A memorial in Sagkeeng First Nation for families of the community’s missing and murdered brought tears and healing Thursday, that some say have been four years in the making.

Seventeen people from Sagkeeng First Nation have been murdered or gone missing. Fifteen of the missing and murdered are women, including Tina Fontaine.

Sagkeeng’s Chief Derrick Henderson said families in the community have been meeting for the past four years, and through those meetings decided they wanted to hold a memorial and build a monument so that their lost loved ones could live on. Many family members who spoke Thursday stressed that the four-year process has allowed them to share stories they previously felt they couldn’t speak about.

“They can say things openly now. They’re still with us today. We want to honour them today, and celebrate with them,” Henderson said.

Lillian Cook, who coordinated the meetings and sat with the families through the process, choked back tears as she addressed them.

“These families have been alone for so long. And they needed that support and loving kindness. This is for you,” Cook said.

“I only wish, is what the grandmothers would say, I only wish that they would be remembered.”

The monument is called Ka-Gi-Gay-Bimitchy-Yoong-Pimitizwin, meaning ‘life flows forever’, and is a statue of a woman in a jingle dress with details that represent lost loved ones. She will be placed in a park arbour in the community so that families can sit with the monument.

Earl Morrisseau lost his sister Glenda in 1991 and his niece Kelly in 2006. Morriseau said through meeting with other families and Thursday’s ceremony he’s found some peace.

“I feel a lot better and I think maybe I can put them to rest in my mind. Hopefully they can feel better as well and get some rest. Because a lot of the ways they went were really tragic and horrible,” said Morrisseau.

Isabel Fontaine said she was attending Thursday for her sister Sharon, who was last seen in 2000.

“She was always laughing, just bring out the whole room. That’s what brings me up is when I think of that and then her laughter,” said Fontaine.

“It’s a terrible thing to go through,” said Fontaine.