B.C. woman launches First Nations search, rescue and patrol program

First Nations fishermen from local communities assisted the family in searching for Shawnee Inyallie Sept. 16, 2018. Submitted photo
Family kept searching for Shawnee Inyallie until the very end. Here, Inyallie’s brother Patrick Pete instructs volunteers before a search of Highway 1 towards Boston Bar Nov. 18, 2018. Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard
Linda Kay Peters at her home in Hope, wearing red on the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard
Linda Kay Peters at her home in Hope, wearing red on the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard
Family kept searching for Shawnee Inyallie until the very end. Here, Inyallie’s brother Patrick Pete instructs volunteers before a search of Highway 1 towards Boston Bar Nov. 18, 2018. Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard

Linda Kay Peters wants the death of her niece to never be forgotten.

Shawnee Inyallie disappeared in the summer of 2018 from Hope, which sparked months of searches by family.

Inyallie’s body was found four months later at the Fraser River in Delta – a BC Coroners Service investigation into her death is still open.

Now, Peters is organizing an effort to get First Nations trained in searching for people who go missing from their communities. Her plans have been temporarily put on pause due to the coronavirus restrictions on gathering, but she has been connecting with local First Nations and the RCMP to establish a First Nations search, rescue and patrol program.

When Inyallie went missing, the family did three searches in small groups along highways, as well as two river searches on the Fraser River. Inyallie’s mother and two aunts went searching in Chilliwack, where Inyallie was known to visit, in tent camps tucked alongside highways and near shacks and RVs parked along local waterways.

“It was really traumatizing on the family, it was our family doing all the searching,” she said. “(The Chilliwack tent camp search) was us women going in there; we didn’t even have any men coming in there to help protect us. We did it ourselves.”

WATCH: Brother of missing Hope woman makes emotional appeal for more media attention

When people go missing, families cannot just ask professionally trained searchers from search and rescue organizations to come along. These organizations must be tasked by the relevant authorities – in the case of missing people in Hope it would be the RCMP.

Peters has met with police, as well as search and rescue organizations in Chilliwack, Agassiz and Hope. She has contacted women leaders in First Nations communities, including Chief of Chawathil Rhoda Peters. Others are also supportive, including Grand Chief Doug Kelly, Seabird Island councillor Alexis Grace, and Superintendent Bryon Massie, officer in charge of the RCMP’s Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment.

“I want this program to come from a grassroots level. I want it to come from the First Nations people, women, especially,” Peters said.

She has also been in touch with the Winnipeg-based Bear Clan Patrol, a group of volunteers who provide a presence, connection with, and security for Indigenous people who may be vulnerable in the urban areas they live.

“They walk the streets and they try to protect the women and the vulnerable people on the streets,” Peters said. “I want to combine that training with the First Nations search and rescue… Not a week down the road – or two or three days on, we need to go now.”

Peters wants each First Nations community in Canada to be involved. Her vision is to have a coordinator in each community who can train five to 10 volunteers.

“When somebody goes missing, they can call on them. And then they can call on the other communities because they will have a group of people in there. So you can have 50, 60, 100 people come,” Peters said.

The details are still to be worked out about how long training would take and who would participate – ideally all First Nations in B.C. for a start. With the outbreak of the pandemic, meetings which started in December are on pause. Peters is ready to get the planning going again this summer.

“I’m doing this in Shawnee’s name, because I don’t want her death to be in vain. Something good has got to come out of it.”



emelie.peacock@hopestandard.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

First NationsMMIWG

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Parksville people: Joan Lemoine on loving life, volunteering at age 90

‘I’ve had a really good life, I have absolutely no regrets’

Parksville filmmaker nominated for provincial Leo Award

Joel Grenz tabbed in ‘Best Music Video’ category

‘Someone knows something’: a look into Vancouver Island missing persons with interactive map

There are more than three dozen people listed as missing throughout Vancouver Island

Parksville soccer player invited to elite soccer academy in Portugal

Wylee Franks aspires to become a professional player

B.C. records 62 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths since Friday

Province has just over 200 active cases

Canadians torn on scaling back COVID-19 benefits to save money: poll

Of those surveyed, 78 per cent said they were worried about the size of the deficit

Port Alberni will have a salmon derby on Labour Day after all

Alberni Valley Tyee Club reveals ‘socially distanced’ derby only for Labour Day 2020

Duncan model makes quarter finals in ‘Maxim’ magazine contest

Brandee Peart among top one per cent left in competition

Suspicious fire quenched before reaching gunpowder in Nanaimo’s historic Bastion

Probe underway in basement blaze that erupted near where powder stored to fire signature cannons

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Vancouver Island volunteer wins BC Hockey award

Alberni Valley’s Kellie Steel named one of nine unsung heroes through COVID-19

‘Trauma equals addiction’ – why some seek solace in illicit substances

Part 2: Many pushed into addiction by ‘toxic stress,’ says White Rock psychologist

Owner of Langford construction company gets nine months for sexual assault

Kyle Mostowy already spent time in prison for sexually assaulting employees

Most Read