The murder of George Antone, an elder with the Kwantlen First Nations who was shot to death in his home on McMillan Island, where he was born 71 years ago, has shaken the Kwantlen people of Fort Langley.
Not only that, said a long-time resident of the reserve, it has stunned the Kwantlen people throughout the Valley.
Antone died of gunshot wounds, police said on Wednesday morning, when they first revealed details of the murder. He was discovered dead by a family member.
“This has been a devastating tragedy for our community,” said Kwantlen First Nations’ counsellor, Tumia Knott.
“George was a very respected elder in our community and we are trying to deal with many emotions right now.”
The Kwantlen First Nations in Fort Langley is a community of approximately 90 people.
“In Kwantlen, our families are all connected,” Knott said. “Obviously George’s family and all our community are in grieving right now.”
Langley RCMP report that they were called to the 9400 block of Glover Road, on the Fort Langley reserve, at 5:15 p.m. on Monday by B.C. Ambulance Service. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team spent two days at the scene with Langley RCMP’s serious crime unit and the RCMP’s First Nations Policing Unit.
IHIT spokesperson Sgt. Peter Thiessen told reporters it was two days before investigators could be certain foul play was involved.
“When we first attended here, based on what we found at the scene, it wasn’t clear as to what the factors were in regards to his cause of death,” Thiessen said on Wednesday afternoon.
“It wasn’t clear whether we were dealing with a homicide, an accident or something else, something intentional. So it took some time for us to be clear on what in fact we were dealing with. As soon as we had that definitively we came forward first thing this morning. We did not have that information until late last night.”
Late last year, The Times interviewed Antone in his home for a feature which appeared in Sideroads, the magazine which was distributed with The Times’ Wednesday, March 9 edition. Sideroads went to press last Friday, March 4.
Antone lived on McMillan Island until he was seven years old. He was taken to a residential school for the next decade, living far from home. The first residential facility was on Kuper Island, off the coast of Vancouver Island. Later, he would be moved to a residential school in Sechelt.
Life was tough and traumatizing for the children in residential homes. Some children tried to escape by swimming for shore. Most drowned, and when their parents came to visit them, they were told that their children had run away.
“The food was terrible,” Antone recalled. So bad, in fact, that as a 16-year-old he stood almost six feet tall but weighed only 127 pounds.
“It was real sad the way they treated us,” he said.
“We still got strapped every day, it was a very sad part of our lives, that residential school. My son got to go to school in Langley. He was lucky.”
The children were forbidden from speaking their own language. “They told us to talk like them. We were called savages.”
When he finally left, he became a logger and fisherman.
“I still fish,” he said in the interview.
In the interview, he praised Chief Marilyn Gabriel. She and her husband, Kevin Kelly, were good friends of Antone.
“Marilyn helps us when she can. She’s a good chief, she is making life better for us.”
He was glad that drumming had come back to the reserve.
“There are days when they drum and sing the old songs. When someone dies we drum, we don’t bring the priest anymore.”
Antone will be buried in the Kwantlen cemetery on Lougheed Highway after funeral services take place. They are being arranged for this weekend in Fort Langley.
The full interview with George Antone is also posted on The Times’ website.
One reader who called The Times after hearing about the murder said the interview is an “amazing tribute” to Antone’s indomitable spirit.