A memorial event has been held on the Hay River Reserve for Kelvin Smallgeese, who went missing in Yellowknife three years ago last month.
“We can’t put no closure on it,” said Smallgeese’s aunt Jeanna Graham. “We wanted to remember him, get some peace of mind, and pray for him, too.”
While the Sept. 28 luncheon at the Chief Lamalice Complex was meant to help the family draw a line under the experience, they and the community – including people attending from surrounding communities like Fort Smith and Fort Providence – still hold out some hope that information about Smallgeese will be forthcoming.
“Even if it’s bad news, we want to know,” said Graham. “(The RCMP) say they’re still looking into it, but it’s all the way in Yellowknife, and, when I call to get updates, they never have any.”
Smallgeese’s cousin Kathleen Graham said a family member was the last to see him on the street in Yellowknife before he went missing. She also said the 37-year-old had expressed a plan to hitchhike back to Hay River in the near future, but never made the trip.
“He didn’t lead the best life,” Kathleen Graham said. “But he’s still someone’s kid; he’s still loved.”
She said many family members still dream about Smallgeese, noting that Jeanna Graham has been praying for his safe return for the last three years. The latter organized Saturday’s luncheon – the first memorial for Smallgeese in three years – in part to gain some closure on his disappearance, both for the family and the wider community.
Kathleen Graham said there is a tendency to keep disappearances silent within families, but that it remains important to acknowledge the situation as a group.
“Even if it hurts, we need to remember,” she said.
Smallgeese’s father, John Smallgeese, travelled from Wekweeti to attend the memorial, but said he had not lost all hope that his son would be found.
“If anyone knows something about it, I would like them to come talk to me or go to the police,” he said.
Smallgeese, however, does have some doubts about the effectiveness of the RCMP in Yellowknife with regards to his son’s case.
“It seems to me that no one is investigating,” he said. “It’s not a big city. It seems they should be able to find him.”
While Jeanna Graham echoed the call for anyone with information to contact the RCMP, she also acknowledged the trail is now cold. She said she would keep praying for Kelvin Smallgeese’s safe return.
“I miss him,” she said. “If he walked through that door right now, I think the first thing I would do would be to make him a plate of food and ask if he had enough to eat.”
— Sarah Ladik