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APTN News: Latest on Dawn Walker
Charges laid against Native woman reported as missing in Canada
Monday, August 8, 2022

Authorities in the United States and Canada have laid charges against Dawn Walker, a Native woman who had been reported as missing, accusing her of faking her disappearance and that of her child.

Walker, 48, the executive operating officer of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indigenous Nations, was reported missing after loved ones were unable to reach her and after failing to show up for a work-related event. She was last seen on July 22 in Saskatoon, headquarters of her employer, with her seven-year-old son.

The unexplained disappearance drew widespread attention due to the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. Over the last two weeks, First Nations leaders and advocates repeatedly pressed authorities in the province of Saskatchewan to locate the mother and son, especially since Walker had alleged domestic violence in the relationship with her child’s father.

Working together, authorities from multiple jurisdictions in two countries have since located Walker and her son safe and sound, in the U.S. state of Oregon. Finding the pair was the result of a “wide-reaching, multi-faceted investigation,” Randy Huisman, a deputy chief of the Saskatoon Police Service, said during a news conference on Monday that was broadcast by APTN, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

United States of America v. Dawn Walker: Complaint and Affidavit

The investigation turned up evidence of illegal entry into the U.S., identity theft and even an attempt to convince the public that Walker and her son had been killed, according to documents filed in federal court in Oregon.

“As part of an elaborate and well thought out plan, the defendant, a Canadian citizen, kidnapped her child and, after faking her death and that of her son, fled to the United States,” U.S. prosecutors wrote on Monday in a motion to keep Walker detained in federal custody.

According to U.S. authorities, Walker appropriated the identity of another Native person as part of her scheme. The adult victim’s Canadian passport and identification, including a Certificate of Indian Status card from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, were used by Walker to cross the border from Canada into the U.S., an affidavit from an agent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security states.

Walker, who ran for public office last year. also appropriated the identity of the adult victim’s minor child, using the minor victim’s papers to bring her son into the U.S., according to the affidavit.

According to authorities, Walker and the adult victim were “close friends” who have worked together. The U.S. court documents do not indicate whether the adult victim was also employed by FSIN.

But the adult victim told authorities in Canada that her Indian Status card, as well as her Saskatchewan driver’s license, had been stolen months ago in April — an indication of the efforts Walker put into planning her activities and, eventually, concealing the whereabouts of herself and her son.

“This was not a spur of the moment event. As outlined in the criminal complaint, the defendant put time and a lot of effort into planning her crime,” the motion filed in U.S. court states.

The adult victim was unaware that her name and identification had been used to receive money from a bank account that was solely controlled by Walker. According to the affidavit, Walker wrote and cashed checks totaling $77,000 in the name of the adult victim from an account of a business known as “Wapan Consulting.”

Wapan means “dawn” or “early morning” in the Cree language. Dawn Walker and her family are from the Okanese First Nation, where Cree is one of the languages spoken on the reserve in Saskatchewan.

The Saskatoon Police Service first announced on Friday afternoon that Walker and her son had been safely located in Oregon City, Oregon. Her family and First Nations leaders welcomed the development.

“Our prayers have been answered,” Theresa Walker, Dawn’s mother, said in a news release from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indigenous Nations on Friday afternoon. “The past 15 days have been extremely difficult on our family and community.”

Leaders from FSIN, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, indicated they weren’t surprised to learn Walker had gone through seemingly extreme lengths to remove herself and her son from the province.

“It is heart-breaking that Dawn may have felt she had no other choice but to take the drastic action that she did,” FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said in the statement. “Let us not forget that Dawn is a champion of First Nations women’s rights and causes. She spear-headed many MMIWG campaigns and gatherings.”

“If there’s anything we have learned over the past two weeks is the urgency of these MMIWG issues and our role in protecting our most vulnerable members in need,” said Cameron.

The Saskatoon police on Monday subsequently announced that Walker has been charged in connection with allegedly kidnapping her son and staging the disappearance. With the investigation still ongoing, additional charges are being considered, Deputy Chief Huisman said.

“We followed the evidence trail and from the moment she was reported missing, we started with a missing person search and then evidence led us to where we are today,” said Huisman.

“I mean, evidence speaks for itself,” Huisman said at the news conference on Monday.

Huisman said Walker’s son was reunified with a legal guardian on Friday, on the same day Walker was located at an Airbnb unit in Oregon. The child returned to Canada on Sunday, he said, with U.S. court documents indicating he was reunited with his biological father. The minor belongs to the Okanese First Nation.

Dawn Walker
Dawn Walker is seen in a photo from social media during her campaign for public office in Saskatchewan in 2021. Courtesy photo

Later on Monday, United States Magistrate Judge Youlee Yim You of the United States District Court for the District of Oregon granted the U.S. government’s motion to keep Walker detained pending trial. The order cited Walker’s status as a non-U.S. citizen, as well has her alleged use of “multiple or false identities,” as grounds for keeping her in custody. Following her arrest on Friday, she was transferred to the Multnomah County Detention Center in Portland, about 30 miles north of Oregon City.

In the U.S., Walker is charged with aggravated identity theft, a felony, and possession of false identification documents, according to the criminal complaint. The latter charge is a misdemeanor.

At the time of her disappearance, Walker was due to take part in the delegation that welcomed Pope Francis to Maskwacis, one of the Cree communities in Alberta, a province neighboring to Saskatchewan. By the time of his apology for the Catholic Church’s role in abuse and mistreatment of children at Native residential schools in Canada, she was already in Oregon, according to the U.S. documents. She crossed the border at a checkpoint in Montana, Huisman of the Saskatoon police said.

United States of America v. Dawn Walker: Detention Motion and Detention Order