Ceremony honors shooting victims

American Indian tribes joined politicians, family, friends and other concerned residents to grieve.

Ryan Dionne

More than 500 people gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday for a traditional prayer ceremony to honor the 10 people who died Monday in Red Lake, Minn.

“We want to send a message to the Red Lake nation that the state of Minnesota grieves with them,” event coordinator David Glass said.

People of many different American Indian tribes joined politicians, family, friends and other concerned residents to grieve.

Among others, Gov. Tim Pawlenty rearranged his schedule to be at the ceremony, Glass said.

Pat Wenell said she knows many of the families that lost someone during Monday’s school shooting.

“We want the people up north to know that we feel equally bad,” Wenell said.

People held hands in prayer, sang songs in native languages and smoked tobacco in pipes during the ceremony.

Tobacco symbolizes prayer, Wenell said.

During the ceremony, mourners turned toward the sun, where three birds circled high above the crowd.

“Those eagles show up when we bring the pipe out,” Glass said.

Wenell said people don’t see eagles when a white person dies.

Trish Cook Hanson, who attended the ceremony, lost her cousin, Derrick Brun, in the school shootings. Brun was a security guard at the school, Hanson said.

When Joe Frog and Leah Loud, both from Red Lake, first found out about the shooting, they said, they called their families.

“All my family lives up there,” Loud said. “It’s a pretty close community.”

Loud said stores and the main stretch of highway are closed and the telephone services aren’t always working.

Loud’s cousin, Lisa Loud, was friends with many of the victims, Leah Loud said. Lisa Loud’s friend was shot in the leg, Leah Loud said.

One of the ambulance drivers who responded to the incident was her uncle, Leah Loud said.

University sophomore Jed Besjarlait said his sister is a doctor in Red Lake.

Over the phone, she told Besjarlait she “had to clean brains and body parts off the floor,” he said.

His other sister is a student at the school but was not physically injured.

Ron Buckanaga, director at the Four Directions Charter School in Minneapolis, said he encouraged students to attend Tuesday’s ceremony.

Buckanaga went to the ceremony with approximately 12 students from his school, including some from Red Lake, he said.

Dr. George Realmuto, a child psychiatrist, said he thinks teachers need to recognize at-risk students, to prevent tragedies like the one in Red Lake.

“This is not a psychiatry or psychology issue,” Realmuto said. “This is a child-development issue. Teachers need to know something about child development.”

There are risk factors and warning signs that students display, but these signs often go unnoticed, Realmuto said.

Authorities were trying Tuesday to determine what caused a teenager to gun down his grandfather, put on the man’s police-issue belt and bulletproof vest, and drive his marked squad car to a high school, where he began shooting his classmates at will.

Jeff Weise, who authorities said was 16 or 17, killed nine people and wounded seven Monday before trading gunfire with a police officer and apparently shooting himself. His motive still wasn’t clear Tuesday, but the FBI said the shootings appeared to have been planned in advance.

It was the nation’s worst school shooting since the Columbine High School massacre in April 1999 in Colorado, which ended with the deaths of 12 students, a teacher and the two teen gunmen.

The killings on this American Indian reservation in Northern Minnesota began at the home of Weise’s grandfather, Daryl Lussier, 58, who was shot to death with a .22-caliber gun, said Michael Tabman, the FBI’s special agent in charge of Minneapolis. Lussier’s companion, Michelle Sigana, was also killed.

– Matt Graham and The Associated Press contributed to this report.