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Native Sun News: Rapid City mayor supports Indian residents

The following story was written and reported by Evelyn Red Lodge, Native Sun News Correspondent. All content © Native Sun News.

Rapid City Mayor speaks out
By Brandon Ecoffey
Native Sun News Staff Writer

RAPID CITY – Mayor Sam Kooiker has quietly become a strong supporter of the Native American community in Rapid City.

Born and raised on a small farm in northwest Iowa, Kooiker has become a strong voice for Rapid City’s Native population. During his time in city government he has taken on several issues that have directly impacted Rapid City’s large Native American community, and has even brought the government to them by hosting a number of town hall meetings in the Lakota homes neighborhood of Rapid City where the population is almost completely Native American.

“I have a passion for serving people and I feel that Native people have been underserved for a long time,” said Kooiker. “The initiatives I have brought forward are a direct result of my communication with my Native American constituents,” he added.

While on the city council he led an effort to redraw the voting district lines in north Rapid which were blatantly disenfranchising Native American voters. The vote was strongly opposed by a number of other members on the city council however, Kooiker stood his ground and was able to push through the measure on a 6-4 vote that restored the voice of north Rapid’s Native American community.

“I felt that it was a blatant case of denying a voice to Native people,” said Kooiker. “There is a high percentage of Native people in that area and the districts needed to be redrawn. It just didn’t make sense to have them drawn the way they were,” he added.

He did not stop once elected Mayor in June of 2011. During his campaign he promised to bring a polling station to the residents of Rapid City who lived north of the interstate where there is a high concentration of Native American residents. Late last year this promise was fulfilled when a polling station was placed in the Lakota homes neighborhood of Rapid City.

“I thought there needed to be a polling station north of the interstate,” Kooiker told NSN last year. “There is a huge portion of our community that this polling station will better serve,” he added.

While mayor of Rapid City, a lot of what the he has done for the Native American community in the city has been gobbled up by the 24/7 news cycle that often overlooks the positive and focuses on the negative. During his time in office he has made an effort to help Native people become more involved in the decision making process that affects their community.

“I have made a commitment to appoint more people to city commission and boards,” said Kooiker. “I appointed Tim Standing Soldier and Mel Prairie Chicken to the Human Relations Commission and Heather Dawn Thompson to the Parks and Recreation board,” he added.

Recently Bill Clayton a city councilmen from Ward 1 in Rapid City, became the center of a controversy surrounding free speech and the ever present race issue in Rapid City, when he asked KOTA reporter Taisha Walker, who is African American, "Should we deport you back to Kenya with Obama?" and "Are you even American; are you American?" while being interviewed by Walker, on Aug. 29, 2012. Clayton questioned the complete accuracy of the quote and admitted that he did not know that she was African American and did end up apologizing for the comments.

As a result of the controversy there were many misconceptions and in some cases outrageous assertions by certain pundits that the mayor had not condemned the actions of Clayton. In addition there were those who felt that the city council’s decision to deal with the issue behind closed doors was the fault of Mayor Kooiker.

“I was opposed to the entire matter being heard in closed session, everything that was said behind closed doors will never be heard by the public,” said Kooiker. “What Bill did was wrong in my opinion, and ultimately it will be up to his constituents to be the judge. I believe sunlight and the ballot box are the best antiseptics for government,” he said.

The mayor would go on to relate to Native Sun News that as a result of his experiences in dealing with prejudice because of his own disability (Kooiker suffers from cerebral palsy that affects the way he walks) he has a deep dislike of any type of discrimination.

“I really am opposed to any type of discrimination or prejudice because I have been a victim of it myself,” he said. “I do not pretend to have experienced anything like what our Native American population has to go through but I have had some experiences that make me sympathetic to them,” said Kooiker.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

Copyright permission by Native Sun News

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