Jorge Barrera | APTN National News, Feb 14, 2017
An 11 year-old girl was found dead in her grandmother’s home last Friday in the fly-in community of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation (KI).
Her name was Alyssa Nanokeesic.
Her death has been ruled a suicide, according to KI Chief James Cutfeet.
On Facebook, friends and family posted their grief.
“Why Alyssa? You should have told me you were in so much pain,” said one cousin.
“Rest easy beautiful,” wrote one friend.
“I miss video chatting with her…rest easy my best friend,” wrote another.
“I miss you,” wrote a friend.
“I miss you my little cousin. I wish you never did this,” wrote another cousin. “I was crying so much at school. I miss you Alyssa. It doesn’t feel the same without you. I want you back.”
Cutfeet said a crisis team coordinated by the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) is currently at the community hall. He said crisis staff from NAN, the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority and from Bearskin Lake First Nation are on the ground providing support to the community and keeping a close watch over the children.
Cutfeet said he also spoke in a teleconference with Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins and federal Health Minister Jane Philpott earlier in the day Monday. He said the ministers agreed to send a working group to the community with the aim of developing “community-based youth solutions.”
Alyssa’s death has cut this community of about 1,000 people, which sits roughly 600 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, deeply.
“One of my councillors visited the homes and his comment was the parents are numbed by what happened,” said Cutfeet. “They are making every effort to keep an eye on their children and there is exhaustion. I was seeing it in all of us and the ones on the front lines.”
Cutfeet said police did not find any evidence of cyberbullying after combing through Alyssa’s social media data.
This is at least the fourth suicide death of a girl in an Indigenous community since the beginning of the year.
Last week, a 12 year-old girl died by suicide in the Manitoba community of God’s River, according to Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson.
In January, two 12 year-old girls in Wapekeka First Nation died by suicide days apart. Health Canada initially ignored the community’s plea for help after residents uncovered a suicide pact among girls last summer.
The grieving is far from over in KI.
Alyssa’s body is returning home Tuesday afternoon from Kenora where it underwent a postmortem. She was flown out of KI on Saturday.
The service and burial is scheduled for Wednesday.
“We are having difficulty getting our children past 11-12 years-old,” said John Cutfeet, chair of the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority. “There is nothing in this world that will bring you to your knees quicker than losing someone you love so dearly to suicide. It is only through faith that the strength comes so you can get back on your feet again.”
John Cutfeet’s own young granddaughter died from suicide.
John Cutfeet is Chief James Cutfeet’s brother.
Alyssa was former KI councillor Sam McKay’s grand-niece. McKay was one of the “KI 6” imprisoned in 2008 for opposing exploration on the community’s traditional territory.