'Bring her home': Family holds vigil in honour of Tanya Jane Nepinak

Colourful ribbon skirts and powerful prayers surrounded family and community members who gathered in Winnipeg on Saturday for a vigil in memory of Tanya Jane Nepinak, who disappeared eight years ago.

Second-degree murder charges stayed in death of mother last seen in 2011

Sue Caribou, centre, stands with a group of women in traditional ribbon skirts playing music in memory of her niece, Tanya Jane Nepinak, who disappeared eight years ago. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Family of Tanya Jane Nepinak gathered with community members and supportive passersby on Saturday outside Oodena Celebration Circle in Winnipeg for a vigil in memory of their loved one.

Dozens attended a solemn ceremony for the lost mother held on traditional Treaty 1 territory at the Forks in front of the country's first monument made in honour of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

"Today's very hard. It only gets harder every year," said Sue Caribou, Nepinak's aunt, who has helped organize the annual memorial service.

"My family thinks that everybody is going to forget about my niece."

Sue Caribou hopes everyone becomes aware of lost loved ones like Tanya Jane Nepinak. Her body was never found. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

On Sept. 13, 2011, Nepinak was last seen leaving her Sherbrook Street home in Winnipeg. Nine months after she never returned, Shawn Lamb faced second-degree murder charges in connection with her death and disappearance. Those charges were stayed, although Lamb was convicted of manslaughter in the deaths of Carolyn Sinclair and Lorna Blacksmith.

"It's really hard on my sister and my family," Caribou said. Tears filled her eyes as she spoke about the 31-year-old taken away from her two children — a son and a daughter, now teenagers who are continuing to grow up without their mom.

"I hope one day somebody comes forward and gives my family some answers," Caribou said.

Dozens gathered in front of a stone monument created in honour of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls on Saturday for an annual vigil for Tanya Jane Nepinak. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

"When I prepare this memorial or vigil every year, I talk to my niece while I'm making my bannock and my soup. And I tell my niece I love her and I hope one day she comes home, wherever she is," Caribou said.

She fears the cold case has been abandoned.

"You know that saying, 'Gone but not forgotten?' But I think my niece has been forgotten."

The black hand-print has become symbol known for representing the hundreds of known missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Winnipeg police have said they believed she is dead and that her body was dumped in a garbage bin and left at the city's Brady Road landfill. Caribou accused investigators of cutting the search for her body short.

"If anybody has any news, anything, come forward and tell my family. Let us know," Caribou said.

"Bring her home."

With files from Walther Bernal