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Minnesotans Mourn Slaying Victims

Services Will Continue Through Next Saturday

By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 26, 2005; Page A02

RED LAKE, Minn., March 25 -- Relatives and friends streamed through the wakes held Friday for three of the 10 people who died in Monday's shooting rampage on the Red Lake Band of Chippewas reservation.

At the tribe's Humanities Building, tearful mourners hugged each other as they shuffled past the coffins of Daryl Lussier and his female companion, Michelle Sigana. Both were slain by Lussier's grandson Jeff Weise, 16, before he went to Red Lake High School and killed seven more people before taking his own life, the FBI said.

Sandra Rosebear cries at a makeshift memorial in Red Lake, Minn., at the high school where her daughter Chanelle was among those killed. (Ann Heisenfelt -- AP)

Weise shot and killed the couple in their home and then drove Lussier's police cruiser to the school, where he shot to death five students, a security guard and a teacher, the FBI said.

In the Red Lake Community Center a few yards from the service for Lussier and Sigana, mourners paid respects to another victim, Chase Lussier, 15. Services for the three were scheduled for Saturday. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) planned to attend services for Daryl Lussier, a longtime tribal police officer, and Sigana.

Also on Friday, President Bush telephoned Floyd Jourdain Jr., the tribal chairman, to offer condolences. Holly Cook, a tribe member who works with Jourdain, told reporters that in the five-minute call, Bush said: "The entire nation is mourning. We're sorry for your loss." Some Indian leaders across the country had voiced frustration that the president had not acknowledged Monday's shootings.

Bush also pledged federal assistance to the Chippewa tribe. The FBI has sent 10 victim specialists to evaluate the community's needs for grief counseling, funeral arrangements and other financial help.

More traditional Indian funerals are planned for three of the victims from Ponemah -- a town on the north side of Red Lake -- over the next week. The observances, conducted by the victim's families and a spiritual leader in the tribe's language, typically last two nights and three days, and feature food, pipe ceremonies and the burning of sage and sweet grass.

The remaining victims will have Christian ceremonies at churches on the reservation. Weise's service will be Monday at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Red Lake Falls.

"We've never had so many funerals at once," said Angela Torgerson, a funeral director at Cease Funeral Homes in nearby Bemidji. "It's been long days and nights.

"We're setting up three funerals for Saturday and four wakes, plus a funeral on Sunday," she said. "The last one won't be until next Saturday."

Gifts, e-mails and money have poured in to the reservation from around the country. Counselors met with tribal police officers and officials, teachers and students to offer support, and families held healing ceremonies in their homes and at community buildings on the tribe's land.

"We'll be doing counseling for the next month," said Stuart Desjarlait, the superintendent of the Red Lake school district. "We've started the process of healing, and we're implementing mental health service programs."

People placed white teddy bears, red roses, candles and the tribe's flag against a tall fence outside the high school where the shootings occurred. Several white crosses with the names of the victims stood in front of the fence.

"It's really hard," said Justina Martin, 16, a student at the school. "The fact that some of my friends are dead and hurt. It's all sinking in. It hurts."

Cody Thunder, 15, a student at the school who was shot in the hip, was released Friday from North Country Regional Hospital in Bemidji. He said Thursday that he will not return to the school this year. "That school is always going to be a fear for me now," Cody said.

Jeffrey May, 15, another of the Red Lake victims, was still listed in serious condition Friday. Steven Cobenais, 15, who like May had been shot in the head, was reported in critical condition. Both are being treated at MeritCare Hospital in Fargo, N.D.

The remaining two victims -- Lance Crow, 15, and Ryan Auginash, 14 -- were listed in good condition at North Country Regional Hospital, a spokeswoman said.

Staff writer Ceci Connolly and special correspondent Dalton Walker contributed to this report.

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