A family photo of Candace Rough Surface, a citizen of he Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who was 18 years old when she went missing in South Dakota in 1980. Her body was found nine months later. It took another 15 years before two non-Indians were held accountable for the crime. Both men have since been released from prison.

Elizabeth Cook-Lynn: A clearer message about hate crime

Native Sun News Today Columnist

More discussion about a terrible crime against women seems necessary because the number of crimes and shootings, murders and mass killings have skyrocketed in the last two decades. To say nothing about the continued efforts of the law to take away the civil rights of the poor and distressed among us.

This escalation of violence seems to have happened since it became legal for every man, woman and child to carry firearms of choice; not just for safety reasons, but because it is his or her God given, constitutional RIGHT. (Beware the Man Camps)

The killing of a young Native woman that I wrote of several years ago is now being understood as the race attack on Indian women in modern times without just and reasonable responses. What I wrote about a few years ago concerning the Candace Rough Surface killing was a crime that can be classically defined as a crime motivated by the category to which the victim belonged. That’s what a hate crime is. That’s what a Race Crime is.

The killing of that young woman was not then categorized as a hate crime in South Dakota. And I am not sure that it has been called that since. No one was convicted of it then nor sent to prison for the crime for years! 

Elizabeth Cook-Lynn. Courtesy photo

 Non-Indian parents, the community of Christians, and professional people of Mobridge where that killing took place (with the complicity of the courts), successfully covered the tracks of the hometown white killers for nearly 20 years!
 It is astonishing to think back to that time when there was no such thing as a hate crime in this state. It is still denied and much debated. Few use the term here (even lawyers), and few perpetrators convicted of that type of murder have been described as such in law nor punished accordingly.

If there is any vague recognition of a race crime in this state it is a law with no legal consequence.

As to that Rough Surface case, does anyone really think what happened to Candace would have happened (raped, dragged behind a pickup by two white men and dumped in the Missouri River outside of Mobridge, South Dakota) if she had been a white woman?

Motives are often deliberately obscured by the non-Indian community that cannot bear to look at its own history concerning Indian-White hostility.

When they talk about Indian women in places like Mobridge (and we could name a dozen or so other SD towns), they still call them “squaws.” Or worse. And now with the building of the “man camps” to accommodate the workers on the pipeline we can expect more dismissive and violent attitude toward a community at risk.

Does anyone really think that such a vicious crime as the Mobridge crime would have been silenced for decades if the victim were not an Indian woman in that mostly white community and many others? The question of why this state and its communities won’t face the reality of this needs to be addressed! Why the silence? Denial?


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Contact Elizabeth Cook-Lynn at ecooklynn@gmail.com

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