Missing & Murdered: The Unsolved Cases of Indigenous Women and Girls
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UPDATE: Niece drives 18 hours on winter road to share her aunt's story at MMIWG national inquiry

The year was 1971. Ila Oman, a 43-year-old wife and stepmother, lived near the notoriously anguished Dene Village, a small shanty town in northern Manitoba near the barren tundra and freezing Hudson Bay.

That's where the province's Sayisi Dene lived in abject poverty and despair after they were forcibly relocated by the federal government.

Oman was a frequent visitor to Dene Village; she helped raise her great niece, Bernice Thorassie, who lived there with her grandmother.

“She was always smiling and kind to me," Thorassie said.

"And she always wore red lipstick. I remember that vivid, red lipstick."

On May 29, 1971, Oman did not make it to see Thorassie. Instead, she was beaten up — some say with an axe — and left for dead. Then, other assailants raped her.

In contradictory accounts, Oman was sexually assaulted first and fatally beaten later. Some say the rape occurred in nearby Churchill. Others say it happened in the bedroom of one of the homes in Dene Village.

She was found the next morning nearly dead on the road. She died days later in hospital. Three youth were charged with murder and those charges were later reduced to manslaughter. Eventually, the charges were dropped altogether. The Crown did not appeal. In the end, just one youth was convicted of assault cause bodily harm.

No one was convicted of raping Oman; no one was convicted of killing her. The lone media coverage of her case referred to her death simply as "an incident."

The life and death of Ila Oman illustrates all that is haunting about Canada’s crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous girls and women.

She was Indigenous; she was marginalized, she died a violent death that received virtually no notice. Despite that no one was convicted of her homicide, police consider Oman’s case closed.

"The investigation was concluded and has remained so since," a written statement from RCMP reads.

Today, those originally charged with Oman's death want their name cleared. They want RCMP to reopen the case to prove it. So does Thorassie. She also wants the people responsible for her great-aunt's death to "do the right thing" and come forward.

She wants her aunt, Ila Oman, to finally rest in peace.

Do you have more information on any of these cases?

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Contact us by email at mmiw@cbc.ca or anonymously via SecureDrop.

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.