On the ice, a grieving NWT family makes a stand against alcohol
Samantha Migwi poured the contents of the mickeys onto the ice, one after the other, as her relatives watched. “This has brought nothing but pain to our family,” she said.
Her brother, 30-year-old Andrew Migwi, was killed in Behchokǫ̀ earlier in March. Samantha Migwi, in a Facebook live video since shared dozens of times, emptied two bottles of vodka onto the ice as a statement against the profound impact of alcohol on her family.
“The day of my brother’s passing, those bottles were found in his jacket,” she told Cabin Radio.
“I wasn’t really sure what to do with them. But then I spoke with family members and they were like, ‘Yes, do it.’
“This is hurting loved ones. We’re losing loved ones. This needs to stop.”
Samantha was one of several family members who spoke in the video, shared on Tuesday, a day before Andrew’s funeral was due to take place in Behchokǫ̀. He was born, raised, and lived his life in the community, Samantha said.
She remembers him as one of the funniest people she knew.
“He always had this little smirk on his face. He liked to tell jokes,” she said by phone on Wednesday morning. “He was very gentle. He always knew what to say.”
In tributes sent to Cabin Radio, Andrew was remembered as a “kind, soft-spoken young man” by Holly Rabesca, who spoke highly of his friendship with her younger brother. Darin Daniels said he would miss “conversations and laughs” with Andrew, praising his Halo video game skills as he concluded: “We all love and miss you, brother.”
Counsellors have tried to help family members since the incident that claimed Andrew’s life. The grieving process for the Migwi family, already hard enough, is taking place to the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Wednesday, Samantha was unsure if a feast and drum dance in Andrew’s honour could go ahead as planned. With social distancing now a priority, she expected close family to gather at her grandmother’s house instead.
‘There has to be a way’
Samantha maintains alcohol poses a far bigger threat to her community than anything else she knows.
She told Cabin Radio: “The things I said in the video really hit me hard during our family’s grieving and this difficult time we are going through.
“Alcohol in Behchokǫ̀ is not only damaging people’s lives, it’s damaging the community – and everywhere in the North and across Canada. It has to be stopped.”
Samantha has first-hand experience. Only two months ago, she began her own attempt to break free from alcohol.
“There were times when I was out of control,” she said. “I knew the treatment facilities would not help me and isolation would not help me. I thought, hey, let’s go back to the olden days of our grandparents, taking it back to the land.”
Samantha took some family members out onto the land for four days in January. That was the start of her journey, she says.
“I had to reconnect to Mother Nature and ask Creator for help to guide me. Then I had a lot of that strength when I came back – and it’s been helping ever since.”
Every two weeks, Samantha returns to the land for a short time. So far, she says, it’s working.
Following the devastation of losing Andrew, she is imploring her community to reach out and help other people who may need someone to talk to.
“There has to be something for teenagers, young adults, young families,” she said. “There have to be ways they can reach out for help.
“Everybody has that friend, everybody has that family member. And I believe going out to the bush, out on the land, and getting that treatment – that is the start of their healing journey, there.”
A service for Andrew Migwi, born on April 3, 1989, was held in Behchokǫ̀ on Wednesday.
The family asks for continued prayers and thanks all community members who have helped with food and wood.