Family and chief call for more community resources after death of woman from O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation

The family and chief of O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation mourned the loss of Noreen Tait, and hope to see community improvements to mental health services to prevent further loss of life.

The family of Noreen Tait issued a statement on her passing, which happened on Feb. 21

A group of 10 people gather around a table, with one elder speaking into a microphone for a Zoom call
O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation chief Shirley Ducharme and the family of Noreen Tait pleaded for support from all levels of government to address a growing violence issue in the northern Manitoba community. (Ethan Butterfield/CBC)

The family of a First Nations woman who died last week following an assault is calling for help to deal with violence they say is soaring in the remote northern community

Noreen Tait, 47, was assaulted in the northern Manitoba community of O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation (also called South Indian Lake) on Feb. 19, and died in hospital two days later.

"Noreen was a beautiful Indigenous woman who was cruelly and violently taken from her children, mother, grandchildren, family, and friends and community," said Arla Tait-Linklater, Noreen's older sister, at a news conference on Monday.

"Noreen had the right to safety and security within her community of O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation. The homicide of a family member is very traumatic. There are so many mixed feelings. Shock. Anger. Depression."

Tait-Linklater says all levels of government have to improve services on the ground in isolated communities to prevent more deaths.

A woman laughs.
RCMP are investigating the death of 47-year-old Noreen Tait as a homicide. Her family say she was a happy woman and a great singer. (Submitted by Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak)

"OPCN does not have the critical resources needed to create pathways for the safety and security of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit individuals," she said. 

"It is imperative that adequate resources are available directly on the ground in the community through long-term and sustainable funding."

CBC requested comment from both provincial and federal governments, but a response wasn't immediately received.

O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation Chief Shirley Ducharme says drugs and alcohol are causing problems of violence within the community.

"We see that drugs and alcohol are being used to relieve pain ... but it is only a temporary relief," she said at the Monday news conference.

A woman in a purple shirt reads a statement on white paper into the microphone
Arla Tait-Linklater is calling for better resources to address addictions and mental health concerns on behalf of the family. She says her sister deserved to be safe in her home. (Ethan Butterfield/CBC)

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak vice chief David Monias agrees, and says the programs that do exist don't meet the growing need.

"We have mental health therapists that come in once every two weeks or something like that," he said at the news conference. "And that's just not enough."

Tait-Linklater and her family want to see these resources and services improve in the community to prevent further deaths or injuries from occurring.

"There have been an increase in critical incidents of violence resulting in homicides and an alarming increase of domestic violence incidents in OPCN," she said.

A happy, smiling singer who loved her community

The family is remembering Noreen Tait as much more than a statistic, and hopes those who attended four candelight vigils in Winnipeg, Thompson, O-Pipon-Na-Piwin and Leaf Rapids remember who she was as a person.

"When you think of Noreen, remember her smiling face and happiness and her love for her family and community," said Tait-Linklater. 

"Noreen loved music and was always singing, she had a beautiful voice. She enjoyed spending quality time with family and friends."

A woman in a light purple sweater talks to those in attendance at a media conference
O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation chief Shirley Ducharme says she's frustrated by the lack of available services in her community. (Ethan Butterfield/CBC)

Ducharme says Noreen's death has rocked O-Pipon-Na-Piwin.

"Our whole community, our First Nation, is in mourning with this tragic loss of our loved one," she said.

"It affects everyone," she said. "We have a small community and it impacts everyone because it triggers [the] drama that's been experienced."

Before healing can take place for the family, Durchame said there must first be justice.

"It's very painful to see and hear the mixed emotions," she said. 

"They need justice for their loved ones. This prolonging justice causes more pain."


Ethan Butterfield is a former CBC reporter based in Thompson, Man. Following previous reporting positions in Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories, Ethan worked with CBC to cover Manitoba’s northern sector and engage with its various communities. Ethan has also been a part of various documentaries that have found success on the festival circuit. He can be reached at