Brandy Vittrekwa remembered as kind, loving teen

Annie Blake remembers Brandy Vittrekwa as a shy child who grew up to become a funny, caring and charismatic teenager.

Annie Blake remembers Brandy Vittrekwa as a shy child who grew up to become a funny, caring and charismatic teenager.

Hundreds of Yukoners attended a memorial service for Vittrekwa over the weekend. The 17-year-old was found dead on a Whitehorse trail a week ago.

Blake, a friend of the family, said she first met Vittrekwa when she was living in Old Crow with her grandparents.

“Brandy was this cute little girl who was very shy and always had the biggest smile when I would see her,” she said.

“Every time I saw her, I’d ask her who the prettiest girl in town was, and she’d say I was. After the third or fourth time I asked her, she said ‘Ah, you’re just old.’

“That’s when I knew she had a sense of humour.”

Vittrekwa, who was born in Fort McPherson, N.W.T., also lived in Inuvik before eventually coming to Whitehorse.

Blake ran into her many years later and noticed she had grown into a beautiful young woman, she said.

She described Vittrekwa as someone who was comfortable with the people she knew, and who spoke fondly of her relatives.

“Any time Brandy spoke of her parents and her brother she would always say how much she loved them and that she would do anything for them if they ever asked,” Blake said.

“Brandy often spoke about how much she loved her Aunty Deana’s children. When she returned from the Gwich’in Gathering in Old Crow this summer, she shared stories about how she would bug her aunt’s children because they were shy.”

Vittrekwa would often call herself ‘little Mary Jane’ whenever she went to Blake’s house. That’s because she knew Blake and her grandmother, Mary Jane, were friends. Despite being petite, Brandy had a huge heart, Blake said.

She was someone that many people confided in, trusted and felt safe with, she added.

Twenty-one-year-old Kristen Frost also knew Vittrekwa from Old Crow. They met when Frost was 13.

Later, when Frost had her son, Ryder, Vittrekwa became a reliable and loving friend to both of them.

“She would always come over and visit and we’d bake or watch a movie, but halfway through she’d ditch me to play with my son,” Frost said.

“They’d play hide-and-go-seek and pretend not to find him. Then she’d jump out and scare him, and she’d pick him up and start blowing on his belly.

The last time she saw Vittrekwa was in September in Whitehorse.

“She always said the craziest things to make you laugh,” Frost said.

“She’d say ‘Life is one big party when you’re still young.’ She’ll always have a special place in my heart.”

RCMP are treating Vittrekwa’s death as a homicide. Late last week police arrested a suspect. By Wednesday morning, RCMP hadn’t disclosed the suspect’s name, age or sex. Police continue to ask the public to come forward with any information that might relate to the case.

The death has hit the Kwanlin Dun First Nation community hard, although Vittrekwa was not a member of the First Nation.

On Friday morning, Kwanlin Dun Chief Doris Bill held a second news conference in which she shared her reaction to the RCMP arresting a suspect.

She confirmed that the young person was not a Kwanlin Dun citizen.

“I’m relieved there’s been an arrest in connection with this horrific murder but it’s not lost on me that this is a young person,” she said.

“We have two lives that have been destroyed by this, two young lives. And that breaks my heart.”

Bill was visibly upset when talking about the issue of dealing with First Nation members who have been kicked out of their own communities.

Sometimes they move to Kwanlin Dun land, she said, and that causes a lot of problems.

“We end up dealing with the aftermath,” she said.

“We spend a lot of time, money and resources dealing with citizens of other First Nations and this is something I will take to the leadership table to talk about.”

It’s time for other First Nations to help Kwanlin Dun out, Bill said, and to realize that kicking people out has a ripple effect.

Jeanie Dendys, director of justice for the First Nation, said she heard about the issue during her first week on the job, more than six years ago.

“People are being court-ordered out of their community and they end up here, and we have very little say over that,” she said.

“We’re considering drafting a law – a banishment law – that would give us more control over individuals released into our community. The only problem with that is how to enforce it.”

Fundraising for the Vittrekwa family took an unexpected turn last week, when Sid Sidhu donated $10,000 to help cover funeral costs.

The family had received more than $11,000 by Friday morning. A funeral will be held in Fort McPherson this week.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

d
Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

g
Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

The Yukon government responded to a petition calling the SCAN Act “draconian” on Feb. 19. (Yukon News file)
Yukon government accuses SCAN petitioner of mischaracterizing her eviction

A response to the Jan. 7 petition was filed to court on Feb. 19

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Whitehorse RCMP will provide internet safety training due to an uptick of child luring offences. (iStock photo)
RCMP hosting internet safety webinars for parents and caregivers

The webinars will take place on March 23 and 25

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

Most Read