Mr. Kurtz alerts us that our Lakota people may translate their dissatisfaction over Rapid City's response to an alleged racist attack on 57 American Horse School kids at a Rush hockey game in January into boycotts. An anonymous source tells the press the Oglala Sioux Tribe may be asking tribal schools not to hold events in Rapid City. That boycott would include the Lakota Nation Invitational, a massive athletic, academic, and arts event that brings $5 million to $6 million to Rapid City's economy. The Oglala Sioux Tribe will press an LNI boycott if tournament organizers don't move LNI to another city.

Comparing the proposed LNI boycott to the 1955–1956 Montgomery bus boycott may be instructive. The Montgomery bus boycott worked because it exerted economic pressure directly on the entity exercising discrimination, the public transit system that segregated buses. It was tolerable to the city's black residents because boycott organizers were able to organize viable alternatives to the boycotted service. Even this effective boycott ended not because the city relented but because the Supreme Court ruled that segregating buses was unconstitutional.

Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker says an LNI boycott would unfairly target Rapid City for a crime perpetrated by one guy from out of town. Indians could boycott Philip, the hometown of the man charged with throwing beer at the American Horse School kids, but who from Pine Ridge ever shops in Philip?

Boycotting LNI and other events in Rapid City does not directly target the police or the state's attorney responsible for the criminal charge that Indians perceive as insufficient. The indirect pressure on city and county officials may not outweigh the direct negative impacts on kids and families denied an opportunity to enjoy big events in Rapid City.

Boycotting communities will need to offer alternative venues and events. Moving LNI this year would be tough; it's not until December, but the contracts are already signed, and finding another West River town with enough lodging and contest space not already booked may be impossible. Alternative events may have to be part of a long-term strategy: Pine Ridge leaders may have to look at investing in larger event facilities, hotels, and restaurants that could handle LNI for one week, but making such facilities financially viable would require a broader marketing strategy that would bring other big events to town throughout the year. Turning Pine Ridge into a tournament/conference/tourism destination would be great for tribal economic self-sufficiency, but it would require far more sustained planning, investment, and collaboration than simply telling people not to go to Rapid City.

Boycotting Rapid City may register anger, but it won't convict Trace O'Connell of any stiffer charges. A boycott may comfort racists in Rapid City—Ah, fewer Indians stinking up our town! The goal can't simply be to reinforce segregation and let Whitopia stand. The goal must be to engage all parties—including us white folks—in making Rapid City a place where everyone is welcome.

p.s.: Speaking of white folks, where is the state's Tribal Relations Office? One would think that the state would take a keen interest in mediating the most prominent current white-tribal dispute in the state. But last week, the Tribal Relations Office's priority was flacking for the Department of Agribusiness and promoting CAFOs on the rez.

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South Dakota Democratic Party vice-chairman Joe Lowe is organizing a big West River town hall meeting next month for all folks interested in building a winning Democratic Party.

Party chair Ann Tornberg will lay out her vision for the SDDP. Tornberg and Lowe will present results of a statewide survey of party members and to hear the concerns and recommendations of West River Democrats. I'll even drop in, review the 2015 Legislative Session, and call for all good Dems to give Republicans a good butt-kicking in 2016.

Admission, refreshments, and discussion are free, but the party welcomes donations alongside ideas any time.

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We now have charges in the January 24 incident in which drunk honyockers in a VIP box at a Rapid City Rush hockey game allegedly threw beer and racial insults at Indian kids from the American Horse School. Rapid City Police considered charges of assault, hate crime, and child abuse, but they now say the evidence uncovered by their month-long investigation only supports charges of disorderly conduct against Trace O'Connell of Philip.

American Horse School officials are not satisfied:

Some people at a meeting at American Horse School Wednesday say they were shocked when they heard only one misdemeanor charge was filed, against only one person.

School board member Justin Poor Bear says, "We feel there was injustice. Upset. Anger. A lot of anger. We feel like there was nothing done to help us."

...Thursday afternoon, we received a copy of a letter from Oglala Sioux Tribe president John Yellow Bird Steele to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder asking for a Justice Department investigation into what the tribal president describes as "racial harassment" [Jack Caudill, "American Horse School Reacts to Charge," KEVN-TV, 2015.02.19].

After the charge and O'Connell's name were made public Wednesday, O'Connell received so many death threats that law enforcement moved the O'Connell family out of their home. So says Patrick Duffy, O'Connell's client, who says the hockey game incident has been (in the words of SDPB's Charles Michael Ray) "blown up in social media":

"My client didn't say anything racist. We're gonna find out when we go to trial what really happened. But my client and I apologize, really, I apologize to the children of the Lakota Nation for how they have been made to feel about this. I look upon them with nothing but respect as does my client, and he is really heartbroken over this" [Patrick Duffy, interview with Charles Michael Ray, "Disorderly Conduct Charge Angers Some Native Parents," SDPB Radio, 2015.02.19].

Duffy makes a similar claim in the Rapid City Journal:

There are two casualties in this case, Duffy, O'Connell's attorney, said: the truth and the students who attended the hockey game. The truth, he said, has been tarnished by hearsay that exploded on social media.

“The real casualty has been these children. They only know what they have been told has happened,” Duffy said. “Obviously, all of us in South Dakota need a good dose of truth before this case can possibly be laid to rest” [Andrea Cook, "City: Philip Man Charged with Disorderly Conduct in Rush Hockey Game Incident," Rapid City Journal, 2015.02.18].

Look out, fellow media: it sounds like Duffy says daylight for his client in putting us on trial. That should make us nervous, because Duffy is a heck of a lawyer.

And just to make things interesting, you can't dismiss Duffy as some white apologist for racism. He has taken tough cases defending Indians in the past, like the October 2013 police tasering of a Rosebud Sioux child and the landmark 2004–2005 Bone Shirt v. Hazeltine case on Indian voting rights in South Dakota. Sure, Duffy is a lawyer, paid to provide the legal representation to which every citizen is entitled, but when Patrick Duffy says he and his client respect Indians, he's got serious credibility to back that claim up.

Throwing beer and racial insults at kids is not acceptable. Neither are death threats that force an accused man to move his family out of their home for their own safety. Trace O'Connell now faces the glare of publicity and accountability before the law before the crime of which he is accused. He also has one of the best defense attorneys a man could ask for in a case like this. Let's hear the evidence the witnesses, the police, and the defense can bring forward through the proper legal process to help us understand what happened.

246 comments

According to multiple eyewitnesses who have gone on the record with their names, last Saturday, January 24, at least one person in a VIP box at a Rapid City Rush hockey game threw racial insults and beer at a group of 57 American Indian students from American Horse School in Allen. The racist bullying was so bad that the American Horse students' parents and chaperones took the kids out of the arena during the third period to protect the children.

Now an anonymous individual who claims to have been in the VIP box but sitting at the bar an not paying much attention to what was happening at the game tries tells the Rapid City Journal that the kids started it by not standing up for the National Anthem.

Notice that this anonymous source does not refute that the racist assault occurred. This anonymous source does not refute that grown-ups bullied children. This anonymous source attacks the victims with a weak charge that other eyewitnesses who use their names say is not true.

But most importantly, even if we took everyone at their word here, let's put the attack in personal context: Anonymous Individual, if your son or daughter did not stand up for the Star-Spangled Banner, would you call your child racist names and pour beer on your child? If you would, stay the heck away from my child. If you wouldn't, then how could you ever reach the conclusion that any adult could justify responding to someone else's anthem-reposed child in such a brutish fashion?

When I'm at public events where participants are invited to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, I omit "under God" (as well as all of those ill-placed grade-school commas). Anonymous Individual, if you hear me not uttering those two words, are you going to call me names and throw beverages at me?

Perhaps we need to invoke Charlie Hebdo: the speech acts of others do not justify violence.

We do not need to establish whether or not Anonymous Individual's attack on the American Horse students' patriotism is true; it does not matter in terms of adjudicating the possible hate crime in question. Nothing justifies calling children racist names and dumping alcoholic beverages on them. It matters only in seeing how racists rationalize their attacks on vulnerable children by further insulting those children.

55 comments

The accusation that racist thugs in a VIP box threw insults and beer at kids from the American Horse School at a Rapid City Rush hockey game Saturday appears all the more substantive and serious. The Rapid City Police Department is gearing up to throw the book at the alleged malefactors:

Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris said his officers know the identity of at least one person whose conduct was "scorching of your soul" when he insulted and threw beer on a group of Native American students at the Rush hockey game last Saturday at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

Police Chief Karl Jegeris made the announcement at a press conference that followed a 2 1/2-hour closed-door meeting that included parents of the children, American Horse School officials, Oglala Sioux Tribal representatives, Mayor Sam Kooiker, police and the Pennington County State's Attorney's office.

"We're going to be looking at assault. We're going to look at the hate crimes statutes. We will look at the child abuse statutes. And, we will look at any other relevant statutes," Jergeris said of charges that may be filed against the person or people who participated in the harassment of the students [Andrea J. Cook, "Jegeris: Police Have Identified One Person Suspected of Insulting Native American Students," Rapid City Journal, 2015.01.28].

Chief Jegeris caught some grief last month over what seemed to be an effort to hinder a Lakota protest downtown, but turned out to be seeking dialogue working in the best interest of the protestors and public safety. On this case of racist bullying of children, he seems to making clear that he will stand for equal treatment under the law for all residents and visitors.

And on top of racist piggery, who did these brutish hockey fans think they were to pick on children, who'd earned their trip to the big-town hockey game as a reward for their work at school? As Mato Standing High, attorney for four of the harassed children's parents says, this behavior should outrage all parents:

"They're your children, too. If you live in South Dakota, these are your children," he said. "It doesn't matter where they live. It doesn't matter what color their skin is. If they live in South Dakota, they are your children, too" [Cook, 2015.01.28].

Chief Jegeris appears to take that message to heart. Rapid City has some ugly bullies. It also appears to have a police chief who is prepared to shut those bullies down.

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Last Real Indians reports an ugly racial incident at last Saturday's Rapid City Rush hockey match. 57 Lakota kids from the American Horse School came up from Allen Saturday to see the game at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center as a reward for participation in an after-school program. Alas, according to dad and chaperone some yahoos in the VIP box above them started "talking crap to our kids and throwing beer on some of the staff and the students" during the third period. Poor Bear says one of the VIP thugs invited him up to the VIP box to fight. The parents and chaperones chose to leave the game.

KOTA gets confirmation that there was a fracas Saturday:

Craig Baltzer, executive director of the civic center, says “I’ve never seen anything like this before. Some of the things being said to the children were racially charged. I don’t know how to perceive people would behave that way.”

For the last five years, the Rush – according to Baltzer – has invited the students to a game. Until Saturday, the students have had good experiences.

“I’m very disappointed in how people behaved,” Batlzer said. “We have to bring these kids back to have a good experience” [Jack Siebold, "Bad Behavior at Rush Game Targeted Native Americans," KOTA-TV, 2015.01.26].

The Rushmore Plaza Civic Center has posted an apology on Facebook. The businessman who provided the VIP box and probably the beer also expresses his regrets:

Tom Helland, president of Eagle Sales, a beer wholesaler, said his company rents the suite and allowed guests from out-of-town to use it. No one from the distributor was involved.

Helland says he is sorry about the incident and that his company is already working with the Rush to invite the kids back so they can have a better experience at a Rush game [Siebold, 2015.01.26].

So some guys get invited to enjoy some of the best seats in the arena to watch a friendly hockey game, and instead of just having fun and cheering for their team, they decide to throw their beverages and pick on children. Thank you, hockey fans, for demonstrating the opposite of manhood.

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Did you know Governor Dennis Daugaard and billionaire Denny Sanford aren't the only guys proposing a vo-tech scholarship? A month prior to the big announcement of the Build Dakota Scholarship, the Rapid City Economic Development Partnership and other interested Black Hills parties applied for one of those workforce development grants from the state. They asked for $220,000 from the state to support their $440,000 three-year plan; they got $70,000.

The Black Hills plan included all sorts of leveraging and marketing (after two years of top-secret prep, the Black Hills economic developers last year launched "a new economic development branding and marketing effort, unified as Rushmore Region"), career coaching at the K-12 level, metalwork training and certification, and more.

The Black Hills plan also included a scholarship proposal:

We are proposing to create a regional skills-based training scholarship fund, that when matched by the employers seeking the trained employees, would make possible the opportunity for many of these unemployed and often underemployed job candidates to round out their skills/certifications and thus qualify for these attractive job opportunities. This would supplement our recruitment strategy by helping our employers locate employees who are almost ready, but who lack one or two critical skills prerequisite to being hired [Rapid City Economic Development Partnership, Community Incentives Matching Program grant application, November 2014].

Great minds think alike, I guess.

Ben Snow, president of the RCEDP, tells me he and Blaise Emerson of the Black Hills Council of Local Governments are still working on details of the scholarship component of their plan:

We are... encouraged that coincidental to the day we were delivering our presentation to the workforce board, the announcement of the Sanford gift for skilled-trades scholarships was taking place in Sioux Falls and that it is very close in concept to what our proposal included, except on a statewide basis and at a much higher funding level [Ben Snow, e-mail to Madville Times, 2015.01.20].

The Build Dakota Scholarship workforce fields are to be determined within the next couple weeks. If they align with the needs our Black Hills boosters see in their workforce, the state and RCEDP should be able to pool resources and train even more workers for the Black Hills labor pool.

8 comments

When Bob Mercer calls something a "must-read," I usually believe him. But this time, when he urgently directs us to read Rep. Jacqueline Sly's (R-33/Rapid City) "wise words" on the challenges of funding education, he wastes my time. The House Education chair offers thirty sentences of no useful informational content and one sentence of unsupported blame. Here's the only sentence that matters:

In the past, actions to address the fiscal situation of the district have been delayed by the school board, administration, staff and the community because tough decisions have been derailed by emotional pleas [Rep. Jacqueline Sly, "Many Responsible for Schools' Budget Woes," Raid City Journal, 2015.01.17].

The rest of the essay is a vague meander through admin-speak about leaders proposing plans and irresponsible "public, media and staff" asking questions and attacking the leader instead of getting on board and being part of the solution. Rep. Sly uses no names, gives no examples, does nothing to tie the blame she wants to level on everyone but herself and her Legislative colleagues to any specific leader, any specific plan, any specific funding amounts, or any specific public discussions that have turned into tar-and-feather sessions. Rep. Sly simply fabricates a world that makes her feel better for serving a Governor who sets budget parameters in which the teacher shortage gets worse and school boards struggle to meet their basic needs.

Rep. Sly's vague rhetoric aligns with the standard South Dakota Republican blame deflection in its war on public education. Republicans pretend that 2012's House Bill 1234 was a good plan for education, that we mean and selfish teachers destroyed that plan by referring it to a public vote and never proposed a viable plan of our own, and that the Governor and the Republican Legislature are thus excused from making any further effort to raise teacher salaries and save our public schools. Blame teachers, blame the schools, and let them sink.

Instead of sly insults, I eagerly await real wise words on education from our Legislature this session.

132 comments

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