Red Lake, Minnesota (AP)
With the sound of a drum and a high-pitched wail, the first funerals began for victims of a teenager’s shooting rampage on the Red Lake Chippewa Reservation where 10 people died.
A lone man’s cry gave way to songs and more drumming from a circle of a dozen men March 26, and hundreds of people who had gathered in a community center filed past a pair of open caskets.
The scene would be repeated several times in different ways over the course of the last week of March until all ten people who died were returned to the earth.
Daryl Lussier, a 58-year-old tribal police officer, and his longtime companion Michelle Sigana, 31, were the first victims in the March 21 attack by his grandson, Jeff Weise, 16.
Lussier, dressed in his police uniform, had an eagle feather placed in his hands. In his casket were an American flag, a teddy bear, a few cigarettes and his police badge. In Sigana’s casket was a ceramic dish filled with cigarettes.
More than 100 police officers attended the five-hour service for Lussier and Sigana, along with Gov. Tim Pawlenty and U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.
In brief remarks, Pawlenty alluded to Red Lake’s reputation as a place of poverty. Wealth is not measured in the value of a home, he said, but in the strength of communities and families.
“Even in grief, I can see that the Red Lake Nation is one of Minnesota’s wealthiest places,” he said.
A third funeral, for 15-year-old Chase Lussier, also was held March 26 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
Pallbearers, including John Morris Jr., wore T-shirts with Chase’s picture and the words “In memory of Beka.”
“It was a nickname he had since he was just a little bitty guy,” said Morris, 19. He described his cousin as “the kind of kid who tried to goof around and make people smile.”
While investigators say they don’t know Weise’s motive, a long trail of Internet postings paint a picture of a deeply depressed, suicidal boy. Friends and family members have said he had been taking the anti-depressant Prozac since a suicide scare last summer.
Outside the Red Lake community center, which shares space with a casino, an electronic sign flashed a message: “Red Lake Nation sends heartfelt condolences to all family members of tragic event. We are one in our sorrow and in our love.”
Morris said he came to the March 26 funeral to make sure the drummers would be on hand to start Chase’s service the right way.
“It’s kind of like our heartbeat of what makes us go,” he said of the drumming.
Also on March 26, President Bush made his first public comments on the shooting, praising a security guard credited with saving some students by confronting Weise. Bush said he and first lady Laura Bush were praying for the victims.
The Red Lake school is not expected to reopen until some time in April.
Associated Press Writer Joshua Freed and by Amy Forlit
contributed to this report.