Catcheways allowed to continue search for daughter without warrant

Dakota Tipi First Nation Chief David Pashe says the parents of Jennifer Catcheway can continue to look for clues into their daughter's disappearance in the community without a warrant.

Dakota Tipi chief says Jennifer Catcheway's parents can continue looking for daughter

Dakota Tipi First Nation Chief David Pashe says the parents of Jennifer Catcheway can continue to look for clues into their daughter's disappearance in the community without a warrant. 2:04

The chief of the Dakota Tipi First Nation says the search for Jennifer Catcheway can continue on the southern Manitoba reserve without a search warrant.

The family searched the community's landfill last week after receiving a tip about Catcheway, who has been missing since 2008.

Chief David Pashe previously said the missing woman's parents would only be welcome to return with the RCMP.

Bernice and Wilfred Catcheway, Jennifer Catcheway's parents, will be allowed to continue looking for clues into their daughter's disappearance on Dakota Tipi land if they allow band councillors to accompany them, said Pashe. The councillors will ensure private property is respected and land is returned to its original state after the search, he said.

The change of heart comes after Heidi Cook, a Misipawistik Cree Nation (formerly Grand Rapids First Nation) band councillor, wrote an open letter on Sunday to Pashe after learning he told Catcheway's family they'd need a search warrant to come back to his community.
Chief David Pashe and Chief Terry Nelson (CBC)

"My concern is the Catcheway family is doing all the investigation themselves — they're not police officers. They're coming and interrogating the people themselves and that, for me, is not right," Pashe had told CBC.

The Catcheway family and several volunteers searched part of Dakota Tipi near Portage la Prairie on Friday, after getting a new tip about Jennifer, whom they last heard from in 2008. The previous day they searched the Dakota Tipi landfill for possible burial sites.

Jennifer Leigh Catcheway (Manitoba Integrated Task Force)
"I've always had questions about Dakota Tipi, unanswered questions from 2008," said Wilfred Catcheway, Jennifer's father. "We always end up coming back to Dakota Tipi."

Catcheway, who lived in Portage la Prairie with her family, spoke by phone with her parents on June 19, 2008, the day before her 18th birthday. She was supposed to return home the following day, but they haven't heard from her since.

RCMP have received tips that Catcheway was last seen at a party on Dakota Tipi, but RCMP say her last phone call was traced to Grand Rapids, 365 kilometres north.

Catcheway's disappearance has since become an RCMP homicide investigation and investigators believe her body is somewhere between Grand Rapids and Portage la Prairie.

"Somebody has information. Somebody knows," Bernice Catcheway said during Friday's search. "Come forward, end this for us."

"We always end up coming back to Dakota Tipi," says Wilfred Catcheway. (CBC)
Cook said she understands if Pashe is apprehensive about searchers going through his community. Her own reserve has been the focus of searches and it can create distrust in the community.

"People have been painted, because they were, like, at a party, then they must know something, you know?" she said.

"[But] these people probably, just like the rest of us, they want Jennifer to be found."

To that end, it's important to allow the searches to happen, she said.

Heidi Cook statement

Misipawistik (Grand Rapids) and surrounding territory have been ground zero in the search for Jennifer Catcheway since she went missing in 2008. People in our community understand better than most the uneasiness and dishonour that goes with being the target of a search, having the distinction as the last place Jennifer was seen alive. I understand Chief Pashe's fears of having his community known in this light. However, I hope and I pray that Chief Pashe will allow his compassion for the family of Jennifer Catcheway to overcome his fear and that the search will resume.

The people of Misipawistik are not all murderers by association. Every year members of our community welcome Jennifer's parents, offering support and kindness in whichever way they can. Throughout the year our hunters, fishers, and others who travel our territory remain vigilant in looking for signs of Jennifer. Searching for a missing person is a complex emotional battle; hoping and dreading at the same time that finally, this time, she will be found.

The uncertainty that lingers as long as Jennifer is missing may be more damaging than the search. Rumours and speculation about what could have happened create suspicion between neighbours and allows distrust to infect the community. Finding Jennifer is the most immediate thing that we can do to counter this negativity.

My message to Chief Pashe is to please allow the search to resume, with or without a warrant.

My message to Jennifer's parents, Wilfred and Bernice, is our hearts and prayers are with you, as always. Bring Jennifer home.

'Damned if I do and damned if I don't'

Bernice Catcheway says somebody knows where their daughter is. She is pleading for them to come forward and bring them closure. (CBC)
Pashe said he's torn over the search because he wants the Catcheway family to find their daughter, but he can't give them free rein in his community.

"'I'll be the first to grab a shovel and dig," he said. "[But] I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't, because half of my
people say [let them dig] and half say don't.

"I, as leader of the community, am between a rock and a hard place. But at the end run, I just gotta protect my people."

Dakota Tipi "bent over backwards" in 2008 for the original search, Pashe said, explaining meals were provided to the searchers, who were also given use of the community hall as well as some money from the band.

Last week's search was the fourth one on the reserve, he said.

The band and council wholeheartedly said "go ahead" when the Catcheways asked permission last week, Pashe said. But then they showed up with a backhoe, he added.

"I asked them to call electrical, Manitoba Hydro," Pashe said, explaining he was concerned about the lines being dug up.

"They were almost ready to dig up our cemetery here — the big machine was knocking down small growth, and that's sacred."


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