Native Sun News: Retired police officer speaks out on racism

The following story was written and reported by Ernestine Chasing Hawk, Native Sun News Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

From left to right: Brandon Yellow Robe, his father Luke, and Glen Yellow Robe and his wife Geraldine visit with Native Sun News staff at Ruby Tuesday in Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo by Richie Richards

Cop from Rosebud endured years of racial discrimination
Yellow Robe speaks out after Rush Hockey game incident angers him
By Ernestine Chasing Hawk
Native Sun News Editor

RAPID CITY –– When allegations of racism arose after 57 American Horse School students from the Oglala Lakota Nation had racial slurs and beer cast upon them at a Rush Hockey Game at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, Indian Country was outraged.

When the alleged perpetrator Trace O’Connell was charged with disorderly conduct and attorney Patrick Duffy defended him and the Rapid City Journal printed a headline that blamed the kids, the Oglala Lakota Nation called for sanctions against all of them. Protesters marched the streets of Rapid City.

This was not the case 20 years ago when a Lakota officer endured years of harassment while serving on the Rapid City Police Department. Very few came to his aid even after he reported that he endured years of racial bigotry at the hands of some of Rapid City’s top officials.

Glen Yellow Robe and his brother Luke Yellow Robe, members of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, served the Rapid City community for more than 20 years as police officers, Glen with the Rapid City Police Department and Luke with the Pennington County Sheriff’s Department.

While Luke reported that his supervisor, Pennington County Sheriff Don Holloway, didn’t tolerate racism in his department, Glen on the other hand reported he was subjected to daily onslaughts of racial slurs, ethnic jokes and many times outright racial bigotry from fellow police officer Steve Allender and other members of the Rapid City Police Department.

Yellow Robe brought his complaints to the attention of top city officials and filed two lawsuits, however his complaints were lost in a maze of political reelections, a change of attorney, a judge substitution, a statute of limitations issue and a gag order.

But when Yellow Robe, who is now retired and who had made peace within himself over the outcome of the lawsuits, heard about the incidents at the Rush Hockey game and when he heard Allender had thrown in his hat as a mayoral candidate, he decided it was time to speak out about the brutal attacks of racism he endured for years.

“This incident at the Civic Center and the kids from Allen is what really started chewing away at me. I felt that the Indian people want justice and they want to see something done about this and so do I. Deep down in my heart I started thinking about this and knowing Allender all these years,” Glen said. “It just started eating away at me; does Rapid City want or deserve a guy with a past like Steve Allender who’s capable of all these racist remarks and racist jokes?

Glen then opened up about the extent of the racism he endured in his 23 years of working for the Rapid City Police Department.

One incident Glen reported was when he had applied for a training officer position.

“I was really having problems with Chief Tom Hennies back then. He was trying to terminate me and I had to hire an attorney and had to fight for my job. Eventually my attorney proved that Tom Hennies was in violation of the union handbook and the union rules,” he said.

The City attorney’s office forced Hennies to make a public apology to Glen and back off his case and leave him alone.

Former police chief Steve Allender is now running for mayor of Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo from Facebook

“I just kind of thought, that’s the end of my days of promotion around here. When Allender found out I was turned down for the position of training officer he snickered about it and laughed and told me, ‘That’s the way we keep the Red Man down.’”

Glen couldn’t enjoy his lunch without being subjected to an onslaught of racial slurs from not only Allender, but the secretaries and other detectives as well.

“I would be eating lunch and Steve would say, ‘What’s on the menu today, a bowl of guts?’ Or if I was eating a sandwich he would say, ‘What you eating, a slab of lab?’ You know Labrador, a dog,” he said. “Then it rubbed off on the secretaries. I was right out in the squad room and I’d be sitting there eating a sandwich and the secretaries would say, ‘What you having today Glen, a slab of lab?’”

Glen said fellow officer Bruce Evans, who was Jewish, was also subjected to Allenders’ racist remarks.

“There was one incident when Bruce was eating and Allender asked, ‘What you eating today, foreskin kabobs.’ You know Bruce put up with just as much as I did. Allender nicknamed him Heimy (Derogatory term for a Jew),” he said.

“One of Allender’s favorite sayings was ‘Black is beautiful, and brown is grand, but whites the color of the big boss man.’ He would always be quoting that around the squad room,” Glen said. “He’s always been a racist kind of person and even at one point and time I confronted him about it he said, ‘If you think I’m bad you should meet my dad. My dad is the most racist guy in Belle Fourche.’”

All of this was witnessed by sergeants, lieutenants and the captains he said, “They heard these things they knew what was going on and they’d laugh about it and they never stood up for us. When I filed this complaint they asked me if I ever filed a report or complaint, I had no one to go to. I couldn’t go to the Chiefs of Police because they hated my guts, Hennies and Teiszen.”

Glen, after years of putting up with Allender’s racist comments and jokes warned him that someday it was going to come back and bite him in the butt. Glen took notes of the incidents and even made a recording of Allender’s racist remarks.

“I am going to come after you and I am going to make sure that all of this is brought up and you are going to have to answer to it,” Glen told Allender.

(Ernestine Chasing Hawk can be reached at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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