December 17, 2018

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Friends, family gather to pay respects at vigil

Recycling workers greet family and friends of Mary Yellowback, whose body was found in a recycling depot over the weekend, outside Cascades Recovery at a vigil Tuesday evening.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Recycling workers greet family and friends of Mary Yellowback, whose body was found in a recycling depot over the weekend, outside Cascades Recovery at a vigil Tuesday evening.

THE glow of burning candles held in the hands of mourners filled the night as the last light was drained from the sky Tuesday during a vigil for Mary Madeline Yellowback, whose body was found in a recycling bin last week.

Hundreds gathered at the recycling depot, Cascades Recovery, in an industrial area in the northwest corner of Winnipeg, where Yellowback’s body was discovered by a dozen employees amongst recyclables last Friday.

The mourners Tuesday included those employees, still dressed in their work overalls, alongside Yellowback’s family, and local NDP MLAs Bernadette Smith (Point Douglas) and Nahanni Fontaine (St. Johns).

One-by-one, those in attendance lined up to hug and express their sorrow to Yellowback’s family, which included her father, siblings, and three of her six children, among other relatives.

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THE glow of burning candles held in the hands of mourners filled the night as the last light was drained from the sky Tuesday during a vigil for Mary Madeline Yellowback, whose body was found in a recycling bin last week.

Hundreds gathered at the recycling depot, Cascades Recovery, in an industrial area in the northwest corner of Winnipeg, where Yellowback’s body was discovered by a dozen employees amongst recyclables last Friday.

The mourners Tuesday included those employees, still dressed in their work overalls, alongside Yellowback’s family, and local NDP MLAs Bernadette Smith (Point Douglas) and Nahanni Fontaine (St. Johns).

One-by-one, those in attendance lined up to hug and express their sorrow to Yellowback’s family, which included her father, siblings, and three of her six children, among other relatives.

"It’s important as a community that we gather together and support anyway that we can. Once again I just wanted to say thank you for your love and your compassion. Thank you for coming out and supporting the family," Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls liaison for Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, said.

Family and friends of Mary Yellowback at a vigil Tuesday.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Family and friends of Mary Yellowback at a vigil Tuesday.

"Keep the families in your prayers tonight when you go home. Keep them in your heart and in your prayers."

Against the backdrop of stacks of compacted recyclables, family and mourners walked forward and dropped roses into a neat pile on the grass in front of the depot where Yellowback’s body was discovered.

 One of the elders made a tobacco offering for Yellowback’s spirit, before leading the crowd in prayer. After a moment of silence, a traditional Indigenous song was sung as smoke from burning sage plumed through the air.

Yellowback’s father, Rex Ross, briefly addressed the crowd, thanking everyone for coming out and expressing surprise at the outpouring of support his family has received since the discovery of his daughter’s body.

"I just want to thank everyone who is here today to honour my daughter, who was found in this place. I’d like to thank all the workers here. I know down deep in her hearts that they feel the sorrow," Ross said.

Ross explained that three weeks ago his daughter came to Winnipeg from her home community of Manto Sipi Cree Nation with one of her children for a medical appointment. For reasons that remain unclear, she did not return home.

Hager Ross, left, mother of Mary Yellowback, is comforted outside Cascades Recovery with family and friends at a vigil Tuesday.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Hager Ross, left, mother of Mary Yellowback, is comforted outside Cascades Recovery with family and friends at a vigil Tuesday.

"She never came back to our community. It’s so sad that we have to take her home, so sad to take her home in a casket," Ross said.

After Ross spoke, a number of gospel songs were sung in Yellowback’s honour at the request of her family.

With the crowd singing "Amazing Grace," and the sound of a guitar softly being strummed, members of Yellowback’s family — including her children — could be heard sobbing uncontrollably.

After the songs were all sung, and the final prayers finished, people came forward to wish the family well, before trickling off into the night as the vigil disbanded.

Yellowback’s death is being investigated by the Winnipeg Police Service homicide unit, who have characterized her death as "suspicious." An official cause of death has yet to be determined.

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

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History

Updated on Wednesday, October 3, 2018 at 7:54 AM CDT: Typo fixed.

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