Rose Downwind’s Tragic Death: A Wake Up Call – Native Women’s Lives Matter!

Rose Downwind died tragically

Rose Downwind died tragically


Published December 19, 2015

Dennis Banks has been a leader among American Indians since he co-founded the American Indian Movement in 1968. During the ensuing decades since then, Banks has tirelessly sought to bring attention to issues impacting Native lives across Indian Country.

Even though Banks is in his late 70s, he will lead the Longest Walk V: War on Drugs this coming February 2016 because he thinks drugs are too rampant among American Indians and are killing our Native people.

Tragically, he and his family are now experiencing their own grief and sorrow because one of the most important issues facing contemporary Native women has hit home to the Banks’ family: Violence against Native women.

In late October, Banks’ granddaughter Rose Downwind was listed as missing. Her family spent past several weeks in the long ordeal of waiting and wondering what happened to Rose. Banks even went on search parties trying to find his beloved granddaughter.

Ten evenings ago the remains of Downwind were discovered in a shallow grave outside of Bemidji, Minnesota. She was a 31-year-old Native woman who experienced domestic violence and ultimately death at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, who also is father of four of her five children.

The former boyfriend is now charged with Second Degree Murder While under a Restraining Order. The restraining order was put in place by a district court earlier in October because of abuse by the former boyfriend. Not only did he kill her, but he and two other men attempted to burn up her remains and buried her in a shallow grave.

As the events of Downwind’s tragic ending unfolds, a story of a long-term tumultuous relationship with a non-Native man

Sadly, Downwind has now become a statistic with thousands of other American Indian and Alaska Native women who faced domestic violence by non-Native men. This domestic violence includes: emotional abuse, physical abuse, rape and even violent death.

Violence against Native women by the hands of non-Native men has occurred since the days of Columbus and has continued throughout American history. And, it is still happening today. It can be noted this domestic violence against Native women occurs in the United States and Canada.

Here are some of the disturbing statistics about Violence against Native women that have been released by the U.S. Justice Department:

61% of American Indian and Alaska Native women (or 3 out of 5) have been assaulted in their lifetimes

34% of American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetimes

39% of American Indian and Alaska Native women will be subjected to violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes

59% of assaults against Native women occur at or near a private residence

59% of American Indian women in 2010 were married to non-Native men

46% of people living on reservations in 2010 were non-Natives (single race)

US Attorneys declined to prosecute nearly 52% of violent crimes that occur in Indian country; and 67% of cases declined were sexual abuse related cases

On some reservations, Native women are murdered at more than ten times the national average

Dennis Banks talked with  Native News Online this past Sunday night about his granddaughter’s death.

 ‘This is a wake-up call for us.’ I think it is time we start addressing the violence committed against our Native women. We need more domestic violence treatment centers for our Native women. We need to get our men into men’s societies to learn how to take better care of our Native women. Right in our homes is domestic violence. When it came to us how she died tragically, it  hit home,” Banks said.

Banks is correct. This should be a wake up call to bring further attention to the tragedy of violence agaisnt Native women.

While we may never know fully the dynamics of Rose Downwind’s life-ending relationship with her former boyfriend, we do know Native women have been devalued throughout American history.

There are many things that contribute to this devaluation. In the past, federal governmental policies allowed for the sterilization of Native women without their knowledge and consent.  Even now Hollywood films depict Native women in unfavorable means, under the guise of comedy. Costume makers design Indian women costumes that allow for non-Native women to dress up in scantily outfits.

Dennis Banks is correct. It is time for all Americans to come to the realization Native women’s lives matter!

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