Yellow Quill residents ponder future after 2 sisters die in snow tragedy

Two young girls were laid to rest on the Yellow Quill First Nation on the weekend, but the controversy that surrounds their deaths continues.

A three-year-old girl and her baby sister were laid to rest on the Yellow Quill First Nation this weekend, but the controversy that surrounds their deaths continues.

Kaydance and Santana Pauchay, who was a year old, were found frozen in a snowy field over two days last week after their father took them outside, lightly dressed, in a wind chill that made it feel like it was -50 C. Christopher Pauchay, their father, was treated for frostbite and hypothermia.

The RCMP hasn't laid charges, but said last week they were investigating and wanted to know why Pauchay took the girls out of their house late at night. Police also said alcohol may have been a factor.

Since the tragedy, people on the reserve about 260 kilometres east of Saskatoon have been calling on Ottawa, but also on the chief and council, to deal with the social issues that may have contributed to the tragedy.

"They say things to us when they're campaigning, but then after they're done campaigning, they forget about us, they forget about the little ones, they forget about the teenagers," said Irene Nippi, grandmother of the girls.

Chief Robert Whitehead said the band tried to establish Yellow Quill as a dry reserve, but the plan didn't proceed. He agrees it's important to talk about some of the social issues on the reserve, but not until the community has had an opportunity to deal with the sisters' deaths.

Nippi said the community needs to renew efforts to ban alcohol, bring in counsellors and bring back traditional teachings.

Many people on the reserve are struggling with addictions, she said. She hopes that out of the tragedy will come needed changes.

"I was worried about my grandchildren. I didn't want them to leave this world in vain," Nippi said.

Yellow Quill needs funding: social worker

Social worker Margaret Roper, who helped search for the missing girls, agrees with Nippi that it's time for the chief and council to act.

"It broke my heart to see what this family was going through," she said.

Roper and Nippi said they were pleased that June Draude, the minister of First Nations and Metis relations, attended the girls' funeral.

People on Yellow Quill are living in Third World conditions, Roper said, and the resources needed to fix that are not funnelling down to the residents.

"C'mon people, now is the time to get together," she said. "We need to do something with our lives, with our future. Give them hope."