Samson Cree First Nation is reeling in grief after Chief Marvin Yellowbird’s 5-year-old grandson, Ethan Yellowbird, was shot dead as he slept, hit by a bullet fired from outside his home on the Alberta reserve.
A woman in the house was also injured in the 3 a.m. shooting on July 11, the Globe and Mail reported. The 3,000-member community has been plagued with gang problems for years, the newspaper said.
“Our members are experiencing shock and grief following the tragic incident,” Chief Marvin Yellowbird said, according to the Globe and Mail. “Samson Chief and Council stand ready to do all things necessary to ensure the perpetrators of this unspeakable crime are brought to justice.”
A Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) superintendent for the Battle River District, Curtis Zablocki, told the Wetaskiwin Times that gang activity could not be ruled out and that there had been another shooting hours before this one, though it was not clear whether the two were related.
Samson Cree First Nation is near Hobbema, Alberta, but the news reached Moncton, New Brunswick, where the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) was holding its annual meeting.
“We’ve all seen the tragic news late yesterday from Samson Cree Nation and extend our deep sympathy to all of the people and families of Hobbema," said National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo. "This tragic loss of a young boy only 5 years old—taken from his family and his future—taken by senseless violence. We feel this pain deeply and we extend our prayers to every one affected."
Atleo said a book of condolences had been created for people to sign and “join in solidarity with those suffering.”
The incident also served warning, he said.
“This kind of tragic news brings heightened focus to the work we’re trying to do here over the next three days,” Atleo said on July 12, in his opening speech to the General Assembly. “It reminds us that our job is to build healthier, stronger and safer communities for our people. Communities free of gangs and crime and senseless violence—absolutely these are the symptoms of poverty, despair and hopelessness.”