'Indians Allowed'
Nearly 1,000 people marched in Rapid City, South Dakota, on March 26, 2022, to protest racism and discrimination on Sioux Nation treaty territory. Photo Native Sun News Today
Racist comments draw quick response
Monday, April 11, 2022
Native Sun News Today Staff Writer

RAPID CITY, South Dakota — Racist comments by a local business owner brought quick responses from local Native Americans, to local business owners and all the way from the Governor’s office.

First on social media, with the comment section being livid, but also when her note was shared, more responses were being posted. Likewise when the news dropped, folks within the businesses directly affected, would respond.

Perkins’ Restaurant staff reached out to the Native Sun News, letting us know, there are Native American workers there, including the cooks, and they heartily disagree with this woman’s perspective on Natives. Alex, who works there was shown a copy of the story, and said “This isn’t what we stand for.”

Likewise, as the day progressed, it was learned workers from both the hotel and the Cheers the bar, walked away from their jobs.

The following day on March 22nd, the Mayor, several key members of Pennington County law enforcement, the Oglala Sioux Tribe President, and the State’s Attorney, held a meeting to discuss this matter. Elevate Rapid City, Visit Rapid City, the Visit Rapid City Board of Directors and the Hotel Bid Board of Directors were in attendance and after discussing matters, issued out a formal Condemnation of the social media statements made by representatives of the Grand Gateway Hotel. In part, it pointed to the fact these statements return Rapid City to the racial volatility of the 50’s and 60’s, prior to and during the civil rights era.

Harold Frazier, Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe said, “Not too long ago an Indian was murdered when someone shot him point blank in a bar in this very city. You did not hear us condemn a whole race of people so don’t condemn our people.” He would go on to demand an apology.

From the Hotel side of things, apparently damage control was the word of the day, as the one who posted the inflammatory statements, was removed as president, then another fellow, Judson Uhre who is an owner with a non-active role, said his mother is not the owner and was the president “a long time ago.” He then went on to say, that “to clarify her statements, she did make some generalization statements about people, about morally diverse people who share the same ancestry, and those statements don not reflect the values of the Grand Gateway Hotel or our diverse workforce.”

Uhre pointed out that Nick is a volunteer with the hotel but part of the ownership of the hotel. Part of the family’s issues stem from use of outside funding for the County, regarding the MacArthur Foundation Grant that addresses issues regarding jail populations and the racial disparities in the criminal justice system, now being used in the County.

The County has seen the Grant come in twice, once in 2015 and again in 2020. Numbers have shown some improvements, folks being referred back to home instead of jail, receiving care instead of a jail cell and helping folks meet court dates to help reduce a backlog of people waiting in jail.

At the Federal Courthouse, NDN Collective’s Nick Tilsen informed the gathering that they had submitted paperwork for a class action lawsuit, against the Retsel Corporation, the parent company that owns the Grand Gateway Hotel, for denial of services to Native Americans. He cited two examples, when two Native Americans were sent in to book a room, and both were turned away, Sunny Red Bear, a member of the NDN Collective, and Alberta Eagle, the director of operations for NDN Collective were both denied, and Alberta was removed from the lobby.

Also of note, Connie Uhre, the originator of the note that started this entire issue, is listed as president of the Retsel Corporation, most recently as of November 2021. On the paperwork filed, it is targeted towards the owner and manager of the Grand Gateway Hotel and Cheers Sports Lounge in Rapid City, South Dakota. On the grounds for a Class Action suit, it accuses the company of racial discrimination, and actively denying service to Native Americans.

As the march went on several high profile members of nearby tribes we took part in the march. OST President Kevin Killer said “He and the tribe’s council are committed to protecting people’s rights and making sure that people are heard.”

Also Chairman Peter Lengkeek of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe said “If this is going to continue, we will go somewhere else. Maybe things will change and that’s’ something we’re praying for, that we’re hoping for.”

NATIVE SUN NEWS TODAY

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