The Spirit of  Inspiration

Helen Betty Osborne

Helen Betty Osborne
Kay yah pi ka ki no amakate Ikwe
1952 – 1971

Helen Betty was the eldest of 12 children born to Joe and Justine Osborne in Norway House Cree Nation, in northern Manitoba. She was a beautiful young woman who was greatly loved by her family and friends.  Her younger siblings had many special, warm, loving memories of the time she spent with them.  Perhaps it was this special relationship with her siblings that inspired her determination to become a teacher with the plan of returning to teach at her home community.

Her life and dreams were tragically taken from her on November 13, 1971.  She was only 19 years old, and she was attending school in the town of The Pas, Manitoba, where she was brutally murdered by 4 young men.

It took 18 years to bring her case to justice.  Due to the circumstances surrounding her death, in terms of the reasons it took so long for the investigation to proceed, the matter of Helen Betty Osborne became the subject of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry in 1992.  The Inquiry found that her death and the barriers to justice were the direct result of racism and sexism and indifference.  The Government of Manitoba, represented by the Minister of Justice, apologized to the family of Ms. Osborne, stating that the justice system had failed Helen Betty at every step of the process.

A foundation to honour Helen Betty’s memory and her educational dreams was created in 2001 through the Manitoba legislature, with all party support, and with the blessing of her mother, the late Justine Osborne,

Forty years after her death,   Helen Betty’s family, friends, and supporters from across Manitoba, held a traditional pipe ceremony and walked into the dawn to commemorate and close that tragic night for her.  The dawning sky was coloured with red, pink and yellow as the sun rose on the horizon.  From that moment, the spirit of Helen Betty Osborne symbolizes the hope for guiding families of all missing and murdered women.

The spirit of Helen Betty Osborne lives on in the name that was given to her by Ms. Mary Young, one of our foremost educators who has been  an inspiration to generations of Aboriginal post-secondary students,  The name that she  gave  to Helen Betty is, “Kay yah pi ka ki no amakate Ikwe – The Woman who Continues to Teach.”  Her spirit is an inspiration for those who have wanted and worked for change for justice. The Helen Betty Osborne Memorial Foundation carries on her dreams and her legacy; to create change through the elimination of racism, sexism and indifference.

Watch the trailer for the graphic novel: The Life of Helen Betty Osborne