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Notes from Indian Country
Rapid City Mayor refers to Natives as “Those People”
Monday, October 5, 2020

Rapid City’s Mayor was not raised in Rapid City. The introduction in his biography states: Steve Allender is a native South Dakotan, and was raised in a military family. 

After his father retired from the Air Force, his family moved to Belle Fourche, where Steve attended grade school through high school. Steve began his career in law enforcement in 1983 working for the Belle Fourche Police Department. In 1985 he joined the Rapid City Police Department and spent the next 29 years serving as a patrol officer, detective, sergeant, crime lab director, lieutenant, captain and eventually chief of police. He retired from the RCPD in May 2014.

Allender’s latest comments about the problems he is encountering with Rapid City’s homeless would surely indicate he has never been raised around Native Americans unlike former Mayor Don Barnett who spent his teen years growing up with the Native Americans in North Rapid.

Mayor Allender referred to the homeless Native Americans living in “HIS” city as “Those people.” Reminds me of what the mayors of Southern cities said when referring to the Black population living in “their cities.”

Tim Giago. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

Those people often meant other people and not their people. Allender was fed up with the many homeless Native Americans now trying to reside in Rapid City. He was particularly bothered by the fact that food kitchens were set up around town to feed “those people.” He suggested that he would like to see all of them return to their home reservations and he would even find the transportation to send them there if that was necessary.

Mr. Mayor, most of “those people” came to Rapid City looking for jobs. Is the city offering any of those jobs? Too many businesses in Rapid City are not.

I think Mayor Allender needs to learn a little bit about the history of “HIS” city.

First of all, long before there was a Rapid City there were Lakota people living and camping on the banks of the Rapid Creek. It is said that the mighty warrior Crazy Horse was born at a camp on the Rapid Creek.

The U. S. Congress illegally confiscated the Black Hills from the Tribes of this region after George Armstrong Custer discovered gold in the Hills. The Lakota filed a case against this illegal seizure of their land 100 years ago and the case stretched on through the years finally reaching the U.S. Supreme Court in 1980 at which time the Court took the side of Congress and declared that the Black Hills no longer belonged to the Lakota people. In his dissenting opinion Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun wrote, “A more ripe and rank case of illegal dealings may never be found in our history.”

The court settlement also declared that fair and just compensation should be awarded to the Lakota people for the taking of their Sacred Black Hills. There has never been even a semblance of fair and just compensation awarded to the Tribes. The land taken from the Lakota people was never paid for, it was simply stolen.

And the Lakota people have heard all the phony arguments made in an effort to justify the theft of their lands, arguments such as “there were other tribes living here besides the Lakota” and so on. But the original court case made the award that was never claimed to “The Tribes of the Great Sioux Nation,” not to other Tribes that were living in and around the Black Hills many years ago. The United States government recognized the Sioux Tribes as rightful owners of the Black Hills.

And so theoretically; Rapid City is situated on lands still owned by the Lakota people. And the Lakota will continue to say this until the United States Congress recognizes that they took the land illegally and makes an effort to do something to compensate the Lakota people for the theft of their lands. And what the Lakota people are looking for is not money, but the return of some of the stolen land. It is not that complicated.

Steve Allender serves as mayor of Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo: Randy Piland

Gold miners would not have flooded illegally into the Black Hills while the feds looked the other way if gold had not been discovered here. The federal government made no effort whatever to keep the trespassers off of the lands of the Lakota. And after thousands of them poured into the Black Hills and started building communities, it became impossible to drive them out.

Mayor Allender is living in a house situated on Sioux lands and his house will continue to be located on Sioux lands until a just settlement is enacted by the United Sates Congress. So please, Mr. Mayor, do not continue to announce that you will provide transportation to remove the Lakota people from their own land.

Contact Tim Giago at Tim is the founder of the Native American Journalists Association and Indian Country Today newspaper, and is currently editor and publisher of Native Sun News Today.

Note: Content © Tim Giago