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One weekend, two homicides on First Nation

Two young men have been killed at Roseau River First Nation since Friday -- separate homicides, but both linked by a plague of alcohol and drugs among young people, Grand Chief Terry Nelson of the Southern Chiefs Organization lamented Sunday.

The second victim, 19-year-old Vince Maracle, who died Saturday, was his cousin, Nelson said.

"We'll have two funerals going to happen," Nelson said. "It's a real tragedy -- there's a lot of alcohol with the young people. We have to look at the drugs and alcohol coming into the community."

The RCMP had not released Maracle's name, but Nelson confirmed his death. "He was beaten to death," Nelson said.

The RCMP said Sunday the two deaths at the Roseau River reserve this weekend have been ruled homicides, but are unrelated.

The Mounties were called to assist the Dakota Ojibway Police Service in the investigation of a death in Roseau on Friday.

Police charged Richard Alex Johnson, 30, with second-degree murder in the death of Charles Gordon Joseph French, 23.

Both men are from Roseau River First Nation and were known to each other.

Johnson is to appear in provincial court in Winnipeg today.

The RCMP are also assisting the Dakota Ojibway Police Service with the investigation of a second death in Roseau River on Saturday.

Nelson said Maracle was small and thin. He was not aware of the circumstances in which his young cousin was killed, but said he had talked to the man's mother and his grandfathers.

"This has been going on for a long time," Nelson said, adding he believes police are still looking for suspects in Maracle's death.

"It's tough on the community," the grand chief said, though noting "most people are safe when they're not going to parties."

Nelson said there is no excuse for such tragedies, but pointed out "there's 75 per cent unemployment, not a lot to do.

"Young people have grown up with videos with violence."

Though a lot of people don't drink, there are widespread problems among those who do, he said.

Nelson said his 21-year-old son was recently attacked while walking down the road, but others intervened to rescue him.

Roseau River Chief Ken Henry could not be reached Sunday.

Roseau River First Nation is about 80 kilometres south of Winnipeg.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Comments are not accepted on this story because they might prejudice a case before the courts.

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