The stench on the hill where Tanya Nepinak is thought to be buried was faint Tuesday afternoon.
When the wind blows the wrong way in the Brady Road Landfill, the reek from animal carcasses dumped in a nearby pit can sting your eyes. When it's hot, the smell lingers, thick and choking.
It was sultry the night the slain woman's relatives gathered last week to sing an honour song, offer tobacco and hope she would be brought back up from the layers of foulness. Those gathered prayed police Chief Keith McCaskill would agree to search the dump for the missing woman's body.
"It was awful," says Nepinak's sister Gail. "We just want her out of there. This shouldn't be her final resting place."
Nepinak's clan is taking extreme measures to extricate her from her shroud of filth. They brought healing elders with them the first time they gathered at the dump. Now they're searching for "gifted elders" to visit the site, hoping to pinpoint her exact location.
It's a long shot, but they're long past desperate.
"We're hoping an elder could sense where she could be," Gail Nepinak says. "We don't want to take the city's, the government's time and money. We just want her found."
She knows the idea of an elder with psychic abilities will be preposterous to many. She only cares about getting her sister out of the ground.
Last week, McCaskill announced police would undertake a massive search for Nepinak's body. He said the search would likely cost more than $500,000, could take several months and has less than a five per cent chance of success.
A chorus of criticism arose, with suggestions from some it is a waste of taxpayers' dollars. It's thought Nepinak is buried under eight metres of garbage.
The digging hasn't begun. The family believes it will start next week.
Standing on the hill where she's likely buried, smoothed now and covered in a layer of fresh gravel, finding the remains seems an impossible task. Stakes bearing pink ribbons mark the dates where specific loads were dumped. There's a flurry of pink fluttering.
A bulldozer works tirelessly just outside the perimeter of the search site. Even in this sombre site, the avails of consumerism continue to be buried.
Searchers will have to painstakingly look for clues to let them know they're in the right place. It could be as small as a tattered grocery receipt with a Sept. 12 date.
There has been unexpected compassion on this tough journey. When the family arrived for their first ceremony, they found the ground prepared for them. Elder Billie Schibler was moved to see a manicured area where she could spread her shawl. A circle of topsoil was laid with an inner circle of rock to represent a sacred ceremonial site.
"On the perimeter of this area, they had placed large flower planters, which they had carried up the hill," Schibler says. "My spirit is still so humbled by this gesture of kindness. When I inquired of the city worker as I was leaving, this very gentle man stated 'It's the least we can do. We have daughters, too.' "
"These are people with no investment other than they're parents, they're Winnipeggers."
The city refuses to release the names of the workers. Landfill staff was not allowed to speak to the media Tuesday.
Will the searchers find Tanya Nepinak's remains? In a larger sense, that's not really what this is about.
"It's the right thing to do," McCaskill said when he announced the search. "If this were your daughter, what would you expect? The whole idea is to search the best we possibly can to bring some closure to the family... We have to do as much as we possibly can to recover the remains."
Golden fields are visible from the hill where Tanya Nepinak is thought to be buried. Soon enough, they'll be swallowed up by new housing developments. Before that day, before new owners build another hill with their refrigerator boxes and refuse, the Nepinaks want back what was taken from them.
Like the worker said, we all have daughters.