Protesters march on Rapid City Hall for racial equality

People take to the streets in Rapid City, South Dakota to protest racism, Feb 26, 2015.

People take to the streets in Rapid City, South Dakota to protest racism, Feb 26, 2015.

In frigid, windy but sunny conditions, more than 100 protesters Thursday marched on the Rapid City-School Administration Center downtown as part of a movement calling for government accountability to resolve social injustices toward Native Americans.

The Thursday march coincided with the release a 12-page report by the Lakota People’s Law Project, “Native Lives Matter,” which asserts the U.S. justice system is responsible for those injustices.

Prominent topics noted in the report include police brutality, namely that Native Americans are the most likely to be killed by law enforcement; that Native American children make up 1 percent of the nation’s youth population but account for 70 percent of youths committed overall to the Federal Bureau of Prisons; and that Native Americans are victims of violent crimes at twice the rate of all other U.S. residents.

“The roots of these problems are money and racism,” according to the report.

Chase Iron Eyes, attorney for the Lakota People’s Law Project, led the march, which started at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center band shell in Memorial Park, traversed the Memorial Park Promenade, stopped traffic on Omaha Street and ended in front of the City-School Administration Center at 300 Sixth Street downtown.

“My relatives, I’m at a tipping point,” Iron Eyes told the crowd that massed Thursday despite the blustery weather. “I know you’re at a tipping point because we can’t take this any longer.”

If those in power had their way, Iron Eyes said, “We would exist in the margins of poverty for the next 100 years,” he said. “They would sentence us to death by poverty if they had their way.”

Iron Eyes said the fatal police shooting of 30-year-old Allen Locke in December was the most recent incident between Native Americans and the Rapid City Police Department. The U.S. Department of Justice cleared the officer involved in the shooting, though many in the Native American community have protested that the incident was improperly investigated.

Iron Eyes said there have been too many Native Americans killed by Rapid City Police, and there have been too many Native Americans found dead along Rapid Creek.

“We felt that was a crisis situation and that we needed more than just rhetoric at rallies,” Iron Eyes said of the origin of the Native Lives Matter report.

He said economic empowerment is the only way to compensate for injustices toward Native Americans.

Iron Eyes said Lakota People’s Law Project, in conjunction with the group Native Lives Matter, will be reaching out to state, Pennington County, Rapid City and tribal governments for an economic analysis of the fiscal impact of Native Americans on the region.

The numbers would include not only money spent by Native Americans, but also what health care funding is brought into the state or any sort of institutional spending on behalf of the tribes, Iron Eyes said.

“We want all those numbers because currently there is a stereotype that Natives don’t pay taxes,” he said. “Well, we’re paying at least 4, 8 percent, or whatever the sales, excise, use, alcohol, tobacco, vehicle (taxes) — any kind of taxes that we pay to the Rapid City economy, we would like a percentage of that.”

Bryan Brewer, a former president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and director of the Lakota Nation Invitational event, said during the march that the community will have to stride together to erase racism.

But Brewer said city leadership needs to present a plan for a fix moving forward, especially if LNI is to continue its decades-long presence in Rapid City.

“The Lakota Nation Invitational, right now, we don’t want to leave Rapid City. This is our home also,” he said. “We’ve been here for 38 years, and we want to stay and fight this issue. We don’t want to run. But if we have to, we will. We will be out of Rapid City.

“The (LNI) board, the schools: We’re going to be looking to see what Rapid City does, what plans that they have to make sure all of our children are safe when we come to Rapid City, and I just can’t say enough that we have to work together.”


Posted on February 27, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Reblogged this on Dolphin and commented:
    Those of you unfamiliar with Native American history…as told by them, not white folk…I would highly recommend Wilma Pearl Mankiller’s autobiography, “Mankiller”. She is fair in her book about Cherokee and Native American history and portrays the depth of their history that I did not get in history class. I have the highest regard for Chief Mankiller, as she organized the Bell water project that gave them back some of the pride, community, and self-sufficiency that had been beaten out of them.

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