WHITE EARTH, Minn. — The people of the White Earth Indian Reservation are working to move forward after four deaths in their community this week.

On Sunday, March 17, Tribal Chairman Terry Tibbetts died after battling a lengthy illness. The day after, the daughter of the White Earth reservation's top tribal public safety official and her two children were found dead. That case that is now being investigated by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

WDAY visited the tribe for a traditional Anishinaabe healing circle after a difficult few days. It's the first time the White Earth reservation has allowed cameras to capture the ceremony.

Called the Keezhik ceremony, White Earth Cultural Coordinator Merlin Deegan Sr. explained that the ritual combines many traditional elements, including ceremonial pipe smoking, prayers, and drums all while cedar boils in preparation to cleanse those who seek it.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

"We wash them off and we deal with their grief because our community right now really needs something to grasp to move forward in a positive way," Deegan said.

The White Earth Community Center is just one of four places where people could seek help and support on Tuesday. The reservation also offered mental health counseling to accompany the ceremonies.

The community is ready to build each other up and start taking steps towards healing, Deegan said.

"They do feel better, but it's not a fix-all. That's why we make sure people know each ceremony they take is a step in the path of healing," he said.

White Earth will have more ceremonies, more spiritual counseling and more mental health counseling through the end of the week. Keep an eye on the White Earth Facebook page for updates.