‘He caused a lot of thunder’

Ayden's parents, Melanie Badger and Matt Matheson, at the ceremony on Thursday. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald

Early on the morning of February 20, 2016, a two-month old child died.

His name was Ayden – and despite his short time on earth, he left a legacy that will help other families find solace during times of grief. Thursday, a pipe ceremony marked the opening of Ayden’s room, a dedicated space for smudging at Shellbrook Integrated Health Centre.

Ayden’s great aunt, Esther Badger, was there when Ayden died. She explained how difficult it was for the family when they were prevented from taking the boy’s body away for a smudging ceremony – a practice central to many indigenous cultures.

“Smudging is what we do with our loved ones when they’re gone. We smudge them so we know their spirit is going to a good place,” she said. “It’s closure for us.”

Because the case was a sudden infant death, she said, authorities wouldn’t let the family carry the boy away from the emergency room. Nor could they hold the ceremony there, since there wasn’t enough ventilation to carry away smoke from burning sacred herbs and plants.

Esther’s brother, Russel Badger, said the episode caused “confusion” and “anger.”

“The Badger family did not want any other family to experience such trauma during their times of sickness, loss and grief,” he said.

So, together with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, the Mistawasis First Nation and the Saskatoon Tribal Council, they met with the health region to look for solutions. The result was Ayden’s room.

Russel stood up after the pipe ceremony and thanked the health region for listening.

For more on this story, see the March 31 print or e-edition of the Daily Herald.