Blackhawk, Julia: Services held for bridge victim

A member of the Nebraska Winnebago Tribe

Minneapolis, Minnesota (KTIC/AP/ICC) 8-07

The death toll from the Minnesota bridge collapse stood at 12 on August 20th and was expected to climb slightly as cars submerged in the river were searched. Officials put the number of potential victims assumed dead at 13, with over 100 individuals injured in the collapse.

32-year-old Julia Blackhawk was a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. Their sister tribe in Wisconsin are known in their traditional language as the HoChunk, and both tribes make up the HoChunk Nation.

Her family got word of her death Aug 2. Her uncle, John Blackhawk, who's a Winnebago council member, says his niece had been taking classes at the University of Minnesota and was on her way home.

The route to her home in Savage, Minnesota, takes her across the I-35 West bridge.

Authorities say Blackhawk was killed by blunt force trauma.

After watching the events unfold on television, John Blackhawk said it's a shock to know a tragedy, like this, involves a loved one. "I think the thing that she would like to be remembered for is a mother," said John Blackhawk. "She had two boys, of course, and um, I'm not sure how they're going to survive that. So I think first and foremost probably as a mother. The other is the recollection that I have of her is being that I'm her uncle and uncles are held in high esteem. So I guess I remember the respectful way that she treated me."

Blackhawk, a mother of two boys, Adaaro Blackhawk, 12, and Xavier, 9, has lived around the Twin Cities for the last decade and was a cosmetology student hoping to launch a long-desired career with her Aveda Institute training.

Her two boys had been staying with their grandmother Valerie Redanz of Brewster, Massachusetts, near Cape Cod while she attended school. On August 3rd, Redanz received legal guardianship of Adaaro and Xavier and has plans to adopt the boys according to the Boston Herald.

Blackhawk's dark eyes and hair reflected her Winnebago heritage. She was a quiet, elegant woman who had a beautiful laugh, "and when she laughed it made your heart happy," her family said in a statement issued August 4th.

"Julia's family has been deeply touched by the concern expressed nationwide for the victims and survivors of this tragic event," the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community said in a news release. Julia's mother, Carole, is a longtime employee of the tribe.

Her former husband, Khaffak Ansari of Minneapolis told the New York Times, "To me this is not a disaster, this is a murder - because people knew the bridge was unstable. This is not just a person. This is the dreams of a human being."

Tribal wake services were held August 4 in Julia Blackhawk's honor. Her private funeral was held August 5 in Winnebago, Nebraska said tribal spokeswoman Tessa Lehto.

She is survived by her mother and father, two sons ages 12 and 9, along with three sisters and one brother.

“My sister Julia had a beautiful laugh, and when she laughed it made your heart happy. I always loved to maker her laugh,” said Julia’s sister.

A memorial fund has been established at South Metro Federal Credit Union at 15045 Mystic Lake Drive, Prior Lake, MN 55372.

See related story: Native children survivors of Minneapolis bridge collapse