Melvin Martin: Stereotypes remain alive and well in South Dakota
As an Indian person who for years in South Dakota experienced daily exposure to a racism of the worst order, I can continue to say that there still exists a most concretized and extremely tangible link between Indian stereotypes and the racism and race-based hate crimes that are perpetrated against Indians in that state.

Since South Dakota's very own Indian haters never take the time to truly get to know Indian people, they are forced by virtue of this self-generated social distancing to rely exclusively on the prevailing stereotypical belief scheme concerning Indians that has been brutally operative there for decades:

Indians are aggressive, conniving, panhandling drunks; Indians are unable to work and most of them are unemployable; Indians are very dirty as a race and they will destroy any properties that are rented to them.

All Indians receive at least a couple of hundred dollars per month of "BIA welfare" that they quickly spend on alcohol and motel rooms where they make more "little Indians" like rats in Harlem; Indians are "wild and untamed" as the hickeys and black eyes that they often sport are the best indicators of their collective licentiousness and lack of a true moral base.

Indian religion infects the entire state with black magic and all medicine men are practitioners of witchcraft and other forms of the black arts, hence, Indians are still heathens "in league with Satan"; Indian men are superbly well-endowed, amazingly virile and they will take our wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts, nieces and girlfriends via their rap or by rape.

This is just some of the more pervasive anti-Indian mythology, the fundamental structure of which consists of stereotypes that are specific to South Dakota, that I have personally heard whites express on numerous occasions since I was in the first grade there in the late '50s (and that I have also heard in slightly different mutations as of late). Thus the nature and frequency of the various racist behaviors and hate crimes carried out against Indians in South Dakota, are indeed strongly driven by this perverse cavalcade of stereotypical ideations that occur nowhere else but in the diseased hearts and minds of my home state's many hardcore racists.

Institutional racism can best be defined as racism perpetuated by governmental bodies such as educational and judicial systems as well as non-government entities like churches, country clubs, fraternities, et al. And institutional racism can adversely affect the majority of people who belong to a racial category.

Anyone with even less than half a brain knows that with an Indian high school and college drop-out rate as high as South Dakota's that there is definitely something horribly amiss within this particular realm. The system here has had decades to address the various inequities that abound for Indian students; and countless amounts of federal largesse have been shoveled at the problem to basically no avail.

And as far as criminal justice is meted out for South Dakota's Indian population, I am very much inclined to observe that only under Russia's Josef Stalin has a distinctive minority been so savagely mismanaged. It is absolutely not necessary for anyone to cite any of the latest "studies" on the sentencing disparities or percentages relative to Indian incarceration rates in South Dakota - just pay a brief visit to the Pennington County Jail or to the state prison in Sioux Falls for some first hand, visual evidence of a widespread and very disturbing inequality.

Insofar as the unfounded claims as to South Dakota's Indians working at better jobs now in both the private and public sectors, these statements have been put forth in the media by those who have simply seen the movie "Invictus" too many times and have nuttily internalized the film's theme about racial redemption. And incidentally, going on nearly twenty years after the demise of apartheid, South Africa's long-embattled racial climate is worse than ever. But I digress now. The vast majority of Indians in South Dakota who are fortunate enough to even have a job are employed at coolie positions at either Walmart, motels, and fast food joints (and at slave wages, too).

In the rarefied domain of social services in South Dakota, a highly reliable source (who has worked with various Indian and non-Indian programs for nearly two decades) has told me that federal and state monies are initially prioritized to non-Indian social programs in South Dakota, with the Indian populace getting what are essentially crumbs. An actual "old boys (and girls, too, for that matter) network" has been in place within the state's social services establishment for so long that its sordid history cannot even be adequately documented - all to ensure that the beastly bureaucracy will be kept fed at any and all costs.

It has been noted that while Rome burned the Emperor Nero was totally oblivious to the city's destruction and was said to have smiled crazily while playing a fiddle. And while the state of South Dakota is still actively involved in attacking tribal sovereignty, taxation, reservation gaming issues, water, law enforcement and voting rights - cadres of apologists, appeasers and other dust bunnies continue to publicly proclaim that all is well and getting much better for Indians in the Mount Rushmore State.

Melvin Martin is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota. He can be reached at

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