Between Frog Lake and Angling Lake is an area rich in wildlife, with many freshwater lakes and untouched Boreal forests. It is home to two reserve communities that are combined into one known as Wapekeka.
A dozen or so roads connect the community. It boasts an Ontario Provincial Police station, a nursing station, a small hotel and a grocery store. There was a school but it burned down awhile ago. Plans to rebuild are on the table. Not much gets built during winter.
A great deal went wrong in this place before a young teen named Alayna Moose took her life on Oct. 14, 2016. Alayna was a beautiful native girl with long black hair. Her mother had died a few years earlier. Before her death she was being taken care of by a good family in a community near the Ontario/Manitoba border.
The young girl’s death shocked her friends in particular Kanina Sue Turtle. Within two weeks of Alayna’s passing her friend ended her life. Five others followed. Why?
Slowly the truth behind these tragic deaths became known. There had been drunkenness, sexual assault by family members, the lost of children, mental health challenges, bullying. One of the deaths was ruled a homicide. A number of investigations were initiated, reviews of placement policies and training procedures for caregivers were ordered.
The entire community mourned the loss of the girls. The deputy chief of Achneepineskum held to the idea that if suicide and sexual abuse are to be combated focus groups must exist to arrive at historical trauma, band councillors need to be trained, workers in sexual trauma need to be on hand to help process events and justice for children needed to be examined.
The community of Wapekeka is not the only community still hurting over the plight of their youth. They hope the mental health care workers, the youth workers and the recreation support workers that have been hired will help. So do we but the list of lost children keeps getting longer.