Only The River Knows – Thunder Bay Deaths


Since 2000, five Indigenous teens have been found dead in Thunder Bay, Ontario: Jethro Anderson, Curran Strang, Reggie Bushie,  Kyle Morriseau, and Jordan Wabasse, all between the ages of 15 and 18. They were all found in the Mcintyre River, also known as the River of Tears. Jethro Anderson was only fifteen years old when he disappeared in 2000. He was living with his Aunt Dora when he missed his curfew, and when she went to the police they said: “he was just partying like every native kid.” It was not until a week later that they started to search for him. His death was immediately deemed as an accidental drowning despite the bruises and cigarette burns on his body. 


Another one of the teens found in the river is Curran Strang. He was reported passed out by the river by friends; the police wrote him off as a runaway. His body was then found four days later in the Macintyre River where he reportedly drowned. Reggie Bush’s body was found in the river making him the fifth Indigenous death in less than a decade. Many of the Indigenous teens in Thunder Bay go there to get a high school education. This was the case with Kyle Morriseau. His body was found in the river two weeks after his disappearance. Jordan Wabasse went missing and his body was found 92 days later. There were many leads into his death but police never followed them up. 


There are also many other Indigenous deaths in Thunder Bay. The majority of these deaths are claimed to be tragic accidents or non-criminal, leaving Thunder Bay divided. The Indigenous community wants answers and further investigation, while many from the white population are writing the deaths off as tragic accidents or results of drinking. Some have speculated that these deaths may be related to a serial killer. However, as stated in an interview with Maclean’s, Mayor Hobbs says that this notion is ridiculous and that the more likely cause is alcohol use. Nevertheless, these cases deserve a thorough investigation. If 5 white teenagers were found dead in a river the police would not say “they were just drinking alcohol with friends and fell into the river”. This shows the plain racism in Thunder Bay and Canada. 


Thunder Bay has one of the highest hate-crime rates in the country, and the Indigenous population has stories that speak to the issue. An Anishinaabe resident Melissa Kentner had a McDonald’s soft drink thrown at her by a passing truck. A more widely known incident was when Barb Kentner had a trailer hitch thrown at her from a moving truck that ended up killing her and her unborn baby. Another Indigenous man was beaten and thrown into the river by two white men. Thankfully, he was taken to hospital and survived this horrific incident. 


Words have also left their fair share of scars,  with such a wide variety of slurs and insults directed toward the Indigenous people. 17-year-old, Anastasia from a northern Ojibway community, has been yelled at by passing cars three times: somebody screamed “Go Home,” from a passing car “I can’t,” she says. “There’s no high school on my reserve. I have nowhere else to go.” Anastasia is like many other Indigenous kids who have to move away from their northern fly-in communities. Thunder Bay has a 90% white population with 8% being Indigenous, making her one of the few non-white kids at her school. She has yet to make a friend after three years. When the Indigenous teens get to Thunder Bay they are alone in boarding homes, and disconnected from their families. On the other hand, Indigenous teens from northern reversations go there to find a better life away from substance abuse, high suicide rates, and domestic violence within reservations. However, once they get there they are met with a hostile environment and racial division. 


The teen’s deaths in Thunder Bay have been met with indifference and dismissal, a common theme across our country. It goes beyond Thunder Bay; indifference is a nationwide plague. It leaves Thunder Bay cases unsolved and helps create the Highway of Tears in British Columbia. Canadians’ indifference to the Indigenous population and their issues doesn’t help stop them, it only makes them worse. But it is not just on the Indigenous communities’ shoulders to bear, it’s Canada’s issue too. The Canadian government, police, and citizens need to come together and further investigations into these disappearances and deaths, and to help build the resources to prevent these deaths from happening in the first place. This will help stop another Indigenous child from meeting the same fates as Jethro Anderson, Curran Strang, Paul Panacheese, Robyn Harper, Reggie Bushie, Kyle Morriseau, and Jordan Wabasse.