Danika Deschamps Yellowhorse, 23, died June 3 in the Royal Alexandra Hospital. Her mother June Deschamps, from the Louis Bull Nation on Maskwacis won the rights to bury her daughter’s remains according to her customs after hearing from a Court of the Queens Bench judge.Photo submitted

Danika Deschamps Yellowhorse, 23, died June 3 in the Royal Alexandra Hospital. Her mother June Deschamps, from the Louis Bull Nation on Maskwacis won the rights to bury her daughter’s remains according to her customs after hearing from a Court of the Queens Bench judge. Photo submitted

First Nations mother wins rights to daughter’s remains

A First Nations mother from Maskwacis will be able to celebrate her daughter’s life.

A First Nation’s mother has won the rights to her deceased daughter’s remains, allowing her to celebrate her life according to her cultural beliefs.

Louis Bull member June Deschamps was at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton June 7 to hear the decision that would allow her to take the remains of her daughter, Danika Deschamps Yellowhorse, 23, who died recently.

Danika died June 3 at the Royal Alexandria Hospital after being on life support.

She was born with juvenile diabetes and June was forced to put her into the child welfare system to ensure she had medical support. A press release from the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations praised the decision of the judge to allow Danika to be returned home.

“As with many First Nations reserves, June did not have access to the array of medical services needed to care for her child’s complex health needs. After 10 months the mother made the heartbreaking decision to place her child into medical foster care,” states the release.

It wasn’t until Danika was on life support for three days that June was notified of her condition. The reason for the notification? To ask for permission to be able to donate her organs and have her body cremated.

The confederacy points out that it was the foster parent’s request to cremate Danika’s remains. Louis Bull Chief Irvin Bull states in the release that June was not given proper respect when she asked questions at the hospital.

“Secondly, despite recognizing the biological mother as legal next of kin when it came to harvesting her child’s organs, the hospital refused to recognize her when it came to the release of the remains as the foster mother also made a claim for the remains,” said Bull. “They said the court would have to determine who had legal authority over the remains. Thirdly, her daughter’s caseworker did not notify the mother or any member of the immediate family that her daughter was admitted in critical condition into the hospital.”

The confederacy, while pleased with the decision to allow June a chance to honour Danika, states it should not have come to a court decision.

“Our hearts go out to June Deschamps who was unwavering in her determination to take her daughter home. She never stopped advocating for her rights as a mother and that of her deceased daughter to be laid to rest in keeping with their traditional and cultural beliefs,” states Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild.

There was a show of strong support at the courthouse with Chief Darrell Strongman, Montana Nation; Chief Randy Ermineskin, Ermineskin Cree Nation; Chief Vernon Saddleback, Samson Cree Nation; Chief Tony Alexis, Alexis Nakota Sioux, and Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Craig Makinaw all in attendance.

“The hope of the grieving mother is that no other family would have to go through what they did to bring a child home. She also reached out to the former foster mother and friends of her daughters to join them in ceremony on the Louis Bull Reserve,” states the confederacy.

For June, it was simple. “We never wanted this,” said June. “I honour the foster mother for the care she gave my child, and the friends who knew and loved my daughter and we invite them to join us in Louis Bull for a traditional celebration of Danika’s life.”

First NationsMaskwacis