FSIN sends condolences to family of Victor Thunderchild

Herald file photo. Victor Thunderchild leads the opening ceremonies for Carlton Comprehensive High School's Indigenous Day on Sept. 27, 2019. Thunderchild was recognized for his work at an Outstanding Indigenous Educator by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations added their voices to the hundreds mourning the late Victor Thunderchild Tuesday.

Thunderchild, a Carlton Comprehensive High School counsellor and former teacher, passed Friday after a battle with COVID-19.

“As a long time educator, Victor was well known regionally and nationally. Hailing from Thunderchild First Nation, he spent many years ensuring that First Nations and Metis student’s walking through the doors of Carlton Comprehensive High School in Prince Albert, SK., were heard, seen, advocated for and protected. He will forever be remembered by generations of students as their champion,” FSIN wrote.

They also included a quote from Thunderchild’s widow in their press release.

“My husband made an important decision 30 years ago when he graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with an Education degree. He decided he was going to work in an urban school” said Violet Thunderchild.

“He said that someone needed to be there for our Indigenous kids, so he was at Carlton Comprehensive High School for 29 years of his life. He was an incredible, brave person, breaking systemic racism and discrimination barriers and he always had to prove himself but he never gave up. One of Victor’s last messages was that teachers are essential workers too and should be protected”

The FSIN said that Thunderchild’s death is a “great loss” for all of their 74 First Nations.

“He recognized the students’ potential and gave them the tools to succeed. As a traditional man, he knew that empowering the next generation was fundamental to their success and cultural survival,” he wrote.

“We’re all so honoured to have known him, and as he makes his journey home, we know that he will live on in the thousands of lives he mentored, cared for, and empowered. When we have powerful individuals working and ensuring that our children are educated but still maintain their culture, language and identity, it’s a great loss when we lose them. He mentored and inspired so many of our youth, and now he has left a void with his passing.”

Since his passing, hundreds have changed their Facebook profile photos to an image of an apple to honour Thunderchild, and at the request of Carlton Comprehensive, worn hockey jerseys or ribbon shirts or skirts Monday and Tuesday in his memory.

That included three city councillors — former Carlton colleague Dawn Kilmer, fellow teacher Ted Zurakowski and Ward 1 Coun. Charlene Miller.

The FSIN said funeral services for Thunderchild, which followed COVID-19 protocols, were held Tuesday morning in St. Walburg.

A memorial is also being planned in Prince Albert.