Community mourns prominent elder and spiritual leader

Jacob Sanderson served as elder and spiritual guide for PAGC, police, Sask. Pen, Wanuskewin and health district

(L to R): Prince Albert Grand Council Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte, Elder Jacob Sanderson, Prince Albert police Chief Jon Bergen and Deputy Chief Jason Stonechild. (Prince Albert Police Service/Submitted)

A prominent elder and spiritual leader has died.

The Prince Albert Grand Council issued a statement Monday mourning Jacob Sanderson of James Smith Cree Nation, who served as an elder and spiritual guide for the PAGC, Prince Albert Police Service, Wanuskewin Heritage Park, Saskatchewan Penitentiary and Saskatoon Health District.

“Chiefs, Elders and staff, I offer my sincere condolences to the family, friends and our First Nations from far and wide mourning the loss and celebrating the life of this great leader,” PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte wrote.

“He was known and respected across Turtle Island and even across the sea. His quiet and unassuming ways were always admired. That kind of character made people comfortable and they felt they would like to be his friend and to seek his advice and counsel.”

Hardlotte wrote that Sanderson became spiritual at a young age and learned the ways of the Elders he served and respected. He lived the life of an elder, Hardlotte wrote, wanting no more than what was needed to provide shelter, food and clothes for himself and his family.

“Jacob will be remembered for his pride and love for his people, his ceremonial work in practicing and preserving First Nations culture and traditions, and his commitment and dedication toward peace and reconciliation,” Hardlotte said.

“He will be greatly missed but his legacy will continue on through all of his contributions in following a path toward peace, hope and change.”

This past summer, Sanderson brought together sector Elders as communities began to feel the impact of COVID-19 to send out a message for World Peace and Prayer Day.

“We must come together to honour our sacred sites given to the Indigenous People. We need to go back and take our children there and pray,” Sanderson said on June 19.

“Of our ancestors’ stories, of the sacred sites that the Spirit put that there – they were not manmade. It was a place of the blessing and the keepness of everything that was so spiritual here on Mother Earth. We need to go back to our ancient stories through our relatives and the children [so] the people could understand and see the gifts of life of those stories of what God created. This is why it is crucial to celebrate life but we need to celebrate it together with prayers.”

 Hardlotte said Sanderson was a man of “distinguished humanity” who will be forever in the PAGC’s hearts and prayers.

The Prince Albert Police Service also put out a statement Monday, expressing condolences to Sanderson’s family the PAGC and the community on the loss of “a respected and caring community leader.”

Sanderson had joined the police service as an elder and spiritual advisor in May 2019, offering guidance and traditional teachers in support of the organization’s work toward reconciliation.

In a press release, Prince Albert Board of Police Commissioners Chair Sheryl Kimbley said Sanderson was a role model for members and staff at the police service and served with respect and understanding.

“Our community looked up to Elder Sanderson and valued his experience and knowledge,” Kimbley said. “Having him work within our police organization meant local members and staff had the opportunity to learn from him as well and develop a better understanding of traditional teachings and beliefs, which in turn, informs their work in public safety.”

Bergen said the police service benefitted from Sanderson’s “knowledge and wisdom,” adding that he trusts Sanderson’s work “will continue to guide us in a meaningful way.”

According to Sanderson’s obituary posted online at the Fedusiak Funeral Chapel in Melfort, Sanderson is survived by his wife, nine children, daughter in law, adopted son and brother, special friend, three stepchildren and numerous grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

A funeral is set for this morning at Bernard Constant Community School on James Smith Cree Nation.