Family members are asking for help in locating 28-year-old Angela Morningstar Alexis who has been missing from Alexis Nakota Sioux First Nation since Sept. 2.
On Monday afternoon, the family was working with volunteers to begin a search near Lac Ste. Ann, where Pope Francis visited this summer.
The family says they’ve searched for her every day, with areas divided into quadrants. The family marks the progress on a map.
Angela’s uncle Francis Alexis, says he may be one of the last people to see her. He said he gave her some cigarettes and money for food.
“I told Angela to stay away from people who do drugs and alcohol,” says Francis. But she told him that she was ok and that she had friends who watched her back.
“Where are they now? The friends that watched her back,” says Francis.
He believes someone in the community must know something about her disappearance and he hopes that people will come forward with any information they have.
Jessica Alexis, Angela’s godmother, helps to organize the daily ground searches.
This past Saturday friends and family gathered in the afternoon to continue the search.
Jessica said that there have been a lot of rumours in the community about where Angela is, and it has been very traumatic for the family.
Angela’s family set up a tipi, and they also set up a covered space for food.
Some brought coffee, others brought firewood. They bring sandwiches and moose meat stew to keep the searches, who go out in teams, fed.
Chief Tony Alexis stops by regularly with food for the family and to see if there has been any news on Angela.
Jessica says the search for Angela has been between both Edmonton and Alexis Nakota Sioux First Nation. She has even heard that she may be in Edmonton, but when she spoke to the person who thought they met her, Jessica says it didn’t sound like Angela at all.
“Angela has a big personality. Last time I saw her was right by here. She was waving and we got out and hugged,” says Jessica. “The person they talked about was shy and quiet, not like Angela at all.”
Angela Alexis is a mother and someone with a big personality
Her family describes her as outspoken with a big personality. Her brother Benedict Alexis says she was trying to get her life back together and was just released from prison. She had moved back to the community.
“She was my goddaughter,” says Jessica Alexis. Angela was the second youngest in a family of five.
On her Facebook page, Angela posted photos of her children often, and her sisters and cousin shared visits and stories about their day, such as the time they thought a man in front of them at a drive through was staring at them and then it turned out, he had paid for their coffee.
“She was not afraid to speak her mind, She was good with her kids when they were around,” says Benedict. He hadn’t spoken directly to his sister in a while, but he has been out searching for her every day.
Angela’s older sister Isabella Alexis came from Edmonton to join her family during the search. She says she had asked her sister to come and live with her in Edmonton but her sister wanted to stay on Nakota Sioux Nation.
“She wanted to come visit the graveyard where her children are buried to pay her respects,” says Isabella. “She said she would come back but I never heard from her.”
Angela’s life marred by tragedy
Her family says that after a major traumatic incident in her life Angela began to drift away from family. In December of 2019, Angela’s mother and step-father, along with three of her children perished in a house fire.
“Since the fire she has been a bit lost,” says Benedict.
The search continues using drones and search dogs
Jessica says that some ex-military people had been out to help the group search using drones.
The family had help from the volunteer Canadian Search and Disaster Dogs Association over the weekend.
Jessica Boston was one of the searchers there.
She says that the search, “dogs search for any scent in the bush, someone who is deceased emits a pheromone.”
Jessica says she’s been a searcher for five years, and her dog Remi has been certified for a year and a half.
“Today we wanted to search areas that we didn’t get to yesterday in our assigned quadrants,” says Boston. The team fundraises during the year to be able to offer their services and cover expenses like fuel and lodgings.
RCMP investigation is ongoing.
Deanna Fontaine, a media relations officer with the Alberta RCMP says that the investigation in ongoing. The Edmonton-based K-Division major crimes unit has been investigating since early on in the missing person case. Fontaine said that the local detachment, the Mayerthorpe RCMP requested their help for more resources on the case as it is a small detachment.
“We are investigating and following up on all reasonable leads,” says Fontaine. “However, it is unknown if Angela’s disappearance is criminal in nature.”
The investigation is still active and Fontaine confirmed that police have interviewed a large number of people, but the RCMP would not provide specifics.
“We had our special tactical operations team out,” says Fontaine.
She also says that the police have been working with the family when it comes to the ground searches.
“When they have been doing searches and come upon items they contact the RCMP who attend and seize the items as a part of the investigation,” says Fontaine.
Community safety is a major issue
Nakota Sioux First Nation is 85 kilometers west of Edmonton, and home to 1171 members who live in the nation. Jessica Alexis started a years worth of rallies against drugs and alcohol in the community.
“Community safety is an issue here. The alcohol and drugs are an issue. So we committed to this rally and I said we would have to move the camp for today, because of the search,” says Jessica.
“A lot of people started in residential schools and in child and family services. They are away from their people and they don’t know their language, culture or way of life,” says Francis about why the issues on the nation have become so pronounced. He says that drugs have become a major issue during the pandemic.
Band councillor Darren Kootney agrees that there are a lot of issues in the community.
“It is a big concern for council.” Kootney says it is one of the toughest issues leadership faces. “Too many of our people and young people who are into drugs,” he says.
Kootney says “It takes the whole community to come together to fight this off.”