Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe at the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C., on September 26, 2016. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Harold Frazier: Another incident of racism targets Native youth in South Dakota

Racism in Sturgis, South Dakota

By Harold Frazier
Chairman, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe

Today we all stand witness to racism leaking through the veil of privilege that once again stares at my people.

This time the behavior is directed at our children. In yet another case those who cannot defend themselves were attacked by those did not know better, all the while being watched by those who do nothing to stop it.

How many times do we have to send our school children to our sacred Black Hills only to be verbally and physically abused with racism and bigotry by those who occupy such a sacred place. We have asked these wrongs to be addressed before with the American Horse School Incident and were met with inaction and distasteful justifications for the wrongdoers. I now ask those involved to again look inside their heart and make the appropriate actions to right these wrongs, and begin to set an example for the younger generations. 

An apology from the Meade School District for a racist incident in Sturgis, South Dakota, on October 11, 2017. Image: Meade School District

We are well aware of the hatred and greed that killed so many of my people and forced us on this reservation. We have survived murder, rape, disease and starvation on this reservation. We need no reminder of where you want us to be. We suffer daily with hunger, cold, depression.

Your attack dogs and mercenaries have left wounds when we leave our reservations to ask for wrongs to be righted. You were there. We saw the uniforms from all over South Dakota among the forces that that shot and killed only last year.

To see the “SS” painted on the vehicle donated by a local business for this demonstration of hate is not surprising. This symbol has been associated with genocide for many decades and is a reminder that the genocide is not over.

I call on the authorities and those charged with responsibilities of teaching our youth to take appropriate actions to create a teaching moment. Too often, our Indian children participate in sports activities and face this kind of behavior. It does not just happen to a car this night. It is happening every day. To our athletes, students and Tribal members who are trying to participate in the American way, only to find out that the “American way” is this kind of behavior.

The Sturgis Police Department is aware of the photos circulating on social medial involving a homecoming tradition of...

Posted by Sturgis Police Department on Wednesday, October 11, 2017
In a post on Facebook, the police department in Sturgis, South Dakota, said school officials -- not law enforcement -- are looking into the racist incident on October 11, 2017.

We have lived next to each other for more than a hundred years yet you know nothing about us. We speak your language. We know your religion. We respect your ways. Yet, we are treated like the car in Sturgis last night. I am voicing my frustration for I am voicing the frustration of my people.

Show us you are serious about the shameful act you are all trying to diminish. Punish those who committed this offense. Take appropriate actions through the High School Athletic Association to ensure the safety of our children. Talk to the youth about racism.

Harold Frazier is serving his second term as chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, based in South Dakota. He also serves as president of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association. He previously served as vice chair of the tribe and as an area vice president for the National Congress of American Indians.