“I reached out and touched him on the chest and pushed him backwards, slowly”: Mayor Steve Allender of Rapid City, South Dakota, admitting putting his hands on Mark Tilsen after members of the Indian community asked to be included in a press conference at city hall on October 16, 2020. Source: NewsCenter1 [At 17:11 in the video]
Homelessness, a pesky and inconvenient problem
Wednesday, October 21, 2020

We can all contemplate what is at hand as we watch and listen to our own Mayor Steve Allender (no historian, he) speak at a recent press conference at city hall (September 30) about “the homelessness.”

Allender was telling his audience that there has been an influx from the nearby Indian reservations and that “many are attracted by the free food served.”  He calls this influx “the homeless.”

He says there are 11 groups providing the meals for these people. He says he talked to some of the people who are eating in the park who tell him they come “because they can get fed every day.” Another source of this information is the Sheriff’s office and the Police Department as well as the Cornerstone Rescue Mission personnel who go about “disbanding” homeless congregations continuously. It is a problem because this community cannot continue to absorb the cost, Allender tells his council.

He says “I am here to tell you that the government cannot adopt everyone who has failed to make it on their own.” He says that these people choose to camp outdoors in the park rather than seek “the homeless services that we have provided, nor will they even accept those services.”

He worries that this population has been growing.

Raid City mayor closed the press conference to our local corespondent saying she’s not a real journalist. He physically pushes a member of Mni Luzahan Creek Patrol stating he doesn’t want a circus inside.

Posted by Chynna Lockett on Saturday, October 17, 2020
A video shared by Chynna Lockett shows the incident in which Mayor Steve Allender of Rapid City, South Dakota, pushed Mark Tilsen away from the door of city hall after refusing to allow members of the Indian community inside on October 16, 2020.

One of the simple solutions “in front of our noses,” he says, is to take out-of-town homeless people back home immediately, and he wishes that he could work in partnership with the tribes. Another survey of the situation is coming up in January, so we can expect that it can be brought up during the Christmas Season.

This discussion is nothing new. It is an annual recitation from a city of white folks (tourists, businessmen, colonists, immigrants and invaders from Europe), who really dislike what they have wrought, a supposedly welcoming country of immigrants (like the statue tells us) who have now become responsible for their own illegal appropriation (theft?)

Of land and natural resources; yes, and colonial dominance. This city has reached the conclusion that it does not want to provide the care it takes to sustain life for everyone in such a situation.

elizabethcooklynn
Elizabeth Cook-Lynn. Courtesy photo

Frankly, our discussion is about something local called “homelessness” that is taking place here on our streets in Rapid City, but, it’s called that globally for lots of other reasons articulated by writers for many years, (some say for 38 years in our town…?) Many scholars who have studied this worldwide dilemma for decades say it is because the American colonial experience has engaged in selfishly exploiting the original inhabitants who are now described in “Third World” terms.

Listening to public official’s talk of statistics it is said that many facilities run about 78 percent Indian and 12 percent white, 3 percent “other”, so there is no question that this is what has been called by the mayor “the Indian Problem”.

The truth is in America and throughout the world many of the homeless are not Indians. Allender, though, focuses on the locals and assures his audience that he will not let this city become the center for the West River homeless population. He wants to assist in transportation to get these unwanted people out of town and he has chastised anyone who gives them money or food or street assistance because it he says it encourages them to beg and they lose the incentive to be responsible for themselves.

History has shown that Indians have always resisted their removal and displacement as Europeans came into their traditional homelands even as the highest officials in the land supported the settler’s desire for wholesale Indian removal or outright killings.

It seems that nothing has changed in our bountiful city. Mayor Allender, as he speaks, seems to characterize the homeless as pariahs, pests and parasites and he says they are mostly Indians, and he wants them gone. What would happen if this community thought of Indians and Whites as “relatives” and “our fellow human beings” instead of pests?

People MIGHT have to acknowledge that Indians have always belonged here and no one has the right to oust those now called “homeless.”

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Read the rest of the story on Native Sun News Today: Homelessness, a pesky and inconvenient problem


Elizabeth Cook-Lynn is a retired Professor of Native Studies. She taught at Eastern Washington University and Arizona State University. She currently lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has written 15 books in her field. One of her latest is Anti-Indianism in Modern America: A Voice from Tatekeya’s Earth, published by University of Illinois Press.

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