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Stoney Nakoda woman remembered for strength, courage in fight against drug epidemic

At Tomielyn Summer Twoyoungmen’s celebration of life, her family, friends and the community she fought for relentlessly, mourned the loss of a young woman who many felt would one day become a great leader of Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation.

STONEY NAKODA – The Creator has called a great warrior home, but her legacy to improve the lives of future generations in her community lives on.

At Tomielyn Summer Twoyoungmen’s celebration of life, her family, friends and the community she fought for relentlessly, mourned the loss of a young woman who many felt would one day become a great leader of Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation.

A fifth-generation descendant of Ozîja Thiha (Bearspaw) First Nation Chief Jacob Bearspaw, a signatory of Treaty 7, Twoyoungmen, was already considered a trailblazer by many of her peers long before she died Nov. 15, at the age of 26.

She walked the talk with her grassroots non-profit, Wácágâ ôkóná’gîcíyâ’bî (Battle Against Drugs in the Stoney Nakoda Nation) as a loud, assertive advocate for creating a safe, healthy, drug-free future in Mînî Thnî (Morley), Eden Valley and Big Horn for the next generation, including her two young sons.

“Summer … she was strong, she was courageous, she was fierce,” said Auggie Hunter, a friend and ally with Sobercrew Calgary. “She had this passion for trying to save our community. She had this strength all around her – she radiated it.

“It was so clear to see that she believed in what she was standing for and that it was going to help our community. She wasn’t afraid to stand up and speak out.”

After courageously fighting her own battles, Twoyoungmen was one to turn around and extend both hands to help others fight theirs.

She led various walks to raise awareness about the drug epidemic in Îyârhe Nakoda First Nation. In August, she helped lead a 126-kilometre trek with Sobercrew from Mînî Thnî to Calgary and back along the Trans-Canada Highway, in an act to bring home spirits lost to drugs and violence in the city.

Twoyoungmen channelled the grief of losing her mother, Carol Verna Snow-Houle; sister, Sara Charity Labelle; niece, nephew, countless friends, and watching drug-related death and destruction take hold of her community, into fighting back against it.  

Drug use and dealing – particularly methamphetamine and heroin – are described as the biggest issue on the First Nation by local RCMP.

Twoyoungmen was fed up with a lack of action to address the number of deaths in her community, so she looked to what other First Nations were doing to combat drug use. Not long after, a petition to banish drug dealers from Îyârhe Nakoda communities was born.

The petition calls for Stoney Tribal Council to enact a bylaw that would see drug dealers, both non-Nation and Nation members, evicted and banished from Îyârhe Nakoda communities.

So far, it has about 600 signatures, including 409 on and another 150-200 that Twoyoungmen, along with her best friend and vice-president of Wácágâ ôkóná’gîcíyâ’bî, Darvette Lefthand, collected going door-to-door.

The group, backed by a board of directors including Twoyoungmen's aunt, Wanda Rider, has tried to present the petition to chiefs and council, but their efforts have mostly fallen on deaf ears.

Stoney Tribal Council, working with Stoney Health Services and Nakoda Emergency Services, are said to be working on a set of bylaws they believe will address the drug epidemic in the community.

Announced in October 2021, the bylaws would now be over a year in the making and no further details about what they might entail or when they will be enacted have been released.

Twoyoungmen’s father, Tom Twoyoungmen, said it was not until his daughter started speaking out about the drug crisis that chiefs and council began talking about addressing it, although she, nor her non-profit were ever invited to be a part of the discussion.

“Only once Summer started this movement did we start to hear about leadership talking about what they were going to do,” he said. “All those years before, how come nothing was done? It seems to me still nothing is being done.”

Tom said his daughter has undoubtedly left her mark on the community and the conversations she started won’t be going away anytime soon.

“Summer wasn’t afraid to stand up. There’s people that only talk in the corners, but Summer didn’t do that. She was pushing back against the old boys’ club and not many people who come along can do that.”

Although rarely, if ever acknowledged by those she was trying to speak up to, Twoyoungmen did not let any form of silence or disregard intimidate her. She believed in her fight and her persistence has left a legacy inspiring others to carry the torch.

“We’re going to keep stoking the fire,” said Lefthand. “We’re still going to keep advocating and we’re not going to stop pushing chiefs and council.

“We’ll keep going and we won’t stop until we make her goal into a reality. We lost a really big person and I think her death has opened a lot of eyes, but her legacy is still going to continue to impact people every single day.”

Twoyoungmen lived by the phrase, “You can’t keep doing the same things and expect different results.”

Surely, this change-maker has left those words imprinted in the minds of all she knew. 

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. The position covers Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation and Kananaskis Country