We must combat and report racism. We must take this very seriously. This has been going on for far too long. This is our reality as many Indigenous Peoples, especially our women, have come to me with their stories. It’s very disturbing and frightening.”
Achneepineskum noted an “escalation of violence” in Thunder Bay and told the National Post that she had called police after the woman’s death to push for changes to the charges levied at Bushby.
“We must not minimize these horrible situations,” she said. “A young indigenous mother died today, and a young girl is without her mother—this should not happen. What do you say to a young girl that loses her mother? I’m very heartbroken for her and will be supporting the family.”