Missing & Murdered: The Unsolved Cases of Indigenous Women and Girls
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Nancy Masuskapoe was visiting her sister-in-law’s home in Onion Lake, Saskatchewan when she came across a newspaper article about her sister, Bernadette Ahenakew.

“There was a piece about her, that she went missing,” she said. 

“That’s how I found out. It was very shocking.” 

Masuskapoe credits Bernadette's common-law husband for raising the alarm.

“He reported her missing and went looking for her, ” she said.

“Of course he hit the streets when he went to look for her.”

Bernadette was known to be working the streets in Edmonton, using the name ‘Bernie.’

Masuskapoe says Bernadette’s common-law boyfriend kept looking for her, eventually filing a missing person’s report with the city.

“I have some gaps... in my information,” Masuskapoe said.

“Nobody contacted me.”

Masuskapoe says she would rather remember her younger sister as someone who could understand and speak in the Cree language, who loved to cook and braid Masuskapoe’s daughter's hair, rather than remembering what happened to her.

“It’s something I don’t like to think about. It’s too much,” said Masuskapoe.

“To have her body dumped the way it was and the way she was found.”

On Oct. 24, 1989, Bernadette’s body was found in a ditch on a rural road near Sherwood Park, Alta.

According to media reports, police believe Bernadette may have died prior to that.

“It leads me.. just a very strong feeling that something very terrible happened to her,” Masuskapoe said.

Still today, she wonders what happened before Bernadette was found in the ditch.

“There’s somebody that knows what happened to her,” Masuskapoe said.

“It’s like a big mystery.”

In a matter of days, Masuskapoe and her husband picked up Bernadette’s body from Edmonton and buried her in the Metis community of Ile-a-la-Crosse, Sask., where Bernadette was from.

Bernadette had a difficult life before she was killed.

Not only was she in government care for 10 years, she also experienced physical and sexual abuse.

Life before foster care wasn’t any easier.

Masuskapoe says their life at home was often filled with violence, neglect and alcohol.

Bernadette never finished school and used drugs to deal with her pain, according to Masuskapoe.

“I think she didn’t really attach to one meaningful adult for any period of time,” she said of her sister.

“I think she was very disconnected that way.”

Masuskapoe isn't happy with the way police are handling her sister's case.

“I never hear from anyone anymore.”

And if she does, she says, it is because she initiated the contact.

“Even if there was no progress, but just to hear from someone, [it] would help.”

Masuskapoe strongly supports the possibility of a federal inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered indigenous girls and women.

Do you have more information on any of these cases?

CBC needs you

Contact us by email at mmiw@cbc.ca or anonymously via SecureDrop.

CBC News continues to investigate missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada, looking at the unsolved cases and telling the stories of the families and communities.