‘Enough’s enough:’ Indigenous leaders, families demand action on MMIWG crisis at awareness walk

The families of Danielle Nyland, Happy Charles and Megan Gallagher, among several others, walked to raise awareness for MMIWG on Thursday. – Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald

Danielle Nyland was a week short of her 23rd birthday when she died.

The bubbly and outgoing woman, as her family describes her, had decades of life ahead of her – all taken away for being in the “wrong place at the wrong time,” according to her uncle.

“I think that was probably one of the reasons this all happened that night, was because she had so much trust and love for everybody,” said Lynn Regnier.

Nyland was last seen in the Holbein and Shellbrook area in June 2015. RCMP found her body in the bush near Holbein, just 500 metres from her last known location.

Still, eight years later, no one has been charged in her death.

Danielle Nyland’s family members listen to a presentation prior to the awareness walk, held by the PAGC Women’s Commission. According to RCMP, an autopsy of Nyland’s body could not determine a cause of death. — (left) Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald (right) RCMP

Several of Nyland’s family members took part in the 19th annual MMIWG awareness walk in Prince Albert on Thursday. 

They marched the streets carrying a banner with Nyland’s photo, reading “Praying for justice.” Others from her family held signs that read “Who are they? What happened? Why?” and “We miss you.”

The family is participating to seek justice.

“If he never talks, he will take it to his grave, and that will be something that he will have to and is living with right now,” said Regnier.

Regnier said he believes he knows who took his niece’s life, but there isn’t enough evidence for police to lay charges.

“We come here because we don’t want it to be forgotten.”

The Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) Women’s Commission hosts the walk every year. 

Chair Shirley Henderson said it all started when they read an Amnesty International report that said Saskatchewan has the highest rate of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

“Our women are disappearing without a trace. They disappear and nobody seems to know where they go – but they’re gone. It has to come to an end,” she said.

Several Indigenous leaders from across the province took to the podium prior to the walk. This included all three PAGC chiefs, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nation’s third Vice-Chief Aly Bear and Cowessess First Nation Chief Erica Beaudin.

The walk began at the Sisters in Spirit memorial along the riverbank and concluded at Kinsmen Park.

PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte said “we all have a big responsibility” to address the MMIWG crisis.

“We will not forget,” he told the dozens of people gathered.

“We will continue, continue, continue the search. Let’s bring our fists up that we will do that, and now, open up your hands – we will continue.”

PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte asked participants to hold up their fists as a sign of never giving up in the search for missing Indigenous people. — Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald

Regnier said he’s working with the Metis Nation of Saskatchewan to put up a billboard of Nyland along the highway where she went missing.

“It gives me closure to know that we did find Danielle, but it doesn’t get any easier,” said her mother, Lori Nyland.

Although it’s emotional to take part in awareness walks, Lori said it’s helpful to connect with other families experiencing the same type of loss.

“I feel what they’re going through. I’m honoured to do it for her and justice hopefully will be served soon. Enough’s enough. I still pray for that,” she said.

“I miss her with all my heart.”