Almost three years after her death, the memories of a 33-year-old woman from the Beardy’s and Okemasis Cree Nation (BOCN) are still treasured as a memory keepsake for the family and amongst the community members.
“I miss her laugh,” said Martin Cameron, who is the father of Jessica. “It’s still hard to talk about it. It’s like it happened yesterday.”
Jessica is described as someone who was outgoing, friendly and who truly cared for others. She left behind seven children.
“She was friends with everybody. Not only people her age, but younger and older. Even the Elders. I admire her for that,” he said.
On July 6, 2019, Jessica was allegedly killed by her partner on the Cree nation. It was a tragedy that shocked the entire community. Memorials, walks and clothing apparel with Jessica’s name are what her family, friends and community members are doing to keep the memory alive. The family wants to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence and show everyone that she is never forgotten.
“It’s to (spread) awareness of domestic abuse,” Cameron said. “I have moose hide on my hat … to signify that I am against domestic violence.”
Jamie Smallchild was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Jessica. Police said they were known to be in a domestic relationship. Cameron said Smallchild pleaded guilty and he will have a sentencing hearing on May 18 in the community’s courthouse.
“(We will) be doing impact statements on how it impacted each of us,” he said. “We just want justice and get this over and done with. Over the year, it kept getting adjourned and it had a profound effect on us.”
The community is planning a memorial walk on May 5, the National Day for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). Cameron said it’s important to carry on his daughter’s legacy for her children she left behind.
It’s the same reason why Lynea George from the George Gordon First Nation will be displaying a red dress outside her front door on May 5 to remember her sister, Keesha Bitternose.
“It’s about bringing awareness about (MMIW),” George said. “With Keesha passing and the way she (died), it’s more important. We’re starting to get her story out and fight for justice for her.”
On Jan. 5, 2020, Bitternose was found dead by Regina Police Service (RPS) at a residence on the 1500 block of Cameron Street around 11 p.m. She was 29 years old and left behind four children.
In November 2021, 21-year-old Kurtis Thomas pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Thomas was one of three men who were charged in connection to Bitternose’s death. Due to a publication ban, details of the facts presented in the sentencing could not be disclosed for the reason of the two accused who are still before the courts.
For every daughter, mother, sister, niece, relative and friend who are considered a MMIW, people across the country will be gathering in different ways to commemorate their lives.
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