Rapid City, SD – Yesterday, the families of Nevaeh Brave Heart, Aiko Storm White Eagle, Kasey Arehart, and Kyle Whiting held a sit-in at state’s attorney Lara Roetzel’s office for five hours, calling for her resignation and for an independent investigation into the practices of the State’s Attorney office. The families and local community members mobilized this peaceful action to call attention to the state’s attorney’s track record of over prosecuting Native people while also failing to serve justice for Native people who have been murdered. To draw just one sharp comparison: the white man who killed Nevaeh Brave Heart in a hit-and-run and then washed and painted his vehicle to hide evidence was charged with a class one misdemeanor, while Native teenager Kasey Arehart was sentenced to 30 years in prison just for firing a gun, even though no one was hurt.
After the 30 documented boarding schools that operated in South Dakota until the 1970s stripped the state’s Indigenous Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people of their culture, language, history and human rights, Indigenous students have floundered in the state’s public school system. With high school graduation rates for Native American students hovering around 50%, some communities have sought to right educational wrongs through charter schools. But their proposals have repeatedly been stalled: A bill proposed by Native American legislators and communities to create state-funded charter schools focused on teaching Lakota language, culture and history failed for the third time last year.
Pierre, SD - The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday, Sept. 6, unanimously denied Navigator CO2 Ventures' project application to build a CO2 pipeline in the state, determining that the company did not seem to be fully intent on complying with the law of the land if its application for the Heartland Greenway Pipeline was approved. "The burden of proof is on the applicant," Commissioner Kristie Fiegen said. "Here, they have raised their hand and have chose to not comply and have asked for an exemption from local laws." Navigator responded to the decision saying it will evaluate the written decision of the Public Utility Commission once issued and determine its course of action in South Dakota thereafter.
Dakota men, women and youth rode into Mankato, Minnesota, on horseback on Dec. 26 to honor Dakota warriors hanged by President Abraham Lincoln on that day in 1862, in the largest mass execution in U.S. history. The Dakota 38+2 Wokiksuye Sunk Akan Yankapi — the 17-day Dakota Prayer Ride and Water Walk — honors the 38 warriors hanged in Mankato, as well as two additional men who were kidnapped from Canada three years later, brought back to the U.S. and then executed. This year about 100 riders rode from their homes throughout South Dakota and elsewhere to gather at Sisseton, South Dakota, and began the honoring ride on Dec. 10. The ride follows the 330-mile path of their ancestors to the site of the mass hanging. Also this year Dakota runners started Dec. 25 from Fort Snelling in St. Paul, Minnesota, and joined the riders at Reconciliation Park in Mankato.
The other day, one of my granddaughters called and said, “Grandma, did you hear? They’re returning articles from a museum in Barre, Vermont, that belonged to our relatives that were massacred at Wounded Knee.” “What?” I said. “What kind of things?” She said, “Things they were wearing or had when they were murdered at Wounded Knee in 1890. There are even baby moccasins, and little kids’ moccasins in there. The soldiers took them off the bodies and they kept them in a museum all these years. Now they’re giving them back.” As descendants of survivors of Wounded Knee, it is our relatives’ things that we are talking about so it hit home really hard. What was in there that might have belonged to our relatives? Moccasins? A shirt? A shawl? Then she asked, “What do you think should happen to these things?”
Rapid City, South Dakota – Today, NDN Collective announced that after nearly two and a half years of legal battles, all charges against NDN Collective president and CEO Nick Tilsen have been dismissed by the state of South Dakota. “My case held a mirror up to the so-called legal system, where prosecutors – fueled by white fragility and fear of Indigenous power – wasted years of state resources to intimidate, criminalize, and violate me,” said Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of NDN Collective. “The fact that I’ve gone from facing 17 years in prison to all charges dismissed is not a coincidence or an act of justice – it’s evidence that the charges were bogus from the start. We only won because we had effective tools and a strong network to fight them, and did not back down until we had exhausted the system that was built to exhaust us.
South Dakota - Since 2010, Joye Braun, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, has fought the construction of oil and gas pipelines in her region, working to protect sacred places where her forebears hunted and fished and lived and died. In many of those battles, Braun came up against white ranchers and farmers who supported the pipelines and received fees from the developers for the use of their land. Today, Braun is opposing a huge new pipeline that would transport carbon dioxide across five Midwestern states — Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and North and South Dakota. But this time she finds herself in an unusual alliance with white landowners who are also against the pipeline, like Ed Fischbach, a South Dakota farmer.
Hot Springs, South Dakota – A budding national reputation for healing mineral waters spawned this town of 3,400 in the early 1900s. Appreciative of that source, today’s area residents have fended off proposed radioactive uranium mining in the aquifers for more than four decades. This summer of 2022, they scored a breakthrough. They collected enough signatures to obtain a ballot measure that would declare the activity a “nuisance” in Fall River County. If the measure passes in the county’s Nov. 8 general election, then an interested party could take legal action to prevent or stop the nuisance, according to South Dakota law.
Rapid City, SD - A complaint has been filed with the Senate Ethics Committee in Washington, DC, regarding unlawful activity by both South Dakota Senators, Mike Rounds (R-SD) and John Thune (R-SD). Electronically filed with the Senate Ethics Committee on May 26, 2022, the Complaint was sent in by four former patients of the Sioux San Indian Health Service Health Facility (Sioux San) in Rapid City. The complaint states that both Senators pressured the Indian Health Service (IHS) to enter into an unlawful contract for the administration of the Sioux San IHS Health Facility with one of their own non-profit corporations, a data collection agency called the Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board (GPTLHB). The corporation changed the historic name of the Sioux San to the Oyate Health Center (OHC).
On Wednesday, March 23, NDN Collective filed a federal civil rights class action lawsuit against the Grand Gateway Hotel for refusing service to Native Americans in Rapid City. This lawsuit comes after the owner of the hotel, Connie Uhre, made public statements on social media stating her intent to ban all Native Americans from the hotel and the attached Cheers Lounge after a shooting occurred at the hotel over the weekend involving Native Americans, stating she can’t tell “who is a bad Native or a good Native.” Following the statements made by Uhre, Native American staff of the NDN Collective were denied rooms at the Grand Gateway Hotel on two separate occasions. NDN Collective Director of Racial Equity Sunny Red Bear attempted to book a room on Monday, March 21, and was told by the front desk attendant that the Grand Gateway Hotel does not allow local residents to book hotel rooms, stating that this was a policy due to the fact that rooms allegedly were getting “trashed” by locals.
Hundreds of protestors marched in the streets and gathered outside a South Dakota courthouse Wednesday to celebrate the filing of a lawsuit against a Rapid City hotel whose owner said she would ban Native Americans from property. The demonstrators marched through downtown Rapid City with drums and carried tribal flags and banners, including one that read “We will not tolerate racist policies and practices.” The march was organized by three advocacy organizations — NDN Collective, the American Indian Movement and Cheyenne River Grassroots Collective — that also filed the federal civil rights class action lawsuit. Attorney Brendan Johnson, a former U.S. attorney who represents the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit, said the “rest of the world” needs to know what’s going on in Rapid City, according to a report by the Associated Press.
Yesterday, NDN Collective’s Education Equity team led hundreds of Indigenous people and allies from across the state in the Oceti Sakowin March for Our Children, demanding the resignation of numerous SD Public Officials for their roles in the newly proposed social studies standards that blatantly erase Oceti Sakowin history. Last month, NDN Collective responded to the blatant erasure of Oceti Sakowin history in newly proposed standards, and called on supporters to call elected officials, the Secretary of Education, and their local school districts to advocate against this erasure. Oceti Sakowin Community Academy — the Indigenous-led school being opened by NDN Collective in partnership with the NACA Inspired Schools Network (NISN) — will open for kindergarten students this fall.
Sioux Falls, S.D. — A draft of Social Studies content standards has been released by the Department of Education. The draft of standards released differ in some ways from the initial proposal, which was submitted by the Social Studies Standards Revision Workgroup, made up primarily of educators from across the state. The main way that the standards appear to be altered in the removal of references to Native American culture and history. Some examples of this are the removal of Kindergarten history standard K.H.6.1: ‘Read or listen to Oceti Sakowin Oyate stories, such as Iktomi stories and historical lore stories,’ and of Grade 4 history standard 4.H.6.1: ‘Explain how the Oceti Sakowin and Oyate culture and other groups were affected by westward expansion, the creation of the reservation system, and the US assimilation policies and programs.’
Rapid City, South Dakota - In a devastating blow to the Self-Determination of all Native American Indian Tribes in the United States, the Supreme Court denied the Petition in the case, Gilbert v. Weahke. In doing so, the Justices also violated Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, the Indian Self-Determination Act, the Lanham Act, the Transfer Act, and the Abstention Doctrine. The case began when a federal agency, the Indian Health Service (IHS), gave an Indian Self-Determination Act multi-million dollar contract to a South Dakota non-profit corporation to manage the Sioux San IHS Hospital in Rapid City, SD. As the South Dakota non-profit corporation was not a Tribal Organization under the jurisdiction of any tribe and without federal recognition, this was a violation of Public Law 93-638, the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA).
South Dakota - A strike authorization at the Sioux Falls chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union was overwhelmingly approved late Monday with 98% of the vote total, the union said. However, union leaders said they hope to avoid a work stoppage as they prepared to meet with company representatives. Meatpacking workers have become emboldened after a virus outbreak at the plant last year killed four workers and infected nearly 1,300. The union is demanding that Smithfield boost its wage offerings in a four-year contract to match those at a JBS pork plant in the region, as well as make several other concessions on break times and employee health insurance costs. “We’re not going to change our stand,” said B.J. Motley, the president of the local union.