Raymond Silverfox was not a drunk.
In fact, his cousin had never seen him drunk in all the years he knew him.
This is one of the reasons more than 100 people gathered in the -33 degree weather in front of the Salvation Army shelter on Thursday night.
The assembly of family, friends and supporters wanted to remember the 43 years of Silverfox’s life – not the last 13 hours before his death in police custody on December 2, 2008.
“He was a very caring, loving soul who never hurt anyone,” said his sister Debbie Silverfox.
“He treated everyone with respect and kindness.
“And it doesn’t matter how cold it is, we will walk for him.”
Joined by Salvation Army regulars, young nonnative supporters, Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Ruth Massie, NDP Leader Liz Hanson, Carmacks Chief Eddie Skookum and First Nation drummers, Silverfox’s family slowly walked along Fourth Avenue toward the RCMP detachment.
Traffic stopped on Main Street as the marchers and drummers crossed, in a line that ran the length of a city block.
It reminded drummer Viola Papequash of the forced marches her First Nation ancestors underwent in brutal winter weather in the US.
After finishing the Grandmother’s Song, she let out a war cry.
“It gives us strength and courage,” she said.
“We should give our war cry more often.
“And we should pull together like this more often.”
The drum circle filled the grounds in front of the police station and spilled onto the street.
Supporters honked as they drove by.
But inside the police station, it was quiet.
“Carmacks has been through a lot the last couple of months and years,” said Kenny Lindsay, who was there to support Silverfox’s daughter Deanna.
“But the way they can come together like this shows they are far from broken.”
Deanna carried a placard that read:
“Dad, you were an amazing, wonderful, loving, devoted father.
“The strength and courage that you gave me made me who I am, a courageous woman who is proud to call you father.
“You taught me never to give up, so I won’t.
“You deserve justice.
“I love you and miss you dearly.”
The police profile native people, said Silverfox’s cousin.
“They called him all kinds of names and called him a drunk.
“But all my life I saw him working for the band.
“I never saw him drunk – not once.”
The RCMP need to open their eyes, said Wade, a supporter who was there with his dog.
“I don’t know how they can sleep at night, those guys.”
“We need to respect each other,” said Kevin Barr, carrying a staff with coloured clothes representing all people in the world.
“No matter where we are in our lives, we need to respect and look after someone who’s wounded,” he said.
Despite the cold, the group lingered in front of the police station, singing more songs and sharing stories and memories of Silverfox.
Before heading over to the CAIRS building for warm food and drinks, Deanna spoke a few halting words to the crowd.
“I appreciate everyone coming and showing their love and support, especially on this cold day,” she said, her voice wavering.
“I’m glad to see so many faces and I thank you so much,” she said.
Then the tears came.
Contact Genesee Keevil at