Indigenous

Manitoba healing centre to help families of missing, murdered Indigenous women

Families from the Sagkeeng First Nation, which has the highest number of unsolved cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, will be among those benefiting from a new healing facility in Manitoba that melds traditional and Western healing.

Giigewigamig Traditional Healing Centre is 'for healing, for everybody,' says chief

A recent ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Monday for the Giigewigamig Traditional Healing Centre in Pine Falls, Man., near the Sagkeeng First Nation. (Submitted by Turtle Lodge)

Families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls will be among those benefiting from a new facility in Manitoba that melds First Nations and Western healing.

The facility, which opened this week, will especially help those from the Sagkeeng First Nation, which has the highest number of unsolved cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada, based on a CBC News analysis.

A recent ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Monday for the Giigewigamig Traditional Healing Centre, which is located in the hospital in Pine Falls, Man., near the First Nation.

Giigewigamig means a "place of healing" in the Anishinaabe language.

"The healing centre is to heal. It's for healing, for everybody," said Sagkeeng Chief Derrick Henderson.

Patsy Fontaine, 60, of Sagkeeng will be one of the family members to utilize the centre, which will allow people who are using the hospital to access traditional healing services and medicines.

Fontaine said during the late 1980s, she​ lost her cousin, Barbara Two Heart, whom she called her sister. Two Heart was in her late teens and in her first trimester of pregnancy when she was killed by her husband.

She also lost her younger sister, Moira Louise Erb, whose body was found in September 2003 northwest of the city.

Memorial in the works

Community members in Sagkeeng have been working on building a monument to honour and acknowledge the many missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls from its community.

The healing centre aims to reflect the identity and healing traditions of Indigenous people from Sagkeeng First Nation, Black River First Nation, Hollow Water First Nation and Bloodvein First Nation. (Sagkeeng First Nation Chief Derrick Henderson/Submitted )
Lillian M. Cook, 52, of Sagkeeng, has been helping family members, and she wrote the proposal for the monument on behalf of the community.

They are proposing a memorial park with a water fountain to honour missing and murdered women and girls, as well as boys and men.

The bronze statue would be of an Indigenous traditional female dancer in regalia in her early 20s, symbolizing those who have gone missing or been slain.

A sculptor has already been selected to design the monument.

"We're still meeting with the families to finalize a few things. Once we finalize that, we'll make a big announcement," Henderson said.

The most recent tragedy to strike Sagkeeng is the death of Serena McKay, a high school student.

Two teenage girls have been arrested in connection with her death.

The body of Serena McKay, 19, was found in the Sagkeeng First Nation in April. Two teenage girls have been arrested in connection with her death. (Family photo)

National inquiry invited to community

The community has also invited commissioners from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls to visit Sagkeeng.

"We can hold one of the hearings there," Henderson said. "There are people that have been affected by this, probably one of the larger [communities]."

CBC News asked the inquiry commission to confirm if a future hearing will be held in Sagkeeng.

Sue Montgomery, a senior communications adviser with the commission, told CBC News there are no dates or locations set after its first hearing — scheduled for May 30 in Whitehorse — and that expert testimony will be taken over the summer, with hearings to resume in the fall.