As a pink-streaked blue sky faded into twilight over Oodena Circle, Brenda Watt led a prayer for all ancestors who've gathered here.

As a pink-streaked blue sky faded into twilight over Oodena Circle, Brenda Watt led a prayer for all ancestors who've gathered here.

Candle flames flickered in a semi-circle around the monument as nearly 100 people gathered for the sunset ceremony that drew to a close the fourth annual Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Awareness Day. Each one of them has felt a loss that brought them to this spot, Watt said. The knowledge keeper from Selkirk said she drew love and support from the bittersweet turnout.

Anastasia, 5, sister of Eishia Hudson, who was shot by police, holds a candle during MMIWG day in Winnipeg, Monday.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Anastasia, 5, sister of Eishia Hudson, who was shot by police, holds a candle during MMIWG day in Winnipeg, Monday.

"I'm happy the awareness is out there, but I'm sad at the same time, because we're all gathering on account of that we lost a loved one," Watt said after the ceremony, as she surveyed the dispersed crowd with sage in hand.

"When I was praying, I imagined the love that everybody has here, I imagined that love going to the universe."

As she held a candle in honour of her cousin Christine Wood, who was killed in Winnipeg in 2016, Kaydi Robertson said the day was a reminder that people need to stand united to protect and honour women and girls.

People gather for a vigil at the Forks during MMIWG day in Winnipeg Monday.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

People gather for a vigil at the Forks during MMIWG day in Winnipeg Monday.

"For me, it's just the support and the teaching and learning to be together. That's the only way anything's ever going to happen, is if we are there for each other," said Robertson, who is from Norway House.

Janet Petrie said the ceremony brought her a sense of power, "to actually stand up and take my power back."

"It really freed my spirit. It gave me peace," she said.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Bev Jones sings an eagle song at a sacred fire at City Hall.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Bev Jones sings an eagle song at a sacred fire at City Hall.

The unsolved slaying of her grandmother prompted Petrie to take her first name. Petrie joined in the sunset ceremony, and a preceding five-kilometre walk, for Janet French, who was from Roseau River and died more than 30 years ago in Winnipeg.

"That broke our family, same as the residential schools prior to that affected my grandmother," Petrie said. "So I just wanted to walk for her, so I can get that healing that I need, and I wanted to walk for all our sisters and brothers, and be supportive."

Petrie said she is still mourning the death of her three-month-old daughter Violet, who died in CFS care.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Elder Carolyn Moar places a tobacco tie in a sacred fire at City Hall.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Elder Carolyn Moar places a tobacco tie in a sacred fire at City Hall.

The vigil capped off a day of memorial events that began at sunrise in honour of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people.

"(It's) an opportunity to carry the conversation a little deeper," said Sandra DeLaronde, who co-ordinated much of the day's programming, which included the five-km walk in Winnipeg, sacred fires and events across Manitoba.

"The whole issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women is a... direct result of residential schools (and)... the ongoing genocidal policies of government," DeLaronde said.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Red dresses hang in the courtyard at City Hall.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Red dresses hang in the courtyard at City Hall.

If even one person gains awareness and works to create change, the day's events will have been successful, she said.

"That's the only way change takes place, is one person at a time."

The events in honour of the murdered and missing continue Tuesday, when Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata and MKO are set to host a noon-hour webinar on reclaiming power and place. Red dresses hang outside Winnipeg’s city hall and libraries and will remain through the month of October as a reminder of the missing. City employees donated 73 dresses.

Oct. 4 has been Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Awareness Day in Manitoba since 2017. The proceedings Monday come after Canada's first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation last Thursday.

— with files from Gabrielle Piché

katie.may@freepress.mb.ca

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Arianna Ducharme holds a photo of her aunt (a homicide victim) at the sacred fire at City Hall.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Arianna Ducharme holds a photo of her aunt (a homicide victim) at the sacred fire at City Hall.

Katie May

Katie May
Reporter

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.