Hundreds of people from Sagkeeng First Nation came together Thursday night in honour of a 19-year-old woman from the community who was killed over the weekend.
Serena McKay was found dead on Sunday in the community of roughly 4,000 people, 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.
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On Thursday, family, friends and supporters met at Sagkeeng's powwow grounds to honour her memory and begin community healing.
"I didn't really know her. It's just really devastating, because I have a sister. When I heard about that, it kind of touched me," said Elvis Atkinson, 20.
"The community needs to open up their eyes on the younger generation … how these young generation drink, drugs in the community."
McKay had recently moved to Sagkeeng and was set to graduate high school in June. Two girls from her school, aged 16 and 17, have been charged with second-degree murder in connection with her death.
Sagkeeng Anicinabe High School principal Claude Guimond said the environment at the vigil was moving and emotional. Indigenous leaders including Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak and Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Kevin Hart were in attendance, he added.
"There's nothing so devastating as losing a young life like that, so senselessly taken, before she even started to live, really, you know? Never got that chance," he said. "That's one of the most devastating things to endure."
Guimond said ceremony and tradition play a powerful role in community healing.
"Of course, the drumming, you know, that's the heartbeat of our nation," he said. "That's the heartbeat of Anishinaabe people, is the drum, and it's so strong."