Teresa Robinson's family sat in the front pew of a Winnipeg church with their arms around one another in grief and support, her mother wearing a black veil, one of her brothers in shackles.
The little girl, who was supposed to turn 12 three days after her partial remains were found in a wooded area of Garden Hill First Nation two weeks ago, was memorialized in the Manitoba capital on Monday evening before dozens of relatives, friends and elders.
Teresa, the youngest of six children, was initially thought to have been mauled by an animal but the RCMP has deemed her killing a homicide. No arrests have been made.
Mourners lined up to sign a condolences book outside the temple, where Teresa's closed casket, topped with flowers and a white overlay embroidered with a pink cross, sat at the foot of the stage.
One of her four older brothers, who is serving time at the Headingley Correctional Centre, arrived to the downtown church in handcuffs, escorted by a pair of law-enforcement officers. He learned of his sister's death on the news, his grandmother said.
Partway through the service, which featured Christian music and prayer, the Robinson family briefly took the stage to express their appreciation for the outpouring of support. "Thank you for all your help and support and your prayers," Teresa's mother, Sandra Robinson, said.
The little girl's death came almost exactly one year after the RCMP released a high-profile report that found 1,181 native women were killed or went missing in Canada between 1980 and 2012. It showed indigenous females are far more likely to die violently or disappear than non-native women; here in Manitoba, nearly half of all female homicides during the 32-year period involved indigenous women or girls.
The head of the Assembly of First Nations, National Chief Perry Bellegarde, was present at the Calvary Temple to offer his condolences and words of comfort. "We think, believe and know in our hearts and spirits that our Creator needed another angel, and he called her home," he told the attendees. "She'll always live on."
In an interview before the service, Grand Chief David Harper, who is from Garden Hill and represents more than 30 northern Manitoba communities, said the family had spent time with Teresa's casket at a funeral home earlier in the day. Her parents had wanted to touch her – any part of her, for the sake of one last physical contact – but they were advised against it given how long it had been since her remains were found, Grand Chief Harper said.
The family, which has joined the community-led search effort, longs to ensure whatever is left of her body is found. "There's a lot of desperation for the full recovery [of her remains]," Grand Chief Harper said, adding the family is also desperate for an arrest. "They want answers."
Ms. Robinson told The Globe over the weekend her daughter was a "happy girl" who died before she got the chance to dream. "I don't know what to say," she said through tears outside the family's home on the small, fly-in reserve, where rumours are swirling about who killed the shy girl with the contagious smile.
Part of Teresa's body was found by community members on May 11 – the same day she was reported missing to the RCMP, and six days after she was last seen leaving a birthday party. Her father, John George Robinson, had thought Teresa went to stay at a friend's or a relative's, as children often do in the community of a few thousand. He spent his 41st birthday Saturday tramping through the woods searching for his daughter's remains.
Teresa's funeral will take place at the reserve's United Church on Thursday. She will be buried among the rows of white crosses in the Garden Hill Cemetery.