No matter the monetary value, the valuables stolen from a 140-year-old church are priceless to the Lytton First Nations and surrounding community, the band’s chief said Tuesday.
“There’s a lot of artifacts that were taken from our community that are 100 years old,” said Chief Janet Webster. “There’s nothing that can replace these priceless items.”
Especially traumatized by the theft are the elders who are loyal to St. Mary’s and St. Paul’s Anglican Church and attend on a regular basis, she said.
“It’s disheartening for them to hear that this has happened,” Webster said during a phone interview.
The church was robbed some time between Easter and April 24, when volunteers setting up for a weekend funeral discovered a side door had been pried open.
The culprits stripped everything from the building, including an organ given to St. Mary’s and St. Paul’s Anglican Church by Canada’s Governor General John Campbell in 1877.
Also taken was a bishop’s chair made by students at St. George’s Residential School, a large cross and two paintings, one almost as old as the church itself.
She said there have been break-ins on the reserve before, including a rash during the six weeks leading up to the theft, but nothing to this degree.
A tree hides the doorway the thieves used to get inside, said Webster. She suspects the culprits struck at night, which further explains why the incident went undetected.
Police have dusted the building for fingerprints but Webster fears the church is too well used for the prints to lead to the culprits.
“It would take a couple of people to haul the organ out of the building,” she said, believing more than one person is responsible.
RCMP have leads to follow, but Sgt. Jay Wessell declined to comment further, saying the investigation is in its early stages.
He said the valuables aren’t the kind that thieves could sell and make a quick buck on. Wessell wonders what the crooks were thinking.
“Why would someone steal this? What’s the gain?” he asked, adding the items are only of value to churchgoers.
Lytton Mayor Jessoa Lightfoot said the theft is upsetting and she hopes the culprits will be caught soon.
Anyone with information is asked to phone Lytton RCMP at 1-250-455-2225 or Lytton First Nations at 1-888-755-2304.