Family of Sask. Indigenous boy who disappeared at 15 years old still seeking answers 50 years later

·5 min read
The Kay siblings, [from left] Pearl, Ernest, Ethel, Lorna, Sydney and Alvin, with a photo of there missing brother, Kenneth Kay. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC - image credit)
The Kay siblings, [from left] Pearl, Ernest, Ethel, Lorna, Sydney and Alvin, with a photo of there missing brother, Kenneth Kay. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC - image credit)

It's been more than 50 years since Lorna Kay last saw her brother Kenneth, but that moment is forever etched in her memory.

It was early May 1972, Treaty Day on the Kawacatoose First Nation about 115 kilometres north of Regina. Fifteen-year-old Kenneth was at the old schoolhouse, waiting along with other band members to get their $5 federal treaty payments.

"I was at the back of [another] brother's truck," Lorna says. "He was taking us into town and I remember [Kenneth] standing with one leg up against a wall. I was yelling at him, 'Come on, come along.' And he said no, he didn't want to come along. And I kept begging him, 'Get on before we get too far out.' And he just wouldn't.

"That was the last time I saw him."

RCMP say Kenneth was last seen around 4 p.m. that day in nearby Quinton, Sask. He has not been seen since.

His family reported him missing to the Punnichy RCMP on May 18, 1972.

RCMP still consider Kenneth to be a missing person, but the family is convinced he was murdered soon after he was last seen and that his remains are buried somewhere on the Kawacatoose First Nation.

"I believe he was murdered," Lorna said. "He was killed that night, Treaty Day."

Chanss Lagaden/CBC
Chanss Lagaden/CBC

In 1988 RCMP searched an area of Kawacatoose where it was reported Kenneth's remains may be, but no evidence was found.

Now the family wants authorities to do another search using modern technology.

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Growing up

Kenneth was known by the nickname Lenny, drawn from his full name Kenneth Leonard.

"He loved riding horses. We had a barn full of horses, and that was his thing," Lorna said. "A lot of people remember him on the reserve, going to visit the young fellas on horseback."

Like many kids on the reserve, he quit school at an early age.

"We only went up to Grade 8 here [on the First Nation]," Lorna said. "I think he left school when he was maybe about Grade 7."

Ethel Kay, one of Kenneth's older sisters, said he was a loving person who bonded with her then-four-year-old son.

"He used to come to my house on horseback just to come and see my children," she said. "He was always happy."

Chanss Lagaden/CBC
Chanss Lagaden/CBC

Searching for Kenneth

Lorna said that after a few days of no one seeing Kenneth — which was out of the ordinary — their father went looking for him at the houses of two of his sisters, one on the reserve and one in Regina.

"My dad had a feeling that something was wrong," she said.

Her father called the RCMP and some officers came out to speak with him. Lorna remembers them asking her father if Kenneth might have run away.

"My dad said, 'No, he wouldn't run away. You know, he's that person, he'd go, but he always came back a couple days after,'" Lorna remembered. "He always came home because he loved the horses, and one of his chores was to look after the horses."

Lorna said it took days before RCMP did a search. She heard they searched from from Quinton to Kawacatoose, but nothing came of it.

Their father didn't give up searching.

"He'd walk off early in the morning. He'd stay away all day walking, looking. And I'd always hear him saying, 'He's around somewhere.'"

Chanss Lagaden/CBC
Chanss Lagaden/CBC

Investigation questioned

Alvin Kay, one of Kenneth's older brothers, said RCMP officers would come talk to the family every four or five years.

"One cop would come and ask questions and say, 'OK we'll do something about it.' Nothing happened," Alvin said.

"And then another 10 years, another cop would come and he wanted to do something about it. Nothing happened. You know, they always tell us to wait, but nothing happened."

Lorna said it would have been different if Kenneth had a different colour of skin.

"It meant nothing to them," she said. "Just another Indian kid that must have run away."

Chanss Lagaden/CBC
Chanss Lagaden/CBC

Closure

The family believes Kenneth's remains are buried somewhere in the northern part of the First Nation.

"I remember when [RCMP] did a a search [in 1988], they dug out some tunnels where, you know, certain people had made tunnels, but nothing showed up there," Lorna said.

"But I was told they were digging in the wrong place and the RCMP wouldn't listen."

She said the area where the family believes Kenneth's body is has never been searched to this day.

They want a new search to be conducted using technology like ground penetrating radar.

Kawacatoose Chief Lee-Anne Kehler said the band is open to helping find Kenneth's remains and give the family some closure.

"We are a traditional community," said Kehler.

"So if there is a means or if there's something that we need to do to do that, we would take care of that on our end."

Lorna said Kenneth is still listed on the band's registry as being alive.

"They can't take him off until they prove that he's gone," she said.

"I want his remains found so we can mark it. To let the people know we never forgot him."

Alvin said his brother deserves to have a proper burial.

"It's hard to talk about it, it hurts me," Alvin said."It's hard to forget. You want to know where he is."

In an email to CBC, RCMP said Kenneth's disappearance "is an open investigation, and given Kenneth Kay has not been located, all avenues are considered a possibility, including the potential his disappearance is suspicious."

RCMP said they have received tips that the disappearance may have been suspicious, but no evidence has been found to support the allegations.

"There may be individuals who have information about Kenneth's disappearance and investigators ask anyone who has information to come forward and report it to police," the statement said.

"In the past 50 years since Kenneth was reported missing, people's personal circumstances may have changed, and if they have information they are now willing to share with regards to this open investigation that they previously did not provide, we encourage them to contact police."

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