Northern B.C. First Nation chief sounds alarm as community mourns loss of 3 youth in 6 weeks

Northern B.C. First Nation chief sounds alarm as community mourns loss of 3 youth in 6 weeks

“Covid-19 is going around but that’s not what’s killing us —it’s alcohol and drugs.”

Grief could not be concealed by the face masks worn by friends and family mourning the loss of 17-year old Nevada Billy this week in northern B.C.

Nevada died Aug. 30 following a two-vehicle collision 145 km west of Williams Lake, at the intersection of Highway 20 and Redstone Reserve Road in the First Nations community of Tsideldel. Alexis Creek RCMP said alcohol is suspected to be a factor in the Sunday night collision, which sent four others to hospital.

“COVID-19 is going around but that’s not what’s killing us —it’s alcohol and drugs,” Chief Otis Guichon Sr. said during a candlelight vigil at the site of the crash Sept. 2.

“It’s sad to see a young person go like this. It’s us elders that are supposed to be going first, not the young.”

One of six Tsilhqot’in communities, Tsideldel First Nation, has now lost three youth within the last six weeks —two others have died from suspected drug overdoses, Guichon said.

Born in Kelowna and raised in and out of foster care, Nevada’s second oldest sister Shania said the siblings were not raised together in a traditional family environment.

Despite the hardships of all of them being placed in B.C.’s foster system, Nevada would always take the time to visit all of her siblings, which included Adrienne, 32, Shania, 22 and Harley, 14.

“It was so sudden,” said Adrienne, Nevada’s oldest sister who currently lives in Surrey.

READ MORE: One fatality, multiple injuries in Highway 20 two-vehicle collision Sunday night

“It was a shock. I didn’t want to believe it.”

Nevada Billy was killed in a two-vehicle crash at the intersection of Highway 20 and Redstone Reserve Road west of Williams Lake on Sunday, Aug. 30. Four others were sent to hospital. Alcohol is a suspected factor, Alexis Creek RCMP said. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

Nevada Billy was killed in a two-vehicle crash at the intersection of Highway 20 and Redstone Reserve Road west of Williams Lake on Sunday, Aug. 30. Four others were sent to hospital. Alcohol is a suspected factor, Alexis Creek RCMP said. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

Up until her death, Nevada was dividing her time between her grandfather’s home in Tl’etinqox (Anaham) and a youth home in Williams Lake. Her siblings say she talked about getting her own apartment one day. She had even purchased her own vehicle and after obtaining her Learner’s license was working to get her Novice license.

Both sisters agreed that Nevada was excited to soon return to school where she had just a few courses left to complete before graduating at the GROW Centre in Williams Lake.

“She always talked about wanting to become an Aboriginal lawyer,” Adrienne said.

The day before her death, Nevada had attended the funeral of another young person at Xeni Gwet’in First Nation, where she sang the warrior song.

Those mourning her loss sang the same song at her roadside vigil three days after the crash.

With a white wooden cross and flowers marking the scene, RCMP Const. Hogue Denommee, who was one of the responding officers Sunday night, directed traffic for the vigil.

Many held lit candles while others fought back tears as they drummed, sang and shared memories of Nevada.

“It was nice seeing how many people showed up especially during the pandemic,” Shania said. “I know that she touched a lot of people’s hearts.”

READ MORE: Construction underway on new health clinic at Tsideldel First Nation

On the night of the crash, Jessica Setah of Yunesit’in First Nation said Nevada told her she was going to meet them in Williams Lake.

Time ticked by, and when Setah learned of the crash, not knowing its severity, messaged Nevada telling her she loved her and to call back no matter the time.

“I can’t believe she’s gone,” Setah said, noting how strong Nevada was.

“She definitely was a goal getter.”

Chief Guichon told Black Press Media he believes the use of drugs and alcohol has increased since the pandemic, partially due to the federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

He was going to bring forward those concerns at a Tsilhqot’in Nation meeting in Williams Lake on Sept. 3.

“I’ve been batting this around for the last couple of days thinking about how we move forward,” said Guichon. “We’re losing some young people that we shouldn’t be losing.”

READ MORE: Trudeau makes rounds in B.C.; says safe drug supply key to fighting overdoses

Tsideldel member Joyce Cooper urged the community to treasure their youth who are often forgotten, despite being the future pf the nation.

“I hate to say it but this community is lost and we need to regain something,” she told the crowd, adding that traditional ceremonies could help reconnect to their culture.

As the flames subsided on a small fire burning juniper – representing Nevada’s spirit leaving Earth – Cooper closed the vigil with a song sang by her own grandmother each time she lost one of her children.

After the song attendees joined a young girl in chanting ‘I saw the light, I saw the light/No more darkness, no more night’ before dispersing.


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
rebecca.dyok@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

First NationsWilliams Lake

Just Posted

File photo
Paramedic training returning to Castlegar

Emergency Medical Responder and Primary Care Paramedic training to take place in Castlegar

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are seen being prepared on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
One death, 60 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The death is connected to the outbreak at Spring Valley long-term care in Kelowna

Portions of the Skattebo Reach Trail are being improved. Photo: Betsy Kline
Skattebo Reach Trail near Castlegar to become cycle friendly

Trail improvements geared towards cyclists being done in 2021

COVID-19 cases are once again dropping across the West Kootenay. Illustration: BC Centre for Disease Control
Ten new cases of COVID-19 in Nelson area

Numbers are steadily dropping across the West Kootenay

Katherine Shearer will be taking over as the SD20 superintendent. Photo: Submitted
SD20 superintendent Bill Ford to retire

Ford will be replaced by Katherine Shearer

From the left: Laura Greaves, Kyle Whyte and Steve Bigelow rescued a poisoned eagle Sunday, May 9. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
West Kootenay residents, Conservation Service Officer save poisoned eagle

CSO Kyle Bueckert released the eagle into the wild Thursday, May 13

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking on a remote forest road in Naramata on May 10. (Submitted)
Kamloops brothers identified as pair found dead near Penticton

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Brian Peach rescues ducklings from a storm drain in Smithers May 12. (Lauren L’Orsa video screen shot)
VIDEO: Smithers neighbours rescue ducklings from storm drain

Momma and babies made it safely back to the creek that runs behind Turner Way

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

The Libby Dam on the Kootenai River in Montana. The dam created the Koocanusa Reservoir, which straddles the B.C./Montana border. (photo courtesy Wikipedia)
Outflow at Libby Dam to be increased

Volume increase to aid migration and spawning conditions for endangered white sturgeon in the Kootenai River

Most Read