The boys had been playing outside their house just before Thanksgiving. Their bodies were found about a half mile away in First Thunders Lake.
Officers from St. Louis County had been out only a few hours Sunday morning when their dogs picked up a scent. It was the first time they'd resumed the search this year, and they found the boy's bodies frozen in the ice.
Red Lake Tribal Chairman Buck Jourdain says in November, authorities used sonar equipment and dive teams on the same lake. In the days following the boys' disappearance, hundreds of police and volunteers scoured the area.
Jourdain said the search Sunday was focused on an area that was less accessible last fall.
"This is the one area that we could not adequately search as good as we had hoped. The lakes were frozen, except for a couple of small areas near beaver houses and those types of things, where the ice was thin. Unfortunately, that's where the bodies were recovered from," Jourdain said.
FBI officials say they have not determined whether foul play was involved. They say it's possible the boys wandered from their home and walked across the partially frozen lake before falling through the ice.
Jourdain says the discovery is a devastating blow to the boys' family and to the community.
"There's a mixed feeling of relief, and also of extreme disappointment and heartbreak," Jourdain said.
“There's a mixed feeling of relief, and also of extreme disappointment and heartbreak.”Red Lake Tribal Chairman Buck Jourdain
This latest tragedy comes on the heels of a series of losses for the Red Lake Tribe. Jourdain says a few years ago a number of young people committed suicide.
In March 2005, a 16-year-old student went on a shooting rampage, killing 10 people, including himself. Jourdain says that same year, a young man went missing and was later found dead in a reservation lake.
"It's been hard to overcome these type of traumatic experiences, and then to have a sequence of them happen all within a short period of time in a couple of years," Jourdain said. "It's been extremely difficult for the community. We've tried to rebound from one and then we have something else happen. So it's been a tough last couple of years."
Shortly after their disappearance, the boys' mother, Alicia White, said she feared her sons had been abducted. The FBI and the tribe offered a $30,000 reward for information, and the boys were featured on an episode of America's Most Wanted.
Jourdain says tribal police and the FBI received more than 300 tips during the course of the investigation. He says a lot of energy and resources were poured into finding Tristan and Avery.
"We received calls from everything from psychics to shaman, to people who just had intuitions and dreams and those types of things," Jourdain said. "We believe that we done everything that we possibly could to help to find these young children. And unfortunately, it wasn't the desired result, but we are deeply appreciative to all who helped look for these young children."
Jourdain says the Red Lake community will pull together once more to grieve the loss of young ones. The results of autopsies on the two boys are expected as early as Tuesday.