Local daily newspaper apologizesNAJA challenges Journal’s racist headline
By Richie Richards
Native Sun News Staff Writer RAPID CITY –– Since the founding of Hay Camp in 1876, race relations between Native Americans and whites in the Rapid City area have been tainted and marred by instances like those which took place at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center these past few weeks. This story of racism has been told over the generations many times; the difference today is tribal members now have social media, Native American owned newspapers, activist groups with highly educated members, and cell phones with cameras. The children, women and elderly of Native American communities are among the most honored and sacred of all tribal members. They are often revered in a way to which non-natives view saints or angels. It was at a Rapid City Rush Hockey game on the evening of Jan. 24 which began the latest round of reactionary movement against racism in Rapid City when 57 students from American Horse School (AHS) were harassed and assaulted during the game. The students were told to go “back to the rez” and had beer thrown on them from persons in the corporate suite of Eagle Sales of the Black Hills above. Those responsible have been identified, are currently under investigation and have yet to be held accountable for their actions with charges pending. Following the incident regarding the aggressive action against the children from the Pine Ridge Reservation, in the early morning hours of Jan. 25 Justin Poor Bear who was a chaperone at the Rush game, posted on social media the situation from his perspective. In explaining to parents and family members of the AHS students, Poor Bear wrote, “...there were 15 or more inside of the suite most of them men, they were getting drunk and around the 3rd Quarter they were talking crap to our kids and throwing down beer on some of them including our staff and students.” This was posted just after 1:00 a.m. and by noon had gone viral; with AHS parents and tribal members from around the country angry over the abuse suffered by the AHS students and chaperones. Over two weeks later, all involved are still waiting for names to be released and charges filed. Joe Ferras, General Manager and Head Coach of the Rush, issued a statement Jan. 27 on their Facebook page to “Loyal Rush Fan’s and Rush Community” recognizing the incident and stating they were working with AHS and Eagle Sales to “rectify the unfortunate events that took place and to assure that this does not occur in the future.” This was not an apology to the children or adults assaulted; only an announcement of action. The next day, Wednesday Jan. 28, a nearly three hour closed-door meeting was held between the City of Rapid City, Rapid City Police Department, AHS staff and families, tribal members from the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and others to discuss the incident and the pursuant action agreed by all parties. Angry parents could be heard outside the closed doors of the meeting expressing concerns while the City of Rapid City was busy making promises of pacification to resolve generations of racial prejudice. Immediately after the closed-door meeting, area media were invited to a press conference to which Mayor Sam Kooiker, RCPD Chief Karl Jegeris, AHS spokesperson Angie Sam, Pine Ridge District Council Representative Richard Greenwald spoke in limited length regarding information from the meeting. Spokesperson Sam in fighting back tears stated, “As a mother, I had a real proud moment, cause my daughter said, ‘I’m OK mom. I don’t care what those old drunk white guys say. I know who I am. And I’m gonna go wherever I want… This is my land.’” Sam’s daughter Robyn is 13. Two days later on Jan. 30, three young Native American women attended the Xtreme Bulls Tour at the Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo. Kristen Hunter, “D” Young Man II, and Danielle Hudspeth had good seats and were enjoying the event when, once again from above, beer was thrown on them intentionally. The incident happened to be caught on camera. The next day, Hunter posted the beer splashing incident on her Facebook page- once again the footage went viral on that evening of Jan. 31. The women did not witness who committed this act. A non-native elderly couple and two Native American elders also had beer on them after. On Jan. 31, the Rapid City Journal ran a front page article with the headline, “Did Native students stand for National Anthem?” This article seemingly blamed the Rush game assault on the AHS students for not standing during the singing of the National Anthem. Many of the AHS students have dual citizenship and are taught to pay respects to the flag songs of their sovereign nation and do so with pride. Poor Bear says the students did stand while unidentified witnesses claim AHS students did not. Regardless, there is no excuse for violating children abusively. Many witnesses have stated the AHS students were among the best-behaved group they’ve encountered. Originally established in 1984, the Native American Journalists Association (formerly Native American Press Association) based in Norman, OK is an organization whose mission is to improve and monitor media communications within tribal entities and from Native Americans to the general public.
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