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DNA identifies remains of Indigenous women buried in the 70s

Two Indigenous women who went missing in the 1970s have been identified by the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) with DNA technology.

The first woman was discovered in the North Saskatchewan River on July 30, 1975, with an autopsy concluding that she had died several days before her body was discovered. Her death was not deemed suspicious, and since police could not identify her, she was buried in an Edmonton cemetery.

The other woman was found outside of an Edmonton address on June 11, 1976, with an autopsy determining that she had passed away from medical causes. She was also buried in Edmonton after not being able to be identified.

However, back in 2023 EPS partnered with the RCMP to create “Project Match”, which reviews all of EPS’ historical unidentified human remains investigations. That year, police exhumed these women’s remains with the oversight of two Indigenous Elders performing a sacred ceremony.

After re-examining the remains, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner discovered that the woman found in the river was 24-year-old Louise Laderoute, while the woman found outside the address was 30-year-old Irene Jacknife.

Laderoute was reported missing from Edmonton and was a member of Papaschase First Nation, while Jacknife was reported missing from Drayton Valley.

“Unsolved human remains cases leave behind families experiencing years, sometimes a lifetime, of ambiguous loss, grief and trauma,” said Detective Kevin Harrison with EPS. “That’s why, together with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, we are working to apply today’s technology and investigative lens to these files to help bring some sense of resolution to the grieving families.”

There are currently 14 unsolved unidentified cases dating back to 1979 that are being reviewed by Project Match.

Photo: (Left to right) Irene Jacknife and Louise Laderoute.

Irene Jacknife and Louise Laderoute.