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Gloria Black Plume was born on Feb. 19, 1950 into a family that would eventually consist of 13 children. A member of the Kainai Nation, she spent part of her childhood on the reserve, but mostly she was in residential school.
She grew up to be a strong and determined woman, says her daughter Kaily Bird. And she was also a lot of fun,
“She was funny, the life of the party, [she] had lots of friends. Even right until she died she was like that,” said Bird.
As an adult, Gloria lived off reserve. She went to school and later worked as a secretary at a native addictions centre in Calgary. She had six children.
Some of Kaily Bird’s happiest memories are from years when the family was all together.
“We used to travel to pow wows when I was young in the states, when my dad was still alive,” she said. “My dad passed away in 1980, so those trips I remember as fun because, you know, I had both parents.”
Gloria raised her six children largely on her own. Bird says they didn’t have much money, but they were together, and her mom did what she could to make sure her children didn’t miss out on opportunities.
Bird says one year, her younger brother was invited to play basketball abroad.
“So my mom and I, we raised money for him to go. We wrote donation letters, we sent them all over,” said Bird. “She did most of that on her own to get her son on that trip.”
Bird says her mom always worked, but that she also struggled with alcoholism.
In March 1999, Gloria was living in an apartment in Calgary. Bird says she had been on a binge.
She remembers her mom had one bar in particular she’d always go to. She had been drinking there before she was killed.
Gloria met two men that night.
“They picked her up and she thought they were going to give her a ride home,” said Bird.
Gloria Black Plume was found stomped and kicked to death in a Calgary alley on March 6, 1999.
Not long after, detectives showed up at Bird’s door. She remembers them saying, ‘Your mom has been murdered, found in a back alley.’
As far as the Calgary Police Service goes, Bird says they were supportive. She speaks highly of one detective in particular.
For Bird, the judicial system is a different story.
There were two men suspected of being involved with Gloria’s murder and only one ever spent time behind bars.
John Jemel Karaibrahimovic was convicted of second-degree murder in Gloria’s death in a jury trial. Two years later, in 2002, he was granted a second trial, and was aquitted.
Bird has found comfort from community. In 2009 a young Cree artist, Jesse Gouchey, created a mural dedicated to Gloria, in the alley where she was found dead. The mural was accompanied by an animated short documentary, Spirit of the Bluebird, that includes stories from Gloria’s family.
“My mom would have been happy that we did this for her,” said Bird. “And not only in her honour but to all aboriginal women.”
Bird says she would support a national inquiry into the deaths and disappearances of indigenous women, for a number of reasons. So women can be protected; so her children can be safe in the community;and to reduce discrimination.
“I think it’s good so that us aboriginal women are recognized as you know, just normal people,” said Bird.
CBC News continues to investigate missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada, looking at the unsolved cases and telling the stories of the families and communities.