SASKATOON — The grief and trauma experienced by families of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls was poignantly described during an ecumenical event held recently in Saskatoon.
On May 18, 2004, Daleen Bosse was out with friends and was expected home that night. It was early the next morning that Bosse’s mother, Pauline Muskego, began a journey that continues to this day.
Muskego was one of the keynote speakers at the Voices of Our Sisters event that took place April 18, 2015, at Mayfair United Church in Saskatoon.
Muskego spoke broadly of her daughter’s life and disappearance, the family’s years of searching, evolving relations with the police, and the court case of her daughter’s killer.
“I am here to tell you the story of my late daughter, Daleen,” Muskego began. “She was attending the University of Saskatchewan in the Indian Teacher Education Program when she went missing.”
Bosse was preparing for her fourth year of the program; a program she took to follow in the footsteps of her parents, who were both teachers.
Muskego’s son, Dana, was babysitting Bosse’s daughter while she was out. He called his parents when Bosse did not call home to check on her daughter.
“We came to Saskatoon right away to find out what was going on,” Muskego recalled. “We didn’t want to believe anything had happened.”
Pauline, her husband, Herb, and son filled in the police report. They started to piece together the timeline of the evening of what happened up until they last heard from her.
“Two and a half weeks later her abandoned vehicle was found,” said Muskego. “We were still hoping she would come home.”
Posters went up around the city and the family spoke to connections in communities around the province. A $10,000 reward was offered for any information leading to Bosse’s return or discovery.
“I don’t have anything bad to say about the police,” noted Muskego, “but at the beginning, she was just another missing person.”
The officer who first spoke to Muskego pointed to a high stack of files and informed her that her daughter’s file was down near the bottom.
“We searched for four long years and we never gave up,” Muskego stated. “To us, she wasn’t a police file number or a statistic . . . she was a daughter, a mother, a wife, a scholar.”
Bosse’s murdered body was discovered by police through an investigation method known as a “Mr. Big” sting, in which an undercover police officer pretends to be a criminal in order to gain information from the suspect.
Douglas Hales, a bouncer at the bar where Bosse was last seen, was arrested in August 2008. After changing lawyers several times and stalling in other ways, Hales was convicted of second-degree murder and of offering an indignity to a body.
“He has served six years already and has to serve nine years before he is up for parole,” Muskego said. “The justice system is out of our hands, so we just have to rely that (justice) will be done.”
Muskego alluded that her family’s relationship with the police was not always positive, but several times she expressed her gratitude for the work of police, as well as to Chief Weighill, who visited their reserve at Onion Lake First Nation on two different occasions.
“He came to encourage us, (to say) that they weren’t giving up.”
Muskego also spoke of a 325-km awareness-raising walk from Onion Lake to Saskatoon held during the four years before Bosse’s body was found.
“The first day I walked only 10 kilometers,” Muskego remembered. “After that, the young people took over.”
Since then, Bosse’s brother Dana has organized a memorial walk from where her body was found, back to their home on the reserve.
“I appreciate every one of you (being) here, to listen and understand what we go through,” concluded Muskego.
Bishop Donald Bolen attended the day and commended the ecumenical collaboration and especially noted the need for churches to come to a better understanding of First Nations issues.
“In some sense our failure as a nation to act justly toward our Indigenous brothers and sisters is a failure for us all,” Bolen stated. “Learning to walk together respectfully — and well — is a task for all of us.”
Phyllis Goertz, a member of the Voices of Our Sisters organizing committee, commented on how hearing accounts from women like Muskego changed how people felt about the issue of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls.
“In the small group work at the end of the day almost everyone said how hearing personal stories made all the difference,” Goertz noted. “The day was very powerful.”