10 Missing and murdered Indigenous women from Thunder Bay
Indigenous women make up about four per cent of the population of Thunder Bay, but account for approximately 15 per cent of the murders in a recent 25-year period.
There is no official list of the number of murdered Indigenous women in Thunder Bay. The 'It Starts With Us' initiative launched by No More Silence, Native Youth Sexual Health Network and Families of Sisters in Spirit, lists nine women murdered in the city since 1987, and one missing woman.
- Barbara Shapwaykeesic, 1989
- Bernadette Leclair, 1987
- Donna Tebbenham, 1987
- Judie Thibault, 2000
- Laura Pilon, 1992
- Margaret Perrault, 1988
- Rena Fox, 2003
- Sandra Kaye Johnson, 1992
- Sarah Mason, 1997
- Sarah Skunk, missing from Thunder Bay since 1995
The website, supported by the three groups, lists other Indigenous women who were killed in Thunder Bay prior to 1987, as well as some with no dates associated with their deaths or disappearances.
"We consider a death verified if a) we are in touch with a family member who can confirm it or b) we have at least two media sources or one police and one media source," said Audrey Huntley, one of the people behind It Starts With Us.
The group is still compiling data for Ontario and expects to verify 120 names of missing and murdered Indigenous women in this province.
'She was really special to all of us'
Family members of some of the murdered women in Thunder Bay continue to grieve.
Ruby Boshkaykin is a cousin to Sandra Kaye Johnson. She remembers Johnson as a traditional dancer and a lover of heavy metal music.
"She had a very interesting spirit because she was really special to all of us," Boshkaykin said.
Johnson's body was found on the frozen water of the Neebing-McIntyre flood way in Thunder Bay's east end. She was 18.
"It makes me wonder what happened to her," Boshkaykin said. "I would like to find out what happened to her, just to clear my head and make me sleep at night.
"Right now I'm still at a loss, still wondering what happened to her."
Mary Natawance knows what happened to her sister Sarah Mason, but it doesn't lessen the pain.
"She was a traditional dancer and she had six children, four girls and two boys," she said. "We did a lot of talking, talking about our children."
Natawance said her "baby sister" was 44 when she was killed by the man she lived with for 10 years. She said he served little time in jail for the murder.
"He was only in prison for five years, that's all," she said.
First Nations and Metis leaders continue to press for a national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women.
- An earlier version of this story failed to mention the involvement of No More Silence and Families of Sisters in Spirit in the It Starts With Us initiative.Sep 24, 2014 5:44 PM ET