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'Indians Allowed'
“Good NDN” and “Bad NDN” t-shirts are seen at the “Indians Allowed” rally and march in Rapid City, South Dakota, on March 26, 2022. Photo by Kevin Abourezk
Federal investigation sought into ban of Native people at hotel
Wednesday, March 30, 2022

A Sioux Nation tribal leader is calling on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate a hotel owner’s decision to ban all Natives from her business.

On March 20, Connie Uhre, who owns The Grand Gateway Hotel in Rapid City, South Dakota, posted on Facebook: “We will no longer allow any Native American on property.” She cited a shooting involving two young Lakota men at the business as the reason for her controversial decision.

This week, Chairwoman Janet Alkire of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe submitted a letter to the Department of Justice, alleging Uhre’s actions violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which she said prohibits discrimination in public accommodations.

Janet Alkire
Janet Alkire serves as chair of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, an Indian nation with homelands in North Dakota and South Dakota. Photo courtesy Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

“The Department of Justice has the responsibility to enforce the Civil Rights Act prohibition against denial of access to public accommodations based upon race,” Alkire said.

Alkire also sent a letter to fellow Great Plains tribal leaders encouraging solidarity.

“This type of discriminatory behavior cannot be tolerated, and will not be tolerated,” she wrote. “Allowing this type of discrimination to occur without repercussion will undeniably set a precedent for other business owners to follow suit, and ultimately cause civil unrest.”

Nearly 1,000 Natives and others marched Saturday in Rapid City, to protest Uhre’s actions. They carried signs that read “Indians Allowed” and “Land Back” and wore T-shirts that read “Good NDN” and “Bad NDN.”

Earlier Saturday, tribal leaders from North Dakota and South Dakota gathered at a downtown convention center to discuss possible responses to Uhre’s actions and later issued a list of actions they are considering to address racism in Rapid City.

Those actions include: boycotting the Grand Gateway Hotel and its subsidiaries, moving the Lakota Nation Invitational basketball tournament to another location, moving the Black Hills Powwow and filing hate crime charges against the hotel’s owners.

Last week, the Native nonprofit NDN Collective filed a federal civil rights class-action lawsuit in the western division of South Dakota’s U.S. District Court against the Grand Gateway Hotel’s owners.

'Indians Allowed'
Nearly 1,000 people turned out for the “Indians Allowed” rally and march in Rapid City, South Dakota, on March 26, 2022. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

On Monday, the Lakota People’s Law Project, a Native rights organization, set up an online action so people can show support for Alkire’s request to the Department of Justice:

“Laws, in of themselves, won’t change discriminatory behavior,” Alkire said. “They must be enforced. The Department of Justice should step in quickly, investigate, and prosecute. We need to send a clear message: it’s unacceptable that Native people still face open racism in our daily lives, especially here in our own homelands.”

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