Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
ISABELLA INDIAN RESERVATION Some 1,000 people came to the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort Entertainment hall on Sunday afternoon for the Carnel Chamberlain Memorial Service.
Outside the Memorial Service at Soaring Eagle Casino
It was a day to begin to put closure to a tragic murder of the young four year old Carnel on this reservation in mid-Michigan, which is about 150 northwest of Detroit.
His badly burned body was discovered on June 28 by law enforcement officers one week after his mother, Jaimee Chamberlain, reported him missing upon her arrival home from working at the Indian casino where the memorial ceremony was held. That night, June 21, Carnel had been in care of his mother's then boyfriend, Anthony Bennett, while she was working. The same day Carnel's body was discovered, Bennett was brought into custody. He remains in jail pending a hearing today in a federal court in Bay City, Michigan.
The Carnel Chamberlain Memorial Service was closed to media cameras and recording devices per the request of the family.
Inside the somber entertainment center, there was a single picture of young Carnel illuminated by stage lights, absent a casket because his body has yet to be turned over to the family by the FBI.
Several feet from the lone picture of Carnel was a flag of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan draped over the speaker's podium. Floral arrangements, some of which were handmade by tribal members, lined the stage.
Since his body has not yet been turned over to the family for burial, a private funeral will be held at a yet to be determined date, which could be two to three months.
A traditional water ceremony opened the memorial service with Carnel's family forming a circle as they were smudged and water was blessed.
Among the memorial ceremony attendees was Michigan State Senator Judy Emmons, who told the crowd, "as a mother and a grandmother, I know this loss leaves a big void. We feel the pain. It is important for us to draw together at a time like this."
The Tribe's Public Relations Director Frank Cloutier read a letter from Acting Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Del Laverdure, US Department of the Interior, addressed to the Tribe. In the letter, Laverdure expressed his condolences to the Tribe and family.
Kevin Chamberlain Addresses Media
after the Memorial Service.
Kevin Chamberlain, who has served as the family spokesperson and is a former chief of the Tribe, thanked the community at large for the vast support they provided during the week young Carnel was missing. Over forty agencies, including law enforcement, fire fighters and search teams assisted in the week long search efforts. Chamberlain listed each one as a slide show was shown on three large screens in the entertainment hall.
“Enough is enough!”
stated Chamberlain regarding child abuse in this tribal community.
“Let's stop pretending it is not happening. I am going to make sure Carnel did not die in vain,”
“We are going to educate people about abuse in the home that is happening against children.”
The Reverend Dar Blanshan, pastor of the Victory Community Center, provided a Christian eulogy. He called the service a celebration of Carnel's life. He told the crowd that there are two options: "to be bitter or be better." He summarized the nature of Carnel's tragic death a "part of the darkness of life."
The three large screens saw a ten-minute video with photographs and videos of Carnel accompanied by music that had lyrics from "Sponge Bob, Square Pants" and the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand." Some in the audience were overtaken with grief and left.
The Great Lakes Alliance Drum performed a traveling song for Carnel's journey.
photo credit Lucy McClellan Hunter; posted July 16, 2012 6:20 am edt