Shelly Tannis Dene was born in 1988. A member of Alberta’s Fort McKay First Nation through family ties, she also had a strong connection to the Mikisew Cree Nation of northeastern Albert and the Northwest Territories.
Growing up, Shelly dealt with the lasting effects of residential schools. Both her parents had been placed in them growing up, and both struggled with alcoholism as a result. The pair split in 1997, after which Shelly and her two siblings moved with their mother to Vernon, British Columbia. She lived in various cities and towns during her childhood, including Kelowna, Fort McMurray and Fort McKay.
Shelly was known for her trusting nature and ability to light up a room. She often put the needs of others before herself, especially those of her siblings, and she had a dream of becoming an interior designer. This stemmed from her artistic abilities, with which she painted drums, designed her own clothes and took up crocheting.
Shelly dropped out of school at a young age. In 2007, she gave birth to her son, whom she described as her pride and joy. Hoping to give both herself and him a better life, she restarted her education and completed grade 12 in 2010.
In 2012, Shelly’s father died of a brain tumour. Leading up to his death, she travelled to Edmonton, Alberta and spent each day by his bedside, despite having not seen him for 20 years. After the funeral, she returned to British Columbia.
Throughout her teenage years, Shelly and her sisters battled with alcoholism and drug addiction. As a result, her son was taken by social services. He was returned to her in 2012 after she’d managed to stay three years sober and had enrolled in college. Unfortunately, she fell into a depression after her father’s death and turned back to drugs to cope. This caused her son to once again be removed from her care, which devastated the young mother.
There are inconsistencies surrounding the timeline of Shelly’s disappearance. Some news outlets report she was last seen in mid-July 2013, while the Edmonton Police Service states she last had contact with her family that August.
In July 2013, Shelly’s grandmother, Katie Dene, asked her to watch her home while she was away on vacation in Kelowna. The trip was to occur that August and Shelly agreed to look after the residence. When Katie returned, she found Shelley had packed up her belongings and left.
At the time, Shelly’s family assumed she’d travelled to the Yukon, as she’d been talking about visiting. Given this, they weren’t too concerned of her abrupt departure. Her sister, Candice L’hommecourt, texted her to ask if she was okay. In response, Shelly texted back “No”. It was the last time Candice ever heard from her.
On November 8, 2013, Shelly’s cellphone was disconnected and Candice reported her missing to the Edmonton Police Service. Her sister had initially thought nothing of her silence, as she was fairly independent, but the issues with her phone sparked concern.
Candice did her own investigating by speaking with friends and family. Everyone told her they hadn’t spoken to Shelly since July. She organized walks to raise awareness and in the hope information would be called into police.
The Edmonton Police Service partnered with other law enforcement agencies due to the possibility Shelly had travelled to northern Alberta or the territories. They have unconfirmed information she went to the Yukon with a First Nations male in a red pickup truck, and with the help of the Yukon detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police they were able to circulate that information.
In the summer of 2014, Shelly’s family held a rally at Churchill Square in Edmonton to raise awareness about her disappearance. It was attended by 60 people, who drummed and sang as they walked the perimeter of the square.
Her family has created the Help Find Shelly Tannis Dene Facebook page to keep the case in the public eye.
At present, the Missing Persons Unit of Edmonton Police Service is handling Shelly’s disappearance. They have no reported sightings of her since she went missing and state there’s no indication foul play is involved.
Candice has been open regarding her criticism of the police investigation. While she realizes the authorities work with limited resources, she’s been able to uncover more evidence and information than those working the case. She’s also questioned the lack of communication between investigators and the family, as the last time they heard from them was in December 2014.
Shelly’s cousin, Melanie Dene, believes the police haven’t taken her disappearance seriously because she was an Indigenous woman living what they deemed to be a “high risk” lifestyle.
CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:
Shelly Tannis Dene was last seen in Edmonton, Alberta in August 2013. She was 25 years old, and what she was last wearing is currently unknown. At the time of her disappearance, she stood at 5’7″ and weighed 110 to 111 pounds. She has shoulder-length brown hair and brown eyes. She has a piercing above her upper left lip, and a scar on her right cheek.
Some agencies refer to her as “Shelly Tanis Dene” or simply “Shelly Dene”.
Currently, the case is classified as a missing persons investigation. If alive, she would be either 32 or 33 years old.
Those with information regarding the case are asked to contact the Edmonton Police Service’s Missing Persons Unit at 780-421-2011 or its Complaint Line at 780-423-4567. Those wishing to remain anonymous can submit tips via Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
Image Credit: CBC News