Cherokee Morning Song

Monday, June 23, 2014

National disgrace? Marlene Bird attacked, burned but not national news Re post and follow up to this story

Marlene Bird

Jo Ann Lawrence | June 13, 2014

First Nations woman Marlene Bird will have both legs amputated

A YWCA director wants to know why a horrific attack June 1 on First Nations woman Marlene Bird in the northern Saskatchewan city of Prince Albert isn’t national news.

Marlene Bird

Marlene Bird, First Nations woman and victim of a vicious assault June 1 in Prince Albert, Sask. Photo: 


Marlene Darlene Bird was assaulted and burned in an attack outside a community centre in the city of 35,000 that is home to a large aboriginal population. The aunt of the homeless woman says her niece has been upgraded to stable condition.

Lorna Thiessen said that Marlene Bird was to have her second leg amputated on Thursday because it was “burned to the bone.”

Thiessen said Bird is in a critical burn unit and has extensive burns all over her body and has had several skin grafts.

Marlene Bird, who is 47, was first taken to hospital in Prince Albert, then transferred to Saskatoon and then to Edmonton’s University of Alberta Hospital.

Prince Albert YWCA executive director Donna Brooks said it’s appalling that Bird’s story hasn’t received attention outside of Prince Albert.

“If this attack would have happened to a middle class woman in a suburban Toronto neighbourhood, I guarantee you it would have been on the national news, I guarantee you that,” she said.

“But, because it happened in Prince Albert, it happened to an aboriginal woman who is a part of the homeless community, because of all those factors I don’t think it received the media attention it should.”

Police continue to investigate and have asked anyone with video surveillance footage of the area where Marlene Bird was found to hand it over to them.

Marlene Bird is conscious and Thiessen said she has been speaking, but is heavily sedated most of the time.

“When she comes out, she’s going to need living accommodations, she’s going to need support for probably prosthetics, and probably maybe a scooter, or things in that line.”

She said Marlene Bird will also need a place to live and a support system around her.

YWCA staff is collecting letters of support and financial donations for Bird and her family, and has mailed the first batch to her in Edmonton.

“It’s very important to show her that she matters, that what has happened to her has saddened a lot of people in our community and that she is important and there are a lot of people who care about her,” Brooks said.

The Edmonton YWCA has also stepped up by helping Bird’s family during their stay in the Alberta city.

On June 6, more than 100 people marched through downtown Prince Albert in Bird’s honour and against violence. 

The march culminated in a prayer at the spot where Marlene Bird was found.

With file from the Canadian Press

Marlene Bird’s mother asks for prayers for daughter

Marlene Bird’s mother asks for prayers for daughter

By Thia James

paNOW Staff

The family of Marlene Bird gathered in Prince Albert on Thursday for a march against violence affecting women and men in the community.

On hand, but unable to take part in the walk itself was Bird’s mother, 77 year old Jane Toles, who family members said has a heart condition. Members of the family have travelled from Saskatchewan to Edmonton, where Bird remains in the University of Alberta Hospital recovering from a brutal attack that resulted in a double leg amputation and left her in need of facial reconstruction surgery and skin grafts.

On June 1, Bird was burned and assaulted and left in the 1200 block of First Avenue West, where police found her.

“I’d like to know if they [the public] can pray for her to get well,” Toles said after the Honouring Our Sisters and Brothers Memorial Walk on Thursday afternoon. “That’s what I’m hoping for. That’s all.”

She has been out to Edmonton twice to see her daughter since she was transferred to the burn unit in Edmonton from Saskatoon. She had plans to return either later that day or on Friday.

"It’s bad for me. I can’t stay in that room too long to see her and stay there for a little while [with the] nurses,” she said.

Toles said she hasn’t been doing too well since her daughter was assaulted. “Thinking too much.”

She said her two younger sisters, Lorna Thiessen, and Rosella Carney, have been helping her.

Carney, 70, said members of Bird’s family are still very hurt about what happened to her and are very emotional. 
She said it’s very hard for them to handle that.

She said it’s affecting her sister, Marlene’s mother. 

“There’s a lot of stress emotionally, and physically, mentally. Stress that’s upon her.”

Carney said there have been a lot of people supporting Toles, giving her hugs and praying with her, “and trying to bring her out; not always dwelling on the problem, but her well-being as well, to try to be, you know, as cheerful as she can.”

Carney herself will be heading to Edmonton on Friday. Carney lives outside of La Ronge in Molanosa, Sask. with her husband and cares for her granddaughter. She said she isn’t visiting as often now because her niece needs rest.

“I’m just kind of hoping that there’ll be a time when she can talk, because as of now, she’s not talking. So, I’d like to talk with her and hear her talk.”

When she first visited Bird, she spoke to her and let her know that she was there, not knowing if she would here. 

She said her niece opened one of her eyes and nodded her head when asked if she could see Carney.

“So, I said, ‘I just came to tell you I love you.’ And she kind of moved her lips.”

When Carney first heard about her niece’s assault, she was en route to Prince Albert. She received a phone call from Bird’s sister, Shirley.

“And that was a sudden thing, because I’m behind the wheel and I get this message from her sister and she’s crying and says Marlene was assaulted and she’s in Saskatoon, got her foot amputated and she’s going on and on, and it was hard for me to comprehend all this and soak it in. And even when I arrived in PA, I’m saying ‘what are all those yellow ribbons doing over there.’ It didn’t occur to me that this is where it happened.”

She described her disbelief and heavy heart after she heard the news. She said Shirley and Marlene were close, and their two other sisters died years before.

Carney said Shirley sent her a text the day before Thursday’s walk, saying that Marlene is her “only sister.”

“She’s taking it very hard. She was close to Marlene.”
Marlene and Shirley Bird’s sisters died after struggling with alcohol abuse, according to Carney. “There’s this bondage that’s been passed on from the generational curses of the forefathers of alcoholism that’s been passed on and usually nobody can do anything about it unless God breaks this curse of bondage.”

Carney’s nephew, Earl Clarke, who is also a cousin of Bird, hasn’t been out to see her, but has known her for years. He said that she had alcohol addictions, but she never had a bad word to say about anyone.

He said his cousin was friendly all the time. “Maybe that’s part of the problem. You know, maybe she got to know the wrong people.”

Carney said her sisters, Thiessen and Toles, have told her that Bird is doing better and they couldn’t see the stitches in her face anymore. The swelling has also gone down.

“In spite of that, I don’t know how really she’s taking it because she [has] her legs missing. But I believe she’s grateful to be alive, because by the grace of God, she’s alive.”

The family hasn’t had a lot of discussion about the plan for Bird’s care after she leaves the hospital, and Carney said everything is up in the air for family members.

“It’s a daily thing, like daily planning. We can only live for today. We don’t know what tomorrow holds.”

More support for Marlene Bird

Organizers of the Facebook group “A Day for Marlene” are encouraging communities to come together on July 12 and have a “massive day of fundraising.”

In Calgary, there will be a fundraising event on June 27 aimed at raising money towards a wheelchair for Bird. 

As well, La Ronge resident JC Fafard will be donating one of his classic cars for an auction in which all of the proceeds will go towards the YWCA’s fund for Marlene Bird.

On Twitter: @thiajames
Related News: 

Please remember Marlene in your prayers.

If you would like to send Marlene a card or a note, here is the address.

University of Alberta Hospital - 8440 112 Street 

NW, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2B7 

Telephone: 780-407-8822.

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