The three-year old boy that brought the Cree Nation together after he suffered a horrible assault is back in Eeyou Istchee, safe and sound.
Khayden Otter-Rupert touched down on an AirCreebec flight from Montreal to Chibougamau August 19 to a jubilant crowd of 25 well-wishers who turned out to greet him.
The moment everyone in Eeyou Istchee was waiting for finally arrived when Khayden, grinning from ear to ear yet not quite sure what all the fuss was about, sauntered into the airport with seven months of sheer determination cushioning his every step.
His grandparents, Ronnie and Maryann were waiting for him and did everything in their power to keep their emotions intact. After seven months of build up, the look on their faces said it all; their little guy was finally here and they were going to enjoy every minute of it.
“Doctors can do marvelous things with their hands with the help of god,” said his beaming grandfather. “It was god who decided to give my grandson a second chance, to walk and to come home. We’re so happy right now.”
Waswanipi Chief Robert Kitchen was also on hand. “It’s such a great moment, such a great time,” he said. “We’re going to go home and bring back to the people what they gave him with their love and their prayers. This little boy made it through with three important things; hope, faith and love. It opened up the eyes of the whole Nation and made us understand the importance of love, which has been passed down from generation to generation.” Upon arrival at the entrance to Waswanipi from the airport, hundreds of people were there to see for their own eyes the little hero who stole their hearts.
People held candles and sang Jesus loves me to welcome Khayden back into their community. People came from Mistissini, Ouje-Bougoumou and as far away as Eastmain.
“Everyone is relieved to see him come back,” said William Kitchen, a student councilor at the Willie J Happyjack Memorial School. “When he left, everyone was sad because they thought they wouldn’t see him again. Everybody felt bad but it had an especially big effect on the other kids.”
The terrible incident occurred February 8. Police were called to Khayden’s foster parent’s home only to find him lying unconscious. He had been beaten into a coma. Khayden’s foster father, Trevor Spencer, was charged with aggravated assault and is still being held in Amos awaiting trial.
Donathan Saganash was the first police officer on the scene that day. The image of a three year-old’s battered and beaten body is something he’ll never forget. “I had my doubts if he’d ever walk again,” he said.
The crowd was of one mind; they can never let something like this happen again and they vowed to take stricter measures to prevent it. “I think we should do a background check on all outsiders coming into the community,” said 15-year-old Sonia Mianscum. She feels that this would go a long way towards identifying known felons and enabling the community to do something about it before a similar horrific incident occurs.
At the end of the celebration, Khayden did something many believed would never happen, he walked home.