Family and friends of Virginia Sue Pictou are gathering in Caribou, Maine on April 21 to perform a special ceremony in her honour.
“We’re having what they call a “letting go” ceremony,” Agnes Gould, the older sister of Virginia, said. “This ceremony hasn’t been performed too many times. It’s only usually performed for the missing and murdered.”
Gould drove with friends from her home community of Membertou First Nation, N.S. to Caribou this week to help organize events surrounding Saturday’s ceremony.
The weekend gathering is being held three days before April 24, which marks 25 years since Virginia Pictou, 26, disappeared from the Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine.
A Maine State police officer took Virginia, originally from Membertou, N.S., to the hospital in the early hours of April 24, 1993, after she suffered a severe beating by her husband, Larry Noyes, while they were at a bar in Bangor. Noyes was arrested for domestic assault but was later released after posting bail.
Gould says Virginia was last seen walking out of the hospital before receiving treatment.
According to the Maine State Police website, police believe Virginia caught a ride from Bangor to a truck stop in Houlton, Maine. Police say witnesses saw her using a telephone and then walking through the truck stop’s parking lot. Virginia was living in nearby Easton at the time of her disappearance.
Last fall, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls held community hearings in Membertou First Nation, N.S. Gould, her father and siblings told inquiry commissioner Michèle Audette about Virginia’s life, her disappearance and their efforts in trying to locate her.
During the community hearing, Robert Pictou, Sr., Virginia’s father, said he believed his daughter has “been called to the spirit world.” Virginia’s family believe her husband and brother-in-law are responsible for her disappearance and death.
Gould says her family’s testimony before the national inquiry prompted the Maine State Police to reopen Virginia’s disappearance.
“It’s a real positive thing that this inquiry did in Membertou,” Gould said.
“She was the best fried chicken cooker I ever met” – Agnes Gould
Approximately 50 people are travelling as far as British Columbia and Florida to attend the special ceremony for Virginia over the weekend, Gould explained. Among those people in attendance will be Virginia’s five surviving children.
The “Letting Go” ceremony will take place at Spruce Haven grounds in Caribou on Saturday afternoon.
Gould said the family hasn’t given up on finding Virginia even though they believe she is dead.
“I haven’t gone across that bridge of actually finding her. I’ve been keeping my sorrow or grief or process of grief in check all these years,” Gould said. “My main focus is trying to find her.”
“Maybe we’ll find out what happened that last day of (her) being alive,” she said.
Meanwhile, Gould wants people who attend the weekend gathering to know that Virginia is more than a statistic on the list of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.
“She was a living, breathing woman who is the daughter of Susan and Bobby Pictou. She is the mother of five surviving children. She was an auntie to several children,” Gould explained.
“She was the best fried chicken cooker I ever met.”