The death of a young Lakota woman on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation continues to raise questions in her community more than a month after her passing. Family and friends of Feather Rae Colombe never expected to hear that she had died following a high-speed police pursuit.
Feather Rae Colombe was a star athlete and a musician during her high school years. She was also featured in the award-winning video “More Than That” – produced by Todd County High School students in response to Diane Sawyer’s critical observation of life on South Dakota reservations called “A Hidden America - Children of the Plains”.
So when word filtered out that Feather Rae had died after a high speed pursuit by Rosebud Sioux tribal police in the early morning hours of May 1, members of her small, close-knit community of Mission were shocked.
Jackie Colombe was Feather Rae’s grandmother.
“She never had any traffic violations or driving violations,” Jackie Colombe recalls. “And when I would drove she was a back-seat driver…always telling me I’m going to fast or going to close to the car.”
It was that behavior and Feather Rae’s reputation as a responsible 20-year old that made her community question what would cause 4 police cruisers to chase her at speeds of up to 100 miles-per-hour.
Feather Rae’s cousin, Bryan Farmer, was in her vehicle just moments before the chase began. He was also on the phone with Feather Rae as her car crashed on a gravel road.
“I said…’Feather, just slow down,” Gryan Farmer remembers. “And I said…’Where you at?’ She’s like…‘They’re catching up to me. They’re catching up to me.’ I kept telling her ‘Just turn around’…you know. Next thing you know…the phone just went…blank.”
According to relatives, Feather Rae Colombe’s reluctance to stop her vehicle may have been linked to her fear of police. Jackie Colombe says her granddaughter was involved in an incident during her elementary school years that resulted in a Rosebud Sioux tribal police officer losing his job and doing prison time.
Jackie Colombe is curious why the local media wasn’t informed of the pursuit that killed her granddaughter. But she’s more concerned about why the police were chasing Feather Rae, why she wasn’t allowed to see Feather Rae before her body was sent to Sioux Falls for an autopsy and why the need for an autopsy.
Feather Rae’s family is also being denied access to her cell phone as well as to her vehicle – which a Lakota spiritual leader needs to visit in order to complete a traditional burial ceremony.
Calls to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe’s Chief of Police regarding the incident have not been returned. The F.B.I. – which is investigating Feather Rae’s death, has no comment.
SDPB story on "More Than That" - aired 2/6/12
Award winning Lakota student video "More Than That"