'I know this feeling': Jenaya Wapemoose's family searching for answers, again
It’s something the Wapemoose family is familiar with: searching relentlessly for a loved one.
“I know the feeling when girls or ladies or men go missing,” said Flora Bob, Jenaya Wapemoose’s grandmother.
Bob’s granddaughter, Jenaya’s cousin Tara, went missing in 2012. She was missing for three months, and then her body was found.
“It brings back memories, you know, and she left behind five children.”
Today, Bob faces a similar grim scenario.
Jenaya, a mother as well, has been missing for just over three months, but the family is hoping for a different ending this time.
Jenaya went missing on March 10. Her social media presence went completely offline on April 7, but the family will not give up hope.
“That’s our blood, and you know, we want to find her,” said Debbie Delorme, Jenaya’s aunt who describes herself as an ‘Aunty-mom.’ Jenaya’s mother passed away from cancer.
But despite hope, the family feels the loss of Jenaya regularly. Family gatherings have come and gone and still, her family hasn’t heard from her.
“She missed Mother’s Day, she missed Easter meal with her family, and she missed her little girl’s birthday,” said Debbie.
Jenaya’s daughter, Annabelle, turned five-years-old on May 13, and the young girl is distressed by the disappearance of her mother. She is currently residing with her father.
“She’s a mother, she’s a life-giver. She has a daughter that misses her and is lonesome for her,” Debbie said. “[She cries] for her mother and she knows she is missing now.”
Jenaya was born in Regina but grew up on Cowessess First Nation until she was ten-years-old. Her disappearance leaves an open wound for the entire community.
“We’re a huge nation, but it just takes one person who is unidentified, missing, you know, it doesn’t matter how big you are, you just feel like your kinship is missing something,” said Chief of Cowessess First Nation Cadmus Delorme.
“When one community member hurts, we all kind of have that sense of emotions tied to it as a nation.”
Debbie said the Wapemoose family is experiencing a spectrum of emotions that come with having a family member go missing.
“It’s frustrating. Her siblings are at their wits’ end. They don’t want to think of the worst, they’re stressed out and wishing they knew where she was, and if somebody has her or has seen her,” she said. “They’re hurt.”
That frustration and hurt is something many Indigenous families have gone through and continue to struggle with.
The report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls used the word “genocide,” to describe the tragedies of these women.
The report, though grim, is seen as a positive for the family, as it comes with 231 calls for justice to overhaul the tragedies described as “systemic,” by former liberal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.
Chief Delorme thinks the fact that Jenaya’s whereabouts are unknown, is just a reminder that the report is imperative to solving cases like this.
“With Jenaya right now, it’s just a situation update that this is real. That this is a priority,” he said.
It doesn’t mean the family has stopped searching. The family held a search and handed out flyers on May 18 in downtown Regina, where she was last seen. Upwards of 70 friends and family dispersed from Albert Street and 7th Avenue to hang posters and search for Jenaya.
The police renewed the plea for assistance in finding Jenaya on June 5, and now Jenaya’s sister Jackie is planning another search in East Regina.
As of June 13, police do not have any further updates on her whereabouts, according to Jackie.
As the search continues, hope is sustained, but Debbie says the immense loss is felt every day.
“That’s our blood, and you know, we want to find her.”
WATCH: The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) final report was released Monday, and PM Trudeau outlined the various ways his government was already responding to it.
Jenaya is 5′ 4″ and 120 lbs with light-brown shoulder-length hair and light brown eyes, according to police. She has a tattoo that says ‘Anabelle’ on the left side of her chest and “Wahpimoostoosis” on the right side of her chest. She also has the words ‘Each day is a gift & not a right’ tattooed behind her left ear.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Regina Police Service at 306-777-6500 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.