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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Abbotsford Police Department is investigating a shooting on Adair Avenue on Saturday night. (Photo by Dale Klippenstein)
Drive-by shooting in Abbotsford targeted home with young children, police say

Investigators believe home was mistakenly targeted by assailants

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
Abbotsford care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

Trustees Darrell Furgason (right) and Barry Neufeld at a January 2019 board meeting. (Chilliwack Progress file)
Chilliwack trustee responds to teachers’ call for censure

Furgason: ‘Unions exist to make demands from an employer for their members’

Morning mist clears over the Hope Slough at Camp River Road on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Jessica Peters/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Sunny skies in the forecast for Chilliwack and Abbotsford

Rain and wind expected Sunday night through Monday morning, then clear skies

Ashley Durance, seen here on Nov. 25, 2020 with her four-year-old daughter Hazel, recently released The Adventures of Mabel Mouse. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack cancer patient writes children’s book inspired by daughter with medical complexities

Ashley Durance released ‘The Adventures of Mabel Mouse’ the day before her daughter’s fourth birthday

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Langley RCMP issued a $2,300 fine to the Riverside Calvary church in Langley in the 9600 block of 201 Street for holding an in-person service on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, despite a provincial COVID-19 related ban (Dan Ferguson/Black Press Media)
Updated: Langley church fined for holding in-person Sunday service

Calvary church was fined $2,300 for defying provincial order

(File photo)
Vancouver police warn of toxic drug supply after 7 people overdose at one party

Seven people between the ages of 25 to 42 were taken to hospital for further treatment.

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

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Most Read