News / Canada

Car crash kills sister of First Nations artist Moses Amik Beaver

The deadly collision comes just two days after well-known painter was found dead in a Thunder Bay jail cell.

Mary Wabasse, sister of acclaimed artist Moses Beaver killed in car crash three days after he dies in Thunder Bay jail cell.

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Mary Wabasse, sister of acclaimed artist Moses Beaver killed in car crash three days after he dies in Thunder Bay jail cell.

The sister of Moses Amik Beaver has been killed in a collision in Thunder Bay, just days after the well-known First Nations artist was found dead in the Thunder Bay jail.

Mary Wabasse, 58, died after a crash Wednesday that injured five other people, Ontario Provincial Police said Thursday.

Wabasse, a longtime Tikinagan child protection worker from the Nibinamik First Nation (Summer Beaver), was a passenger in an SUV that collided with a transport truck.

The SUV’s other occupants were all taken to hospital, the OPP said.

The tragedy came as those who knew Beaver question why the painter, who had struggled with mental health issues for years, was being held in a jail cell and not at a hospital when he died Monday.

Shortly before 1 p.m. Wednesday, Thunder Bay Fire Rescue responded to an accident on Dawson Rd. near Dog Lake Rd. They discovered a transport in the ditch and an SUV with extensive damage, a Thunder Bay Fire release said.

An off-duty paramedic had aided at the scene before the fire crew arrived.

Famed First Nations artist Moses Amik Beaver.

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Famed First Nations artist Moses Amik Beaver.

There were six people in the SUV and the fire crews needed “heavy hydraulics” to extricate the passengers, including the use of the jaws of life to free the driver, said Thunder Bay District Fire Chief Kent Stevens.

The driver of the transport was not injured, OPP said.

The SUV driver, who had to be removed from the vehicle with the jaws of life, has been charged with driving to the left of the centre line, OPP Sgt. Shelley Garr said in a news release.

A post mortem for Beaver is scheduled today in Toronto, regional coroner Dr. Michael Wilson Wilson said.

Johnny Yellowhead, chief of the Nibinamik (Summer Beaver) band, said Wednesday that he would like a full public examination into whether Beaver committed suicide and what might have been done to help him.

The Thunder Bay jail where Beaver died is the same facility where Adam Capay was held in solitary confinement for more than four years before public outcry moved provincial authorities to better his conditions.

Beaver travelled widely teaching art and First Nations traditions.

In an interview with Indian Country TV in the U.S., he said that First Nations people often suffer from low self esteem, which he tried to remedy with traditional teachings.

Much of his teaching came through art, but he was also adept at techniques for survival in the bush, such as how to winterize a teepee and how to make a canoe from a tarp.

He said he wanted to encourage others to express themselves through art.

“I don’t tell them what to do,” he said. “I just give them the tools.

“I’m actually just there to be a guide as an artist.”

Beaver said he was on a mission to help bring back First Nations stories, many of which he learned from elders as a boy while sitting around campfires.

“All of the images that you see in my paintings are stories and I bring them back to life by illustrating the stories,” he said.

“Today the kids are not interested in sitting around the campfire, listening to elders telling stories.”