Family and friends laid Christine Wood to rest in her home community of Oxford House, Man. Saturday.
It was an enormously difficult day for the community, said Sheila North Wilson, Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak.
“I think this one was a little bit more painful because she was taken so violently, and she was discarded the way she was, and so I think people were heartbroken that anyone would treat her like that,” said North Wilson, a relative and a member of Bunibonibee Cree Nation.
“The people that are close to the family, and the elders, it was very, very difficult to see them crying like that, and lots of hearts broken.”
But they’re relieved to finally know what happened to Wood, and be able to lay her to rest.
The 21-year-old was killed last August in Winnipeg, but her body wasn’t discovered until last month in a farmer’s field just outside the city. She had been visiting with family in Winnipeg.
On June 3, officers were called to the rural municipality of Springfield, 34 kilometres east of Winnipeg, after a farmer checking on his canola crops noticed a partially uncovered hole.
The decomposed remains were found inside the shallow grave located in a ditch off Spruce Road, south of Highway 15.
Nearly 200 people attended the service, including Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, Southern Chiefs’ Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels, Winnipeg’s Missing Person Unit head Det.-Sgt. Shauna Neufeld and police Chief Danny Smyth.
“It was very good for him to be there and be with us all day. It was not an easy day by any means and it was good for him to see that and feel the pain,” said North Wilson.
She said Smyth spoke at the service about how important it was for him to be there and to put a face to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
In a tweet, Smyth said he was honoured to be there.
“Be strong Bunibonibee!”- Chief Danny Smyth pic.twitter.com/KMwzq3ZzAf
Smyth also helped bury Wood.
“When we bury someone, we take turns taking the shovel and putting dirt on her grave,” said North Wilson. “And he took a turn too, so it was very nice to see him getting right involved in our ceremonies saying goodbye to Christine.”
There were some happy moments as people shared stories about Wood’s life, she said.
Wood was “such a loved girl,” North Wilson said, and it’s a relief that she’s now resting near family and friends, that her family can now have closure.
George and Melinda Wood were “so strong” as they held their other children and grandchildren tight, she said.
“But when they said their final goodbyes it was very, very emotional. Because you could see it was very hard on them, and all they could do was hug the coffin … they couldn’t open it to say their final respects,” she said.
“And that’s one of the biggest things in our community for a funeral, we have to see the person in the coffin, there’s just something about it, the finality of it,” North Wilson said. “But here, we couldn’t open the casket and say our goodbyes. So it was heartbreaking to see both George and Melinda give a last hug on top of the coffin. It was very heartbreaking.”