Attawapiskat First Nation member Serena Koostachin was heartbroken when she learned about the fire that burned a historic Catholic church down to the ground.
The St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church caught on fire Wednesday, April 21. The church was 104 years old.
No cause of the fire is known yet.
The wooden church had six stained-glass windows and an oil painting inside. The painting was eight feet wide and 12 feet tall and was installed in the church in the 1920s, according to a local resident.
The church wasn't used for services in recent years because the wood was falling apart, so the building was abandoned, according to Koostachin.
She said there was a lot of history to the church and it was symbolic to the community, especially to the Elders. Koostachin recalled how she used to go to the church for tea and cookies or play tag in the building.
"The Elders respected that building," she said. "There was a lot of history, a lot of weddings, a lot of funerals, first communions, confirmations."
Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus said it is a really sad day for the community.
"It was such a visual symbol in the community, you could see it from miles," he said. "It had a significant role to play. But I think the real tragedy is the community built beautiful stained-glass windows that really reflected their Cree identity, reflected the needs of Truth and Reconciliation and that beautiful artwork has been lost."
More details to come.