A team of volunteers have recovered what appear to be human teeth from the banks of Winnipeg's Red River, where nine bodies have been found in the last year.
Drag The Red uses borrowed boats and handmade gear to drag the bottom of the river looking for missing Indigenous women, but Winnipeg Police won't help them search, saying it's not a good allocation of resources.
On Monday, Drag The Red co-founder Kyle Kematch uncovered four teeth in the mud along the river bank.
"I said, 'Holy! Look at this!'" he told VICE.
When he found the first tooth, he immediately texted a photo of it to a forensic anthropologist who had offered to identify any remains the draggers find. Kematch said the anthropologist identified the teeth as human.
"When I found the fourth tooth, that's when she sent the message back that they were human, and said stop what you're doing and call the police."
When VICE contacted the anthropologist, she declined to comment.
Winnipeg Police also wouldn't say whether the teeth were human.
In an email, Winnipeg Police spokesperson Terry Kolbuck confirmed Drag The Red had turned in what appeared to be teeth.
"The items were delivered to our Forensic Identification Unit, who will process the items further," Kolbuck said. "Once completed, a determination will be made on how we are to proceed or not."
Kematch and Drag The Red co-founder Bernadette Smith told VICE they called police at 3:15 PM Monday afternoon but said they didn't show up until about 9 PM.
Kolbuck said Drag The Red contacted the Missing Persons Unit during the day but they were told to contact the non-emergency police line. "There were not any units available until later that day due to the types and priorities of the calls that day," he said.
"For me, it doesn't seem like they're taking us seriously," Kematch said of the police response.
In their last year of searching the river, Drag The Red has not recovered any human remains. The discovery of the teeth could be their first human find.
"It's a possibility it could be one of the missing," Kematch said. "It's got me wondering who it is."
Drag The Red started searching the Red River after the body of15-year-old Aboriginal girl Tina Fontaine was pulled out of the river in August 2014. Another Aboriginal girl, Rinelle Harper, was dumped in the river after she was brutally assaulted, but she survived and became an advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women.
More than 1,200 Aboriginal women have gone missing or been murdered in Canada since 1980—a rate much higher than for non-First Nations women.
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