WOLF POINT — Just after midnight on Aug. 26, a Wolf Point teen, Stonehail Moccasin, sacrificed himself to save multiple people struggling in the Missouri River near Wolf Point. After saving them, the young boy was swept away by the water.
It was a heroic move quickly turned tragic, according to his relatives.
“It doesn’t surprise me, him jumping in and saving somebody,” said Dessie Bruce, the mother of Moccasin, on Friday. “That was his first night there at the river. So he didn’t really know about how the current and stuff was. All my kids have been lectured to stay away from the river."
His body was recovered Wednesday about 16 miles farther east in the Missouri River by searchers from the Stillwater County Sheriff's Office.
Moccasin, 18, graduated from Wolf Point High School this past spring and was working in his hometown grocery store.
"He worked at Albertsons as a cashier and a carryout. So if he sees an elder in the wintertime, he will hurry up and rush to grab her groceries, grab her arm, and help the lady to her car. Make sure she doesn’t fall," Bruce said.
A kind, caring spirit. The boy was quick to offer a helping hand.
“When he graduated, he wanted to go to the National Guard. He wanted to help people, and he would always talk about being Homeland Security, kind of," said Shailyn Moccasin, Stonehail's sister, on Friday. "He said that he would like to be a rescuer and help people, and he just always wanted to help people. He was a very helpful person. If you asked him to help, he’d help."
On Aug. 26, the bright young man’s life was cut short after he sacrificed himself to save someone else.
“A lot of family and friends were there to help and everything," Moccasin said. "To support my parents. I appreciate everybody who came to help."
It was just past midnight along the Missouri River a few miles south of Wolf Point when Stonehail and a friend witnessed a group of people struggling in the water. Without hesitation, he jumped in an attempt to rescue those in danger.
After helping them out of the water, Stonehail was unable to return to shore.
Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Fort Peck tribal officers were dispatched to the area, and a lengthy search and rescue effort was launched.
Thirteen agencies assisted in the search. Unfortunately, Stonehail’s remains were recovered on Wednesday.
"(They) told me, ‘We found your son.’ And I just was like, ‘Oh my God.’ I just, my heart and this weight off my shoulders just lifted. It was a relief. It was that phone call I had been waiting for,” Bruce said. "All the extra support that we’ve gotten from everybody, it feels like that’s what brought him to us. (Law enforcement) said this is the most that they’ve ever seen somebody get searched for. I’ve had friends lost back there, there’s been thousands of lives probably lost back there."
A GoFundMe has been launched for the family to assist with funeral expenses.
“Huge thanks to everybody who was praying during this very, very hard time,” Shailyn Moccasin said.
If you would like to send flowers, send them to Clayton Stephen Memorial in Wolf Point at 102 Custer St.
While the family grieves, they’re also taking time to remember Stonehail for the selfless human he was.
Funeral arrangements are currently in the works, and the family said they should have everything planned by Monday.
“I’m so thankful that I had a son like that. And that’s all that matters, is that he didn’t have to prove himself at all like this to me. I knew I had a good, really special boy,” Bruce said. “We’ll get through this. I know we’re going to get through this."
While the family attempts to move forward, they would like to thank those who assisted in search efforts. Bruce said Fort Peck tribal government has been working on a resolution since the day after Stonehail disappeared.
"They proposed a resolution to start efforts to fixing the area where he went into the river, to be more safer for people to be down in that area," said Norma Flying Horse, Stonehail's aunt, on Friday. "He's still leaving his legacy."
Bruce said it's just one more way Stonehail is making a difference and helping others, even after his death.
“I want to make sure everybody’s safe and they stay away from there. I know what it could do. It could hurt a lot of mothers. Some mothers, they had to go to their grave without even finding their children. I am a fortunate one,” Bruce said. “I’m hoping that they will pass this and will get a fence put up because it will save maybe other lives."
All that matters to Bruce now is that she can lay her child to rest.
"He left me a hero, so that’s all that matters in my eyes. I know my son didn’t just fall in there, he went in there for a reason and he accomplished that reason,” Bruce said. "We got him home and that was our main prayer, was to get him home."