Sophie Wassayeessic

On March 9, 1976, Sophie Wassayeessic was killed in a small mining town near Thunder Bay. Her death was uninvestigated despite wide suspicion of foul play. For several years her son, Gary Wassaykeesic, petitioned hard for answers. In July, 2011 the Ontario Provincial Police identified a suspect.

Last Saturday I spent the whole day inside a lecture hall at the University of Toronto. Certainly it was worth being there. I learned big and was grateful for the opportunity. But squeezing into an ergonomically-not-so-friendly chair wasn’t my favourite choice of occupation on that particular day, no, because that particular day was brilliant with autumn sun and I wanted to kick up leaves and listen to children squeal.

Heather and I were at the University learning about the new art of self-publishing. “This is what we are now,” she turned and whispered to me, as we settled ourselves into place along with the fifteen or so other Saturday students. “We’re POD people now.”

Our first lesson that day: POD means “Print on Demand,” and that’s what we must be because traditional publishing is flushing away in an instant.

I don’t want to write about the workshop right now though or the brave new world of publishing. I want to return to the subject of a day caught by the indoors. Heavy with hard thinking we’d lumber back and forth to the coffee machine in the Northrop Frye building. Sometimes we rested our eyes with the play of light & shadow creasing across the shoulders of our teacher Paul as he rolled on the balls of his feet telling us about the out-with-the-old phenomena regarding the printed word.

We left the building at 5 pm. The sun was heavily lidded and fast slipping shut so we hurried across Queen’s Park keen to rustle up the earth floor. We angled toward the subway and our livingroom sofa. Wine was chilling.

Suddenly–it wasn’t  a maple leaf but a scrap of newsprint that brushed up against my thigh. I reached down, picked up the fly-away page, and read this headline:

“Mishkeegogamang woman’s death to be re-examined.”

And that’s how Sophie Wassaykeesic introduced herself to me on the cusp of a late Saturday breeze nearly forty years after her death. Google this woman, the modern way, and you’ll come up empty.


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About Nor

I'm a creative non-fiction writer, with a special interest in memoirs and obituaries--life stories, local histories with flesh & blood anecdotal details. I'm also beginning to create podcasts of people's stories and expanding their audiences. I'm a diarist, an editor, and a political activist. I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and spend days tapping keys or staining my fingers in ink.
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