The memorial display in the Samson Cree Nation band office window. (Photo courtesy of Samson Cree Nation)

Samson Cree Nation memorial display honours murder victim Billie Johnson

By Chevi Rabbit/Black Press News Services

Samson Cree Nation (SCN) erected a memorial at the band office to honour the life of Billie Johnson. The body of 30-year-old homicide victim Johnson from SCN was located this week after an extensive search by Edmonton Police Services, her family and supporters.

“I think at times like this people feel helpless. They want to do something to help but don’t know what to do,” said Debra Buffalo, manager of SCN’s Community Initiatives Program.

“Jamie Smallboy lives in Vancouver British Columbia. She is closely connected to the family. She reached out to me to see if we could help. I mentioned to her that we had a red tree and if we could light it up as a reminder that the late Billie Johnson was missing,” said Buffalo.

Since the arrest of Kenneth Courtorielle back in February, it was determined that Johnson was deceased.

The thought behind the memorial display was to create awareness and keep the tree lighted until Johnson’s body was found.

“The idea was similar to, A Candle in the Window to Light Her Way,” said Buffalo.

Buffalo reached out to Cilia Swampy and put the memorial display in their space at the SCN band office and they agreed.

“Although, I couldn’t physically go out and help with the search, it was a way to do something rather than nothing,” said Buffalo.

Buffalo then reached out to Donesse Buffalo-Bull who designed the skirt with the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) design.

“This piece was an emotional one for sure. I always wanted to try to help in any way I can on spreading awareness for MMIW especially when it hit our community as I knew them beautiful women,” said Bull-Buffalo.

“This was my first MMIW skirt, So when I was approached to do one, I was truly honoured; I wanted to make it special for the women of Maskwacis, and most importantly to honour the MMIW.

“They were also someone’s mother, daughter, sister, auntie and niece,” she said.

“I felt that I accomplished my goal of making it special for the women of Maskwacis, as this skirt hung in the window as a beacon of hope for ‘late Billies’ … prayers for the families and most importantly the babies,” said Bull-Buffalo.

Many Maskwacis residents also went to Enoch First Nation to help with the search of the body, including Maskwacis resident Mason Buffalo. He took his horse out that way to help with the search.

“The Ribbon Skirt became an important part of the memorial display because it symbolizes the remembrance for all of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Men (MMIWM). There are many,” said Buffalo.

“There are many young women in my family. My daughters, my nieces, granddaughters, chapons (grandchildren). I always worry for their safety,” she said.

“I think the important thing is to teach them about healthy relationships, to communicate to family their travel plans when they leave and to call or text when they arrive safely at their destination,”

“It is important to teach them basic survival skills, how to make smart choices and not put themselves in harm’s way.

“We need to have a girl code. Something that is universal so that a girl who is in a dangerous situation can send a text message to someone that she may be in danger,” said Buffalo.

“Locally, we need our people to be diligent. Diligent and take notice when we have strangers lurking in our Nations.”

According to Buffalo, there were recent incidents reported in Maskwacis of a unknown person or persons allegedly stalking women in the community. Posts on social media claimed the suspect vehicle was a black van with blacked out windows.

Maskwacis RCMP were contacted for comments about the van but did not respond by press time and did not confirm if any arrests were made.

IndigenousMMIW

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

Just Posted

If you're heading out to the West Country have a plan in case things go wrong, says Clearwater Regional Fire Rescue Services fire chief Steve Debienne.
(Photo from CRFRS Facebook)
West Country visitors should have an emergency plan: regional fire chief

Cellphones can’t be relied on in many back country areas

Rode
Sarcevic leads an impressive list of additions to RDC Kings soccer

In 2019 the RDC Kings soccer program took a major step forward… Continue reading

The Red Deer PCN Women's Fun Run will take on a different look this weekend with rising COVID-19 numbers.
Women’s Fun Run goes ahead this weekend in Red Deer

With new public health measures in place because of rising COVID-19 case… Continue reading

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw asked Albertans to limit travel throughout the province as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer nears 900 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports additional 2,211 COVID-19 cases

David Eggen, the NDP’s advanced education critic, said the UCP government has been focused on cutting funding to post-secondary institutions across Alberta. (Contributed photo)
NDP worry new status for Red Deer College doesn’t mean more funding

This week the province announced that RDC will become a polytechnic institute

Alberta Health Services locked the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror on Wednesday morning after owner Christopher Scott refused to comply with health orders. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)
UPDATED: AHS shuts down Whistle Stop Cafe for defying health orders

Justice minister promises to get tough with those ignoring public health orders

Wizards beat Raptors in OT, Toronto playoff bid nearly over

Wizards beat Raptors in OT, Toronto playoff bid nearly over

Toronto Blue Jays' Teoscar Hernandez (37) hits a single to drive in two runs against the Oakland Athletics during the sixth inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Grichuk drives in 5, Jays beat A’s 10-4 for series split

Grichuk drives in 5, Jays beat A’s 10-4 for series split

Canada's Sports Hall of Fame 2019 inductee Jayna Hefford speaks in Toronto on Wednesday, October 23, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Three Canadian teams to play in women’s hockey Dream Gap Tour in Calgary

Three Canadian teams to play in women’s hockey Dream Gap Tour in Calgary

Rugby Canada says some members of women’s sevens team have tested positive for COVID

Rugby Canada says some members of women’s sevens team have tested positive for COVID

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson, centre, makes a shot as lead Briane Meilleur, left, and second Shannon Birchard sweep against Denmark at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, May 6, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Einarson’s five-game win streak ends with loss to Japan at world curling playdowns

Einarson’s five-game win streak ends with loss to Japan at world curling playdowns

FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2020, photo, the Olympics rings are reflected on the window of a hotel restaurant as a server with a mask sets up a table, in the Odaiba section of Tokyo. The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with less than 1% vaccinated. This of course is spilling over to concerns about the postponed Tokyo Olympics that open in just over three months.(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
Canadian athletes, coaches applaud news of vaccine doses ahead of Tokyo

Canadian athletes, coaches applaud news of vaccine doses ahead of Tokyo

Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals pressed to ease access to EI parental leave to help unemployed moms

Liberals pressed to ease access to EI parental leave to help unemployed moms

Katie Telford, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, appears as a witness via videoconference during a House of Commons finance committee in Ottawa, Thursday, July 30, 2020. The Canadian Press has learned that Katie Telford has written members of the defence committee inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct against Canada's former top military commander, offering to testify at their meeting Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
PM’s chief of staff offers to testify on Vance sexual misconduct allegations

PM’s chief of staff offers to testify on Vance sexual misconduct allegations

Most Read