Diana Rattlesnake

Diana Rattlesnake in an undated photo. Her badly decomposed body was found in a Brandon rooming house in October 2004. (Anna Hanska)

Jeremy and Anna Hanska have never spoken publicly about the slaying of their mother, Diana Rattlesnake, but after seeing CBC's coverage of the unsolved cases of murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada, the siblings wanted her story to be told.

'They just saw her as a statistic and not as a human being.' - Jeremy Hanska, son of slain woman

Anna remembers a loving mother who took them to powwows and hockey games.

"My mom was a happy person," she said. "She was always laughing, joking around, always taking care of her family."

Rattlesnake's homicide went relatively unnoticed in Brandon, Man. Anna said there were only a few mentions in the local newspaper. Her brother has a theory about why there wasn't more attention from police to the case.

Anna Hanska

Anna Hanska contacted CBC to share her mother Diana Rattlesnake's story. (CBC)

"Probably because she's aboriginal, and she had her demons, and they just saw her as a statistic and not as a human being," Jeremy said.

Anna pointed to the death of another Brandon woman, Erin Chorney, and the amount of effort police dedicated in solving that case.

"Like, they did this big sting operation. And my mom basically got nothing," she said.

Rattlesnake had been mentioned in the newspaper before. After years of living in an abusive relationship, she fatally shot her husband in the back in 1987, and was sentenced to four years behind bars. 

Jeremy Hanska

Jeremy Hanska says it was difficult coping with the deaths of both his parents. (CBC )

Anna and her brothers were sent to live with their maternal grandfather. Jeremy said he did his best to block out the trauma.

"It was painful to have both of your parents murdered," he said.

Anna said after Rattlesnake served her sentence in Portage la Prairie, Man., the family moved to Brandon, Man., in search of a new start. But her mother got involved in another violent relationship, and was found dead in a Brandon rooming house in October 2004.

Rattlesnake's body was so badly decomposed when it was found that police couldn't pinpoint the day she died.

Jeremy remembers the day he learned about his mother's death.

"My uncle knocked on my bedroom door and told me what happened. He said, 'I'm sorry they found your mom's body.' I didn't know what to say then. I was in shock."

More could be done

Anna said she used to call the Brandon Police Service for updates, but gave up years ago on hearing anything new. Brandon police said all they can do is wait for a lead to come in, but Anna said more could be done to try to solve the case. 

"They should be trying to ask, ask around, ask other people, you know, maybe someone will come forward now that so many years have passed, but they don't," she said.

The Hanskas hope that by sharing their mother's story, new tips will come in. They believe their mom deserves better.


If you have any information on the Diana Rattlesnake case or any other unsolved cases involving missing or murdered indigenous women, email our team at mmiw@cbc.ca.

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story said Diana Rattlesnake's son, Jeremy Hanska, had a theory about why there wasn't 'more coverage' of his mother's death. In fact, the family was not critical of media coverage of the case; rather, they were questioning why there wasn't more attention from police to the case.
    May 13, 2015 11:22 AM CT