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.


Remember Crow Creek Sioux tribal chairman Brandon Sazue's call to boycott Chamberlain in response to that school district's continuing refusal to allow a Lakota honor song at its high school graduation? It's on... at least for Sazue:

Crow Creek Sioux Tribe chairman Brandon Sazue is willing to drive an hour across the rolling central South Dakota grasslands that separate his reservation from Pierre, the state capital, in order to buy sneakers for his kids. He has declared a personal economic boycott of Chamberlain, the reservation border town that’s a half-hour closer to his house [Stephanie Woodard, "Crow Creek Sioux Boycott Border-town Businesses Over Banned Honor Song," Indian Country Today].

One may argue that the drive from Chamberlain to Pierre doesn't represent a quantum leap in social progressivism, but Pierre does include a Lakota honor song in its graduation.

So how big is the boycott?

...Sazue isn’t requiring anyone to join his boycott, and it’s not known how many individuals have followed his lead. But one prominent business is joining the boycott: the tribe’s Lode Star Casino, in Fort Thompson. The casino’s board of directors voted in early June to begin purchasing goods and services—from beverages to air-conditioner repair—from non-Chamberlain suppliers, Sazue said [Woodard, 2013.06.24].

The Chamberlain Chamber of Commerce's response shows more local ostrichism:

Is the boycott hurting Chamberlain? “No comment,” responded Ashley Chrisinger, assistant director of the area’s chamber of commerce. “That’s between the school board and the tribe. We don’t want any part of that” [Woodard, 2013.06.24].

I don't think you get to put your head in that sand, Ms. Chrisinger. Reread your Chamber mission and priorities: when your public school board, elected by you, harms your community's image and drives business away, you have a part of that.

Sazue's boycott has provoked some community response. Woodard reports that Winner rancher Steve Novotny wrote a letter to the editor declaring all Indians welfare queens. Yankton Sioux tribal chairman Thurman Cournoyer responded with a letter pointing out that Novotny receives oodles of farm subsidies (I find $329,154 in federal payments to Novotny on the EWG database). Woodard reports that Novotny responds that he's not racist; he thinks everyone receiving welfare is "worthless."

Against a lack of empathy* and logic like that, a good hard hit to the pocketbook may be the only way to get through to social regressives in and around Chamberlain. Turn up the heat, Chairman Sazue!

*Related: Lack of empathy... that's the fundamental flaw punter and author Chris Kluwe finds in Ayn Rand's arch-hero John Galt.


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