Amber Alyssa Tuccaro, a young woman from the northern Alberta community of Fort Chipewyan, would have turned 25 years old on Jan. 3.
Instead, her family held a memorial round dance this past Saturday in honour of the daughter and mother who was murdered in Nisku, just outside of Leduc, Alta. five years ago.
The event was held in the gym of the Athabasca Delta Community School, where around 200 attendees celebrated her life, smiling as they danced, ate and shared memories of Amber and her family.
“Amber was stolen away from us and I guess we just want to keep her memory alive and celebrate her life while she was here,” said Amber’s mother, Vivian Tuccaro.
This event marks the second of four annual memorial round dances to be held for Amber, a Cree tradition for those whose lives have been taken through unusual circumstances, Vivian said.
At the round dance, members of Amber’s family and her closest friends sported soft blue sweaters decorated with blue roses – her favourite flower.
Amid the celebration of life, somber elements reminded attendees of the event’s necessity. Collages filled with Amber’s photos were plastered around the room next to replicas of a billboard asking for the public’s help in solving her murder.
Documents showing the faces of other women whose cases remain unsolved served as a reminder of the widespread nature of the problem of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in the country. Posters advocating for women’s safety sat splayed out on a table at the event’s entrance next to a petition for a national inquiry.
Family checks justice system
Amber went missing in the summer of 2010 and, with Vivian’s insistence to keep her daughter’s name on the missing person’s list, her remains were found in 2012. Now presumed a homicide, the case is still unsolved.
Vivian filed a complaint against members of the Leduc RCMP in March 2014 for what she called their inadequate investigation into her daughter’s disappearance and subsequent death. In the complaint, she alleged several instances of misconduct by officers, including minimizing the significance of Amber’s missing persons case, destroying evidence and withholding information from the family.
The investigation was completed late last year, Vivian said. The information has been submitted for processing and, once again, she is left waiting for the police to return with an outcome.
In the meantime, her spirits have been lifted thanks to the support she has received from her friends and family, Vivian said.
“Fort Chip is amazing, the volunteering and everything is just great,” she said. “I post on Facebook looking for volunteers just to either to cook for the memorial or set up or anything and I just get responses back so fast. It’s just amazing.”
Residents of Fort Chipewyan have taken it upon themselves to do more than just help with individual events. The local Mikisew Cree First Nation led by chief Steve Courtoreille – who attended the memorial – announced the launch of its own missing persons database this past September. So far, nine names from the local community have been listed as missing or murdered.