ICT

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Canada — As the sun sets over the Brady Landfill, a young Indigenous man stands alone just outside the fence.

Trey Delaronde, known as White Wolf, is the only person holding down the post at what is now called Camp Morgan.

The weather is warm that Monday, Feb. 6, compared to the extreme cold of the previous week, when a polar vortex brought a minus-40 Celsius wind chill to the Indigenous demonstrators gathered there.

“This is what it means to bring justice to our people,” Delaronde told ICT. “We got really cold … We have to use two heaters and the woodstove, but it's reality.”

Delaronde, Sagkeeng First Nation, is among protestors calling attention to Indigenous demands that the Brady Landfill and another landfill be searched for the bodies of Morgan Beatrice Harris, 39, of Long Plain First Nation, and two other Indigenous women believed to be the victims of a serial killer targeting Indigenous women in the Manitoba area.

The remains of one woman, Rebecca Contois, 24, O Chi Chak Ko Sipi First Nation, were first discovered at the Brady Landfill in May 2022, but officials have not launched a full-on search of the site for the other victims.

Officials are now saying they will conduct a “feasibility study” before deciding whether to search a separate landfill in the area.

Morgan Harris’ daughter, Cambria Harris, told ICT that she and her sister, Kera, marched with their mother in 2014 through downtown Winnipeg to decry the murder of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, a child in the Canadian child care system whose body was wrapped up, weighed down and dumped in the Red River.

It was yet another moment when Indigenous peoples stood up against the ongoing genocide of Indigenous women in Canada.

“It's heartbreaking,” Cambria Harris said. “And it just it makes me so angry for myself, for the younger generations, who are going to have to put up this fight as well. And for any Indigenous woman … Growing up as a young Indigenous girl, I grew up in fear.”

Cambria said she was 14 when Fontaine was pulled from the Red River.

“That haunted me and made me realize that I could very easily be the next victim as well as anyone else,” she said. “And that's what's scary, how it's still continuing to happen 10 years later.”

Trey Delaronde, Sagkeeng First Nation, shown here in February 2023, is among protesters calling attention to Indigenous demands that the Brady Landfill and another landfill around Winnipeg, Canada, be searched for the bodies of women believed to be the victims of a serial killer targeting Indigenous women in the Manitoba area. (Photo by Miles Morrisseau / ICT)

‘Grief and pain’

The discovery of Contois’ remains in the landfill led to the arrest of Jeremy Skibicki, then 35, of Winnipeg. He has been charged in the deaths of Contois and three other women who are believed to have been killed over a six-week period from mid-March to early May. All three had been living in Winnipeg, police said.

Morgan Harris, 39, is believed to have been killed around May 1. Marcedes Myran, 26, also Long Plain First Nation, is believed to have been killed about May 4. And a fourth woman, who is still not formally identified but is known as Buffalo Woman, is believed to have been killed about March 15. She, too, is believed to be Indigenous.

Police announced the charges Dec. 1, saying there could be other victims.

Camp Morgan was established on Dec. 18 in order to stop dumping at the Brady Landfill until it could be searched for other remains. On Jan. 6, the landfill was reopened, but Camp Morgan remained as a continuous reminder of the numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.

Then, on Feb. 8, the federal government of Canada announced approval of $500,000 in Canadian dollars for a feasibility study on whether to search the Prairie Green Landfill, which is also in the Winnipeg area.

Grand Chief Cathy Merrick of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, praised Canadian officials for the public and financial support.

“This funding will provide much-needed resources to conduct a proper feasibility study for Prairie Green Landfill,” Merrick said. “We anticipate that the work ahead will be emotionally and spiritually demanding for all involved, and as we continue to move forward at an expedient pace, we remind all those affected by this tragedy to ensure they are accessing the supports available.”

Mark Miller, the Canadian minister for Crown-Indigenous relations, thanked the assembly and family members for their assistance.

“I have heard first-hand the grief and pain of many families who have lost loved ones,” Miller said. “This crisis has been ongoing for too long and affects too many families and communities. Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQI+ people deserve to feel safe and be safe, wherever they are … Through concrete actions and measures of accountability, we will put an end to this crisis.”

Cambria Harris, however, wants more than words.

“In regards to Mark Miller’s statements saying that he's going to be doing everything you can to look into this ongoing crisis and try to end it, I would like to know what those immediate next steps are going to be to ensure that this does not happen again,” Harris told ICT, “and our women are not dumped like trash repeatedly, because they still are continuing to be every day.

“We see missing persons posters over and over and over again, and nothing changes ever, besides the rising numbers of our missing and murdered Indigenous women,” she said.

Rising up

Dump trucks and personal vehicles continue to rumble onto the site and dump at the Brady Road landfill, but the Winnipeg police chief is still refusing to conduct a search.

Camp Morgan appears to be well-stocked, with wood piled up on a couple of pallets inside of a main tent and wands of sage hanging from the aluminum rafter. There is a small wood stove piped to the outside, but on Feb. 6 it had not been lit. A propane-fueled heater buzzes orange.

“I've been here for, say, 50 days now,” Delaronde said. “But before that, Dec.11, we were here doing blockades. We were blocking commercial traffic, garbage traffic, from coming in. We took over the main roads that were here leading in … and nobody was getting through. We told them to turn it around.”

He said the protestors are not going away.

“This was in support because our women were laying up in the landfill there,” he said. “Our clan system was shattered by this colonial system. We are just rising up against this colonial system as our women speak. Our nation is not defeated until the hearts of our women are laid on the ground.”

But the struggles continue. When a reporter texted Delaronde on Feb. 8, when the announcement of the feasibility study was announced, to ask if he wanted something from McDonald’s, he responded quickly, “Just a Big Mac,” before adding, moments letter, “with fries thanks.”

Dozens and dozens of red dresses were wavering and fluttering in the stinging wind. The weather was changing and a cold wind blew across the prairie, bringing another drop in temperatures.

Near the end of the fence line about 100 yards past the main gate, warrior flags and an oversized, upside-down Canadian flag at Camp Morgan whipped audibly.

When the meal was offered, Delaronde asked for a moment to eat before answering any questions.

“I haven’t had any breakfast yet,” he said.

It was just after 12 noon when White Wolf ate his meal alone.

Lead image: Indigenous protesters have remained at the Brady Landfill in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, for more than a month, posting signs such as these in early February 2023. They are calling for police to search the landfill for the remains of women believed to be the victims of a serial killer who targeted Indigenous women. (Photo by Miles Morrisseau / ICT)

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Serial killer targeted Indigenous women in Winnipeg

Miles Morrisseau, a citizen of the Métis Nation, is a special correspondent for Indian Country Today based in the historic Métis Community of Grand Rapids, Manitoba, Canada. He reported as a national...