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Native woman target of vicious attack

A 47-year-old First Nations woman living in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan was viciously attacked on June 1 in an incident that sent shockwaves throughout the First Nations community across the country.

A 47-year-old First Nations woman living in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan was viciously attacked on June 1 in an incident that sent shockwaves throughout the First Nations community across the country. On June 1, police officers found Marlene Bird in the parking lot of a shopping mall in downtown Prince Albert. She had been sexually assaulted and set on fire.

Bird was initially taken to a hospital in Saskatoon but due to the severity of her burns, she was flown to a Burn Unit at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton where she remains in critical but stable condition. She also suffered burns to her waist down which were so severe that both legs have now been amputated. 

Bird also suffered a severe laceration to her face. “Half of her face was off,” Lorna Thiessen, Bird’s aunt, told CBC News. “It was cut from the centre forehead down the side of her nose, her mouth, and her chin, so they surgically put that back on. She has third-degree burns from her lower bottom back, right down to the bone of her legs.” She is now recovering from the brutal attack which resulted in not only a double leg amputation but skin grafts and facial reconstruction surgery as well.

Since her attack Bird was also on life support but has since been taken off and is now breathing on her own.

According to Thiessen, Bird was leaving bible study at the Gospel Outreach Centere the night she was attacked.

The horrific violence against this Ogwehoweh woman has now spurred not only fear among First Nations people both on and off reserve but has also led to marches, vigils and fundraisers all across Canada to be held not only in support of Marlene Bird but calling for the ending of violence against Indigenous women everywhere.

Police in Prince Albert have released few details until now but last Saturday issued a statement stating they had made an arrest. Charges have formally been laid against Leslie Ivan Roderick Black, 29 of Prince Albert. He has been charged with aggravated sexual assault and attempted murder and will be held in custody until his first scheduled court appearance on July 2, 2014 in a Prince Albert Provincial Court. Bird told police that she knew her attacker. Police searched Black’s home and found enough evidence to lay the charges.

Bird is a member of the Montreal Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan and attended residential school as a child. Because of that, she has struggled with addictions and was homeless at the time of her assault. Friends have described Bird as kind-hearted and quiet. Her family stated that she received monetary compensation for her experience at the residential school but gave it all away to people she felt needed it more then her. In a statement to CBC, “She is very nice, always nice,” stated Wesley Yooya who was close to Bird.

A fundraiser on Six Nations/Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation is being organized for the end of July. For more details or to make a donation, contact Val King at 519-802-7015 or Aileen Joseph at ajoseph@sixtel.ca. All proceeds will go to Marlene Bird for her healing journey. The organizing committee is also seeking venison hamburg, spaghetti, buns and other food donations for a benefit spaghetti dinner for Bird. The tentative date is July 31.

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Jen MtPleasant

Jen MtPleasant

Tuscarora Nation. Honours BA Criminology, Class of 2013. Advocate for missing and murdered ogwehoweh men and women. @JenMtPleasant

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