The Disappearance of Annie Yassie

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EARLY LIFE:

Annie Yassie was born on July 27, 1960. She, along with her family, were members of the Sayisi Dene First Nation, which, by the time she was born, had been moved to a housing compound just outside of Churchill, Manitoba, Canada.

The history of the Sayisi Dene is a troubled one, due to the federal and provincial governments. Before 1956, the group resided near Little Duck Lake in northern Manitoba. In the mid-1950s, Canada as a whole was experiencing a caribou shortage and part of the blame for this was placed by government officials on the Sayisi Dene, who were then airlifted to Camp 10, which later became known as Dene Village.

Dene Village faced numerous hardships between 1956 and 1973. The compound did not see the support it had been promised by the government, meaning it never received promised hunting and trapping supplies, they had to scavenge for food from the nearby dump, and items meant for the construction of houses and other properties were often washed away to sea, as they were left on the tundra beach the compound sat on. This resulted in widespread poverty, crime and alcohol consumption, with many residents struggling to make ends meet and provide for their families, as there were no jobs. By the mid-1970s, many residents began to venture away from Dene Village, migrating to Tadoule Lake – the current site of the Sayisi Dene First Nation – roughly 300km west of Churchill.

The Sayisi Dene had to fight for both the provincial and federal governments to acknowledge the injustices their people faced at their hands. Eventually, in 2016, an apology was offered, with Carolyn Bennett, the country’s Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister, acknowledging the role the government played in the initial displacement of the Sayisi Dene people and offered survivors financial compensation. This forcible relocation has since been deemed one of Canada’s worst crimes against the country’s Indigenous population.

According to those who knew Annie, she was a kind and beautiful girl who was extremely close to her sister, Eva Yassie. The teenager loved to sew doll clothes and was a fan of the era’s “hippie” look, often cladding herself in denim outfits. She is said to have had a love for the Christmas season, and she was sometimes known to sleepwalk, meaning Eva had to keep a close watch on her little sister.

In the fall of 1973, Annie was sent to the Mackay Residential School in Dauphin, Manitoba, approximately 925km away from Dene Village. Residential schools were government-sponsored schools aimed at assimilating Canada’s Indigenous youth into the general population. Run by the Christian Church, these schools were a hotbed for racism and abuse, with Indigenous children being forcefully taken from their families and made to endure degrading and oftentimes traumatic conditions. Many lost their lives, and the negative effects of Canada’s residential schools are still felt today by both survivors and their families.

LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:

At the time of her disappearance, Annie had returned home from Dauphin and was staying with her brother, Fred Yassie.

On June 22, 1974, she was out with a man described as being at least 10 years her senior. The pair were drunk and had been out celebrating Treaty Day. They got into a taxi and headed to the nearby gravel pits, approximately 3km outside of Churchill, which were known to be common spots for camping, parties and bonfires. According to the taxi driver, the unnamed man had to drag Annie out of the vehicle, as she appeared to be passing out, and he requested that he pick them up later in the evening.

According to reports, the taxi driver was the last person to officially see Annie Yassie that night. When he returned to the gravel pits hours later, he found the man alone. He was more drunk than he had been earlier in the night.

DISAPPEARANCE:

When Annie didn’t arrive home that night, Fred didn’t worry. He’d heard his sister mention wanting to visit Eva at some point during her visit, so he simply thought she’d decided to do so after her celebrations. His assumption was that Annie was babysitting Eva’s children while she worked at the clinic in the compound.

Eva visited Dene Village on June 26, 1974. It was then that everyone realized that Annie had not been staying with her sister and had, in fact, been missing for four days. This was when she was officially reported missing to the Churchill detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

SEARCH:

An extensive search for Annie was conducted, with investigators and volunteers scouring the area and outskirts by foot and by air. A search dog was even brought in to help. Despite the search occurring not long after Annie was reported missing, and with those involved searching every house in Dene Village, nothing related to the case was uncovered.

Both investigators and Eva confronted the man Annie was last seen with. Despite being pressured by both parties to reveal what happened the night of June 22, he claimed ignorance, saying he’d had a memory lapse due to the amount of alcohol he’d ingested.

The case would go cold not long after.

During the fall of 2014, officers with the Winnipeg detachment of the RCMP contacted Annie’s family to inform them they were reopening the file. According to Eva, this was the first time anyone with the organization had contacted her since the initial investigation back in 1974.

In June 2016, the RCMP once again contacted Eva to request a DNA sample from her. Given the amount of time that had passed since Annie was last seen alive, they were currently working on the theory that she met with some form of foul play and wished to have familial DNA on file, in case they located her body. Eva has since claimed there was a delay in investigators coming to collect the DNA from her, with a RCMP spokesperson countering, saying they were waiting for her to provide them with a list of names of siblings to take samples from. It’s currently unknown if the DNA was eventually collected.

The man Annie was last seen with has since passed away, meaning her family will never know if there were other people involved in her disappearance. While they believe the case will never be solved, they would like to at least locate her body, so they can give her a traditional Dene funeral.

THEORIES:

1) The primary theory in the case is that Annie met with some form of foul play on the night she disappeared. Given the amount of time that has passed and the lack of evidence uncovered over the course of the investigation, foul play is highly suspected by investigators. Eva believes her sister was murdered by the unnamed man she had been drinking with on June 22, 1974.

2) Initially, investigators theorized that Annie may have been sleepwalking on the night of her disappearance. Her family criticized this line of thinking, and the RCMP has since abandoned this theory.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Annie Yassie went missing from just outside Churchill, Manitoba, Canada on June 22, 1974. She was 13 years old, and was last seen wearing a blue denim jacket, a pair of blue denim jeans, and brown shoes with a 3″ heel. At the time of her disappearance, she is said to have had a thin build, standing at 5’4″ and weighing approximately 104 pounds. She has black hair and brown eyes.

Currently, the case is classified as endangered missing. If alive, she would be 60 years old.

Those with information regarding the case are asked to contact the Cold Case Unit of the Winnipeg RCMP at 204-983-5461. Those wishing to remain anonymous can do so by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Image Credit: CBC News

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