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)

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

Greg Janicki (left), owner of Dogwood Pet Mart rasied $410 this year for the Campbell River SPCA’s Loonies for Love fundraiser which he presented to Stephanie Arkwright, branch manager of the BCSPCA – Campbell River Community Animal Centre. Photo contributed
Pandemic doesn’t stop annual Loonies for Love SPCA fundraiser

Fundraising has been a bit challenging over the past year, but the… Continue reading

The intersection at Dogwood Street and 13th Avenue, next to the No. 1 Firehall, will see some improvements over the next six weeks or so, according to the city. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Intersection improvements coming to Dogwood and 13th Avenue

Expect delays for up to six weeks once work begins, city says

Oyster River fire has responded to 56 calls so far in 2021. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Department
Oyster River Fire averaged one call per day in busy February

One weekend saw 12 calls for service from crew

The students in the Timberline Musical Theatre program are rehearsing this year’s production, Once Upon a Mattress, three days per week after school in preparation for their upcoming virtual performances. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Timberline Musical Theatre hoping for last minute ticket surge

Popular annual run of shows costs $7,000-$8,000 to put on. They’ve sold $750 in tickets

NIC Practical Nursing instructor Barb McPherson (right) is pictured with student Rebecca Wood in 2018 in NIC’s SIM lab. NIC photo
Learn about Practical Nursing opportunities for Island students

Students interested in exploring a future in health care are invited to… Continue reading

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

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

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

The City of Duncan will implement a new pilot project targeting vandalism this spring. (File photo)
Graffiti trouble? Duncan will give you the brush and the paint to remove it

Initiative based on a successful project to protect Port Alberni from unwanted spray paint

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

This was the scene outside North Saanich’s Parkland Secondary School after an attempted but unsuccessful break-and-enter into the school torched an ATM inside of it. Sidney/North Saanich RCMP did not make any arrests and currently lack suspects as the investigation continues. Members of the public who may have witnessed something or possess other information can contact police at (250) 656-3931 or to Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS. (Submitted)
Money to burn: burglars torch North Saanich high school ATM

Police dogs searched the exterior and interior of the school after early morning break-and-enter

The first of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s long-range maritime patrol aircraft—the Dash-8—becomes operational. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s new De Havilland Dash-8-100 long-range surveillance air craft is capable of staying aloft for eight to 10 hours for a variety of missions up and down the B.C. coast. (Photo supplied by PAL Aerospace)
New plane will double DFO’s surveillance capacity in B.C.

The Dash-8 will fly out of Campbell River for enforcement, conservation missions

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

Most Read