A river search from Hope to Mission did not yield more clues about the disappearance of an Indigenous Hope woman, now family are appealing to higher levels of government to bring Shawnee Inyallie’s case into the spotlight.
Inyallie, a 29-year-old woman who is described by her mother as a happy-go-lucky and bubbly girl who talks to anyone, disappeared without a trace after being seen by family in the Hope area July 11. Despite several searches by the family and RCMP since then, crucial details are still missing about where and when she was last seen and what she was wearing when she went missing.
Twenty volunteer searchers and fishermen in three boats from First Nations communities in Yale, Agassiz and Cheam braved the pouring rain to search the Fraser River from Hope to Mission Sept. 16. This was about half the turnout the family had for the last search, a highway search from Agassiz to Hope along Highway 7 in August.
“We didn’t get the turnout that we had hoped for. We only had five boats and about twenty volunteers, so that was half of what we had the last time. It’s hard to search the river with three boats, but everybody did the best that they could,” said Linda Kay Peters, Inyallie’s aunt and councillor at Seabird Island Band. “It was raining so hard the one day and those guys were out in the river, I was just so worried about them. And, again we didn’t get the search and rescue, so there we are again doing it all on our own.”
The family has run into bureaucratic ‘red tape’ in their efforts to get professionals with experience searching for missing persons involved in their searches for Inyallie. Because of the inability to get Hope Search and Rescue to help them, Peters said she would like to see a search and rescue organization for First Nations in the area.
Peters has also been leading the charge in bringing Shawnee’s case to the highest levels of politics.
At an Assembly of First Nations meeting in Quebec mid-September, Shxw’owhamel First Nation si:yam councillor Shane James pulled together Peters, Grand Chief Doug Kelly, president of the Sto:lo Tribal Council, and Terry Teegee, regional chief for the B.C. Assembly of First Nations. Teegee is also a relative of Inyallie’s from Northern B.C.
All three spoke about Inyallie and the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“We brought Shawnee to a national level and I was happy about that,” she said. “I think we got a good response. The topic of murdered and missing Indigenous women always comes up at our national meetings because it is something that everyone has been trying to do something about.”
Peters said she was surprised at the depth of information given on the police efforts to find Inyallie at a meeting with the family Monday, following a phone call from chief Kelly to Superintendent Bryon Massie, officer in charge for the RCMP’s Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment.
The family has been meeting with the RCMP weekly since Inyallie’s disappearance, but this was the first meeting Peters said she felt supported as the family was presented with details about searches completed, the communities the police has gone into and the number of people they’ve spoken to on Inyallie’s case.
Another meeting between the Sto:lo Tribal Council and Supt. Massie is planned for Friday, where Peters will speak about the search for her niece, trying to work with search and rescue and the red tape the family has gotten caught up in when conducting searches for their missing loved one.
Along with Peters, family members Patrick Pete, Inyallie’s brother, and Jeanie Kay-Moreno, Peters’ sister, have been organizing the land and river searches.
Is there more to this story?