Go to main menu Go to main content Go to footer

News ᑎᐹᒋᒧᐧᐃᓐ

Mistissini snowmobile accident claims the life of Nianne Joy Coonishish

BY Joshua Janke Mar 16, 2024

A fatal snowmobiling accident involving two young Cree riders cast a sombre mood over the community of Mistissini as it prepared for its annual snowmobile competition. 

Nianne Joy Coonishish, a 16-year-old rider who was renowned for her skill and loving personality within the racing community, died in the crash February 3. 

Coonishish had a promising racing career, winning her first-ever race in the 2023 NMK Junior Girls Cross Country Championship. In her six races, Coonishish won an unprecedented three times and finished on the podium in all six. 

Her father, Richard Coonishish, said Nianne was a “natural” at the sport and that her supernatural racing spirit would always hold a special place in the Cree racing community. 

“The memory of Nianne will last a lifetime … and will shine through eternity,” read a post from Eeyou Eenou Cross Country Racing United. The organization called for the entire 2024 Cross Country Championship racing season to be dedicated to Nianne and her number 88.  

“The memory and spirit of Nianne Joy is riding along with us from high above. She is here to make sure that the cross-country racing community will carry her memory and her spirit from start to finish.” 

Matthew Blacksmith was the other rider involved in the accident. He suffered a shattered skull and left eye but is recovering and in stable condition in the Montreal Children’s Hospital. 

“I keep having to remind him where he is and what happened. He was speaking about racing again and I told him, you don’t need to worry about that right now,” said his mother Evadney Blacksmith, who is staying at the hospital with her son as he recovers. 

It was Matthew’s first season of racing, having saved up the money to buy the sled and equipment by working alongside his mother. 

“I want to encourage people to wear his number #15 and honour Nianne’s #88. People can buy the stickers created for Matthew and Nianne so we can keep them in our memory forever,” Evadney said. 

The accident occurred on the ice of Mistassini Lake, where first responders believe that the sun’s glare impaired the vision of the two riders who were involved in a collision. 

An investigation was opened and quickly closed, deeming the crash an unfortunate accident. 

The competition continued under an adapted schedule. A celebration of Nianne’s life was held on February 10 before the competition began. This allowed for a moment of silence for Nianne, an opening prayer for those grieving, a banner hanging, and a memorial ride in her name. 

Stickers created in Nianne’s memory were distributed to help the community heal and remember the life and energy she brought to everything she did. 

LATEST ᒫᐦᒡ ᑎᐹᒋᒧᐧᐃᓐ

Joshua Janke lives in Montreal and is studying English Literature at Mcgill University. He is passionate about writing, social justice, and creating art.