National | Politics

Native Sun News: Lakota woman still in race for North Rapid seat

The following story was written and reported by Karin Eagle, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

Theresa Spry

RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA –– A Lakota woman from the North Rapid community is stepping forward as a leader – and standing as a bridge between two worlds in the process.

Theresa Spry, who is Oglala Lakota, is seeking the Ward 4 seat on the Rapid City Council in a run-off election June 26.

Facing off against Amanda Scott, Spry is running an entirely grassroots campaign that does not have an interest group or a company seeking to put her into office for specific reasons. Spry is keeping her eye on the future of North Rapid, which Ward 4 now covers.

The 2010 census created a redistricting issue, which was corrected by city and county redistricting efforts that better defined Wards 4 and 5, creating a more unified district for the Native American population in Rapid City.

North Rapid City has the highest percentage of Native residents from many of the closest reservations in South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana.

Spry, who is married to Jerry Spry, Sicangu Lakota, has lifelong ties to the North Rapid community. Her grandparents, William and Julie McGaa, moved to Rapid City in 1927 from the Pine Ridge Reservation. Their children attended the Rapid City Indian School until its closure in 1933. The Indian School was located at the current site of Sioux San.

Born to Bill and Chick (McGaa) Ressl, Spry remembers her parents owning a home on Gold Street, but renting it out after her father, a National Guardsman, joined the U.S. Army and moved the family to Germany for a period of time.

Upon their return to Rapid City, the home had been taken down to make way for Interstate 90.

Following their return, the McGaa family moved to Joy Street, where Spry lived while she completed her education. She attended Horace Mann Elementary School for a portion of her younger years before moving on through North Middle School and eventually Central High School.

Jerry and Theresa Spry settled into their home on Halley Street, where they raised five children, four sons and a daughter.

Spry has helped her husband through many ventures, including ranching and small business ownership. In her early 20s, Spry tried her hand at being a lobbyist, which planted the seed for public service to her community.

Spry has expressed her feelings about how important it is for the community to return to an era where families knew their neighbors and were able to rely on each other.

With so much of the Native community coming from different reservations, it is a common belief among many of the local Native organizations that the traditional bonds of tiyospaye are created as a result of this common geographic displacement. Spry supports this belief wholeheartedly.

Another belief Spry holds is the importance of hanging on to the treaties that were entered into between the U.S. government and the tribes of this region. She says entering either state or city government is an important step toward having proper representation of the Native people on all levels of government.

Spry, after falling short of being elected a state legislator in the past, has turned her attention – her charge, as she calls it – to her immediate community. Seeking election onto city council with no campaign money, however, seems to be a daunting job.

“It’s hard work! It is definitely not for the lighthearted, but it’s got to be done,” said Spry.

Yet Spry does not come into the race without knowledge and experience in what is most important to the public she seeks to represent. Her work in the school district placed her right in the schools as a nutritionist, a truant officer and a counselor’s assistant.

She has also worked with the Indian Education office as a tutor coordinator, covering each school in the district.

She has volunteered at Western South Dakota Community Action, and through her work with the community was able to help bring to fruition the Community Learning Center, which assists community members in obtaining their GED diplomas and learning valuable job skills and assets.

Eighteen years ago, Spry’s family dynamics changed after one of her sons was injured in a swimming accident that left him paralyzed. Although her son now has this disability, he has worked hard with help from his family and community in obtaining a level of capability and independence.

In fact, he does most of the campaign organizing and work for his mother from home. Healing within the community where he grew up, with the people who know him best, has helped in bringing him to this point.

This experience has led Spry to question why the state of South Dakota will not certify individuals to care for their own family members at home. Spry was able to obtain her certification in Colorado so she is able to provide the assistance that her son needs at home.

That giving spirit that Spry exemplifies at home applies also to her community. She has 30 years of volunteering experience at the Rapid City Club for Boys, leading a tutoring program as well as the Lemmon Street Community Garden Project.

The garden project has been lauded as an effort that has changed a portion of town known for disarray and disorder. The North Rapid area now enjoys a better level of peace and community spirit, according to its proponents.

The initial Ward 4 election was held June 5. With none of the candidates receiving 50 percent plus one of the votes to take the seat outright, the run-off election will be between the top two vote-getters, Spry and Scott.

Scott was the top vote-getter with 445 votes, or 41.8 percent; Spry came in second with 360 votes, or 33.8 percent; and Josh Snyder finished with 259 votes, or 24.3 percent.

“Voter turnout was only 10 percent for the June 5 election,” Spry noted.

One of the concerns was the new polling place created by Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker.

“The polling place was hard to find in Lakota Homes. There was a lot of confusion because it was advertised that the polling place was at the Oyate Center, but the sign on that building says Lakota Homes Community Center.” Spry explained.

“Auburn Hills residents do not vote at Atonement Church, which is a polling place and located at the entrance to Auburn Hills division. However, they vote at the Lakota Homes site, which is the Oyate Center. And then the entrance to Oyate Center has been changed from Wambli Drive to Gnugnuska Street, which has led to confusion as well.”

A meet-and-greet was planned for a Lakota Homes residence, which was approved at first, but the management ultimately canceled the event, citing that the Lakota Homes community is federal property. This claim is questionable to Spry, but being federal property would legally disqualify the community as a polling site.

Favian Kennedy, director of the Health Education and Promotion Council, which is housed in the Oyate Center, has stepped up and invited Spry to hold her meet-and-greet at the center.

At press time, no concrete plans had been made concerning the meet-and-greet. Spry encourages all North Rapid residents to exercise their right to determine who represents them within their city government.

(Contact Karin Eagle at

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