Indianz.Com > News > ‘Maybe they don’t want our business’: Hotel rates explode during Native event
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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
‘Maybe they don’t want our business’
Hotel rates explode during Native event
Tuesday, December 13, 2022

People headed to a Native basketball, educational and cultural tournament in South Dakota were shocked to learn that two hotels were charging more than $2,000 a night during the event.

The two hotels in Rapid City — Residence Inn and Fairfield Inn and Suites — are both owned by Marriott Hotels. On Tuesday morning, they both listed rates of $2,000 or more, with taxes and fees included.

A front desk clerk at Residence Inn who answered the phone Tuesday said the $2,353 rate (with taxes and fees included) wan’t a typo, and he said he was checking with his manager to verify the rate.

“That’s what’s showing on my end as well,” he said.

‘No one can afford that’: Hotel Rates in Rapid City
Hotel in Rapid City, South Dakota Hotel in Rapid City, South Dakota
Screenshots from show two properties with extremely high rates during the week of the Lakota Nation Invitational. With taxes and fees, the cost for one night exceeds $2,000 at each hotel.

An organizer for the Lakota Nation Invitational, which began Tuesday and continues through Saturday, said he was surprised to learn that the two hotels were charging more than $2,000 a night during the event, which takes place December 13-17 at the local convention center.

“No one can afford that,” said Bryan Brewer, executive director for the LNI tournament. “I don’t know why they would even do that. Maybe they don’t want our business.”

He said he planned to contact local tourism officials to see if they could help to get the two hotels to adjust their rates.

Brewer said hotels in Rapid City and in nearby towns typically raise their rates during the tournament, which provides a significant economic boost each year to the Rapid City hotel and food industry. But usually they don’t raise their rates much more than $250 a night.

He said he has brought up the issue of hotels raising their rates during the tournament with city and local tourism officials in the past and has been told that often the corporate offices for those hotels are the entities that decide to raise rates during the tournament.

“I just don’t understand it at all,” he said.

Vi Waln, a Rosebud Lakota writer who lives on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, was one of the first people Tuesday morning to alert others on social media to the extraordinarily high rates being charged by the Residence Inn.

“They love money but hate Indigenous people,” Waln said.

Native people have long encountered hostile and outright discriminatory business practices in Rapid City, the second most populous metropolitan area in South Dakota. In October, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against a local hotel for denying services to the original inhabitants of the state, much of which was promised to the tribes of the Sioux Nation by treaty.

“I believe the Department of Justice actually needs to do a much wider scope of investigation into systemic racism in the Rapid City community,” Nick Tilsen, the chief executive officer of NDN Collective, a Native-led organization, told Indianz.Com on the day the lawsuit was announced on October 19.

NDN Collective is already suing the Grand Gateway Hotel for its racist practices, Tilsen pointed out. Representatives of the organization were repeatedly denied rooms at the facility and were escorted off the property by one of the owners, who is named as a defendant in the federal lawsuit.

“Grand Gateway, quite frankly, is a byproduct of a racist environment and a racist system,” Tilsen said in an interview. “That’s how that behavior came ‘okay’ for them — because there’s a culture of racism and systemic, white supremacy here in the community.”

The hotel and its operators responded to the federal complaint on November 14. They admitted denying a room to at least one person — because she was a “local” resident, meaning she resides in Rapid City. They further acknowledged that their “local policy” wasn’t formally written down but refused to admit turning away “Native Americans” for business.

In their response, attorneys for Grand Gateway wrote that “Defendants are without sufficient information to either admit or deny whether Sunny Red Bear or persons with her were Native American.”

According to the federal complaint, Sunny Red Bear, who is Lakota from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, was denied a room at the hotel. Red Bear works for NDN Collective.

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