Hundreds meet, march for Serena McKay at Winnipeg vigil

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Hundreds meet, march for Serena McKay at Winnipeg vigil

As the sun went down on Saturday evening, more than 200 Winnipeggers stood and sat together at Oodena Circle at The Forks in honour of Serena McKay.

McKay was 19 years old when she was killed last weekend on Sagkeeng First Nation, 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. She'd recently moved to the community and was set to graduate high school in June.

Two girls from McKay's school, aged 16 and 17, have since been charged with second-degree murder in connection with her death.

On Saturday, supporters met for a vigil in her honour, marching from Thunderbird House on Main Street to The Forks for singing, drumming, speeches and food.

The Winnipeg vigil followed an earlier ceremony held in Sagkeeng First Nation. On Thursday, members of the community of roughly 4,000 people met for a singing and drumming circle at the area's powwow grounds.

'The violence needs to stop'

Rikki Olson, one of the people who helped organize Saturday's vigil in Winnipeg, said the ceremony was an important way to show support and solidarity with McKay's family. One of Olson's cousins is related to McKay and felt her death deeply, she said.

"I joined in because I felt the need to help my cousin out," said Olson. "They were grieving and they needed to know that out here in Winnipeg, there's all support here."

The vigil began with drumming and singing at Thunderbird House. One of McKay's family members came forward to speak to the group, thanking everyone for the support and requesting privacy for the family.

From there, the vigil made its way to Oodena Circle down Waterfront Drive, escorted by the Bear Clan Patrol and led by drummers with hand drums.

Gina Settee, another organizer, said vigils play a powerful role in healing for the family and community. Her son was killed earlier this year.

"For me, I'm here because it's a huge piece of healing for the family, and whatever support we can give, that's where I'm at with that," she said.

"It's important for us to come together as a community so we can heal, or try to heal, together and support one another. It's a huge piece, because our peoples are very affected by murder and violent crimes."

A 2015 CBC analysis found that Sagkeeng First Nation was home to the highest number of outstanding cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Settee said community support has meant a lot to her family following her son's death, and hopes it helps McKay's family cope with their own tragedy.

"I'm hoping that the family can find some peace within themselves … [and] as a family they become tighter. I know with my family, everything the community did for my family and still does, it brings us closer," she said.

"It makes it easier — a little bit easier, not easier, just a little bit easier, to move forward just a little bit, you know, because everyday is different. It's important for healing for the family, and we're here to help them do that if we can."

But Settee said she hopes it doesn't take another death to keep the community together.

"We'd like the violence to stop," she said. "The violence needs to stop."