The family of Darby Shade (Soop), a 26-year-old man who was stabbed in southwest Calgary in 2018, is honouring his memory while spreading awareness to what they say are flaws in the justice system.
On January 17th, 2018, Shade’s body was found in the Westbrook Mall parking lot after he was stabbed to death. Matthew Crane-Watchmaker and Christian Whitebear were charged several days later with second-degree murder.
However, they later both plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, and Whitebear is now free after being credited for time served. Crane-Watchmaker has yet to be sentenced.
“I just felt that it wasn’t fair, you know?,” said Darby’s mother Simone Soop. “That’s kind of why we have this here today.”
On Saturday morning in Stand Off, Alta., they began a ceremony leading into a spirit ride based in Sioux Lakota tradition.
“This ride [is] a sacrifice in spirit and prayer,” said Darby’s uncle Beatle Soop, who made the trip from Saskatchewan to support the ride. “These horses are going to help up carry those prayers.”
Elder Keith Chief Moon and members of the Sundance Society began the ceremony with song and prayer, followed by a smudging ceremony.
Initially expecting up to 20 riders, Simone was alone until three others joined her at the last minute. Mounted on horseback, four riders rode to the Alberta Provincial Courts in Cardston, Alta. along the side of Highway 2.
“The Lakota people took this as part of their traditions now,” said Beatle Soop. “I’m hoping that the Blackfoot people will do the same here, because we’re horse people.”
Terri-Lynn Fox, director of the Kainai Wellness Centre, was present to offer her support to the family.
“This hits close to home,” she said. “I have a son who’s close to Darby’s age [and] it gets to you, it gets to the core of your spirit and we want to ensure that members have support.”
Despite the snow and below zero temperatures, the group was determined to make it through the all-day event.
They plan on holding the spirit ride each year for the next three years, with the hope more riders will join and the weather will be more welcoming.
“The buffalo, when a blizzard comes in like this, the buffalo doesn’t run,” Elder Chief Moon explained. “They get together and they go right into the storm.”
Simone Soop says the sentencing for Cranne-Watchmaker is set for November 9th in Calgary.
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