Nelson Bird Column

There are two days in July 2004 which I consider extremely significant: days and events that still conjure up a variety of emotions.

The first was the morning of July 4th when we received a call that my mother Rita Bird had passed away at home in Regina’s core neighbourhood. She had been sick with cancer for nearly a year and her passing was expected yet shocking to our family.

A few blocks away and less than 20 hours later another incident shook our world. Five-year-old Tamra Keepness disappeared from her Ottawa Street home. Her sudden vanishing caught the attention of millions across Canada. Search parties were quickly organized while police did all they could to help locate her. Media, locally and nationally, did their part to shed light on Tamra’s disappearance.


Tamra Keepness

For me, the first few days of Tamra’s disappearance were spent watching from a distance as I was occupied with my mother’s funeral arrangements. When I did return to work a week later, I was fully immersed in the search. I immediately found myself in fields and on airplanes shooting footage of searchers. I was among dozens of reporters assigned to the case and I distinctly remember walking in wooded areas and through fields thinking that this was the day we’d find her.

Nearly every member of the media was as intent on finding Tamra as were the searchers and the family. Everyday I’d go to work hoping and praying that this would be the day.  Ten years later, a part of me still hopes that ‘this will be the day’.

Unlike my mother who lived a full life with many experiences and children, Tamra’s life was only beginning. She was robbed of her future.  She’d be a teenager now experiencing all the ups and downs that teenage girls face.

There have been hundreds of tips and searches over the years but she still remains missing. Most recently two events gave us hope. One of them was the discovery of a map of the alleged location of Tamra’s body.  The map indicated to a series of wells on the Muscowpetung First Nation, the same reserve that had been searched 10 years earlier. Regina police concluded there was no sign of any human remains in the wells.

The other event is much less known. A few days after the discovery of the map, APTN reporter Larissa Burnouf brought two spiritual psychics to Regina. They had extensive experience in finding people and information. They were also searching for Tamra and led Larissa to a location less than 20 kilometers north east of Regina. This is the same area where 10 years earlier the same psychics indicated to police they’d find the body of Tamra. This time, they drove down a gravel road and suddenly stopped near a wooded area. Their instinct took them into the trees where they found several coloured ribbons, cloth, tobacco, pow wow regalia and most importantly a mysterious mound of dirt.

The psychics knew this place to be extremely sacred and they should not upset the area. Larissa and her group called local RCMP who looked at the area, then handed it over to the Regina City Police who determined it was nothing suspicious.

That same day, Larissa and a CTV reporter returned to the site and both of them called it a ‘suspicious’ mound – almost grave like.

That particular investigation, like the one on Muscowpetung, was closed according to Regina City Police. But is it really the end?

APTN has considered pursuing this further in the months ahead and it will be interesting to see what happens because in the end everyone wants the same thing: closure of the case of a little girl who’s smiling face will forever be etched in the memories of all those who continue to search for her.  We all wonder what really happened the night of July 5th when she went missing. If she did, in fact, pass away that night, it is my prayer that she was guided to a better place.

Nelson Bird is a member of the Peepeekisis First Nation.
The views shared are those of Nelson Bird and not those of CTV News.



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