Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
ISABELLA INDIAN RESERVATION Hundreds of Saginaw Chippewa people stood in support of the family of 4 year old Carnel Chamberlain last evening at a candlelight vigil on the Reservation one week to the hour he was reported missing by his mother.
The Community Gathered as Dusk Fell Upon the Reservation
Sadly, the body of young Carnel was discovered under the porch of the house he shared with his mother just hours before the candlelight vigil began. Members of this crowd expressed feelings of hurt, confusion and anger as they talked among themselves prior to the vigil.
The tribal police, FBI and Michigan State Police were still collecting evidence while the vigil was being held. The mother's ex-boyfriend, Anthony M. Bennett, arrested two and half hours before the event began, was across the street at the Tribal Police department still being questioned by law enforcement officers.
As the crowd assembled the sun went down last night and dusk fell upon the reservation that allowed the illuminated white bags to glow from the lit candles inside.
The candlelight vigil was planned two days before the community was met with the tragic news that the body of Carnel was found. The candlelight vigil had been named, "Giiwe' aanzhechigedaa," and Ojibwe phrase which means "Let's Cast the Light Toward Home.".
Let's Cast the Light Toward Home
Some in the crowd openly wept as they greeted one another. As is the Indian way, the crowd crossed generational lines; crossed religious lines and crossed racial and ethnic lines.
Last night, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian community was together in strength in a time of tragedy.
“Seeing all these people family, friends and community makes my heart glad,”
declared Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Chief Dennis Kequom.
“We are a community in mourning and you hit a chord in my heart,”
Chief Kequom told the American Indian drum group that performed several honor songs during the vigil.
“I have just a few words to say tonight, but I want you to know Carnel will always be in our hearts,”
he said at the conclusion of his brief remarks.
Kevin Chamberlain, Former Tribal Chief and Family Spokesperson
The strongest words came from Kevin Chamberlain, former tribal chief of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and spokesperson representing the family at the candlelight vigil.
“This community put our family on their backs this past week. The volunteers put us on their backs. The law enforcement put us on their backs,”
“This is not a night to look at hate even though we hurt. This is about Carnel. We don't want to be angry right now that may come later when all the facts are in. It is a time to find love, not hate. We need your prayers.”
"We love you Chamberlain family," someone in the audience called to applause out as Chamberlain concluded his remarks.
Several clergy spoke and offered prayers. "We have gathered at this spot for other occasions as a community. I remember when we came to get turkeys. We came to get hams. Tonight we come together to mourn the loss of this child who lost his life," said the Reverend Owen Whitepigeon, pastor of the United Methodist Church that sits on the reservation. He then recited the Lord's Prayer with many in the audience also doing so.
"Even though he was only four years old, he touched our lives," commented the Reverend Robert Pego, Sr. pastor of the Saginaw Chippewa Community Church. "We pray for his family as they hurt."
The flag of the tribal nation was lowered to half staff as the drum performed and sang one last song.
Jaimee Chamberlain, 21, Carnel's mother was in the crowd, but did not address the supporters. She was met with many hugs at the conclusion of the candlelight vigil.
The sadness on the reservation was met with a sense of strength and unity as the crowd dispersed.
updated 12:50 pm edt; updated 9:03 am edt; posted June 29, 2012 6:40 am edt