The tragic death of our friend, James A. Shecapio, and that of his daughter, Amanda, brought news that was very difficult to accept. We had lost two very special and dear people, and so unexpectedly. IT seems somewhat impossible to believe.

We might wonder what James, himself, would have counseled us in dealing with our loss. He taught me no matter how difficult the obstacle in your life, you can overcome it, you can deal with it in a good way. His loss will be particularly difficult to overcome. It is the loss of two young people, so full of promise, who also taught us to love, to protect and cherish friendships, and to use these to help overcome obstacles. We have perhaps lost the person, but not his friendship.

James was a key figure in much of my own development. I owe him a great deal. It was James who introduced me to the Youth Council in 1988, where he nominated me; it made me feel proud and honoured. With the help of his support, I was elected.

I then had the opportunity and privilege to work and learn under his leadership for four years, first at the Mistissini Youth Council, as a Youth Council member, and then as Youth Chief for one years and finally on the Cree Nation Youth Council and its Executive Committee for two years.

In 1994, when the elections for our local Council took place, I nominated James for Chief of Mistissini. Looking at what he has already accomplished, how he worked, how he got things moving, I felt he would make a fine Chief. It was not his time; now, it will never be. That is the wisdom of our People, and he accepted it. He continued to work with a strong mind and his full determination to help us deal with our many struggles. He contributed his talents to a number of organizations, the Cree Eeyou Astchee Commission, the Health Board, the Cree Nation Youth Council, and others. This was typical of James: he never have up, he saw obstacles as a chance to learn and develop, to become stronger.

What did we learn from James? I think we learned to respect ourselves, as youth and adults.We all knew how confident James was in us, as Cree Youth: He believed in his heart that wecould do anything. He helped me to believe in myself. We also learned to hope, to hope thatthe future would be better because we would make it better, and we could do this if wewanted to do it. He did, he made a difference: He was a living example of what he taught us.And, he showed us no matter how difficult, there was room for fun, and joking, andlaughter. The Crees are a joyful people. We all recall his sense of humour, and his jokes,even when we were feeling stressed.

I imagine that we can learn one final thing from James’ all too sudden departure, and that is a lesson he taught us, himself, even in his death. That lesson is that we should value, cherish and protect friendships, at all times, in case they are interrupted by a greater force, and our friend departs without ever knowing how much we value him or her.

James and Amanda have gone to God and His Kingdom. We will not forget them. I know already that I will think of him, feel him inside, in my heart. He will speak to me when I am wrestling with a major challenge, and his voice will remind me of how he could deal with difficulty. When I am impatient or selfish in a friendship, I will think of him and his capacity to give and to care.

And when I think of giving up, I will remember how he would surely have wanted us to get onwith our life, making use of all the good things he shared with us, and completing some ofthe work to which he contributed so much, for us. We owe this to him, our friend. James andAmanda’s spirit is always with us. We thank you, James.

– Ashley Iserhoff, Mistissini