SAGKEENG FIRST NATION, Man. — The killing of a 19-year-old high school student and a graphic video believed to be linked to the death has shocked a small Manitoba First Nation that has seen more than its share of tragedy.
RCMP said Wednesday they were reviewing the video circulating on social media to determine whether it was indeed connected to the death on the Sagkeeng reserve, 120 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.
They also said they had arrested two girls, 16 and 17 years old, on charges of second-degree murder.
RCMP would not identify the victim, but community members said she was Serena McKay. The two accused cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
All three were students at the Sagkeeng Anicinabe High School, said principal Claude Guimond.
"We're not a very big school. We only have about 220 students here ... and all three of the students in the video, I know them personally and it was hard to take," Guimond said.
"Tuesday we had a healing ceremony for our students and staff ... and one of the recurring things that came out was how social media — Facebook, you know — made things even worse by people reposting the video."
The video shows a young woman lying bloodied on the ground and barely conscious as she is repeatedly kicked and punched in the head. It appears to have been taken on a cellphone. Female and male voices can be heard.
McKay is the woman being attacked in the video, Guimond said.
RCMP would only say the victim's body was found Sunday night, near a home in Sagkeeng, about two hours after she was reported missing to the detachment in the neighbouring town of Powerview.
Counsellors were brought in this week to help students and staff at the school deal with the death. A vigil was planned for the community on Thursday evening.
Sagkeeng, a community of some 3,000 residents, was also the home of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, whose body was pulled from the Red River in Winnipeg in 2014. She had left Sagkeeng just two months earlier. Her father, Eugene Fontaine, was beaten to death on the reserve three years earlier.
The small community has seen several other cases of missing and murdered indigenous women, including 17-year-old Fonessa Bruyere, who was killed in Winnipeg in 2007.
Guimond said gang activity and drug use have encroached on the community from the city.
"Over the last 10 years, what I've noticed is that more and more of the gang influence is filtering on to the reserve from Winnipeg," Guimond said.
"With gang activity comes drug trafficking and stuff like that, and that's what's killing our youth here."
Sagkeeng Chief Derrick Henderson said everyone is trying to come to terms with the latest death.
"It's been tragic and it's pretty sombre right now."
— By Steve Lambert in Winnipeg
The Canadian Press