Outside Regina, past where the gravel road gives way to a dirt road and the prairie flatland rolls into hills, an aboriginal community wonders: Is the hand-drawn map real?
On Sunday, an anonymous user going by the name MySecretIsOut posted a map online purporting to lead to the location of Tamra Keepness, a native girl who went missing from Regina more than a decade ago. The sketch explicitly says to "check the wells."
Police have since ventured to the rugged Saulteaux territory twice, including Tuesday. And while they have not confirmed the map's credibility, they also have not determined it to be a hoax. In fact, they are considering a targeted search of some of the 30 or so wells on the reserve and are working to pin down the radius of the effort and the resources, equipment and expertise that will be devoted to it.
"They're having a look at the area with the idea of formulating a plan of action," Regina Police Service spokeswoman Elizabeth Popowich said.
This is the latest development in a high-profile case that still haunts Tamra's relatives here on Muscowpetung reserve, less than an hour's drive northeast of Regina and the site of a search shortly after the little girl disappeared in 2004.
Two of her cousins, not much older than Tamra would be now, are curious where she is and find the map bizarre. "I never met her, but just knowing my cousin is out there somewhere is strange," Koby Keepness said, calling the emergence of the map "kind of shocking."
Joyce Keepness, another relative and a band councillor, declined to comment, explaining the family is "going through a lot right now."
The map, although crudely drawn, appears to jibe with the geography and layout of that portion of the community. The scribbled roads seem to line up with the real ones, the school that borders the map to the east held classes on Tuesday and even the houses plotted as landmarks exist (although the names of the inhabitants it gives are said to be inaccurate).
On Tuesday, two RCMP officers and one RPS investigator looked around what they believe to be the area and consulted with the band leaders about the number and locations of wells on the reserve.
The map, which is not drawn to scale, points to three "old wells" situated in line with one another. Police found only one in the vicinity and have determined the next-nearest well to be about 2.5 kilometres away.
The "old wells" appear to be between what people here call School Hill and Gambler's Hill, an area that is dense with trees and prickly vegetation. Tamra's great aunt, who asked not to be named and whose home is at the foot of Gambler's Hill, said she saw some police activity up that way this week.
"I hope they find her, to bring closure to our family," she said.
Ms. Popowich said she does not believe police have interviewed MySecretIsOut about the map, which was posted to the popular website Reddit over the weekend. The user claimed to have nothing to do with the case and said the map is based on information indirectly obtained through someone in an Alberta prison.
Ms. Popowich said she is not sure at this point whether police already searched the area outlined in the sketch. She also emphasized it remains unclear whether the map holds credible information about Tamra's whereabouts, but said police – who have already investigated more than 1,600 tips over the years – must do their diligence.