Lawsuit possible in Rush hockey game alleged racism incident

By Jim Stasiowski, Rapid City Journal 

Rapid City is among the defendants that may be sued in federal court by the Native American students who were the targets of alleged beer-spilling and racial taunts at a January hockey game in the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

A Minneapolis lawyer, Robert R. Hopper, has filed in the U.S. District Court of South Dakota a “pre-suit notice” alleging “atrocious behaviors” by some of the defendants at the Jan. 24 Rapid City Rush game.

But the lawyer for one of the defendants responded that the notice is “little more than a shakedown for money.”

State law requires that to sue a “public entity,” such as the city, over some incident, written notice must be given within 180 days of the incident. Thus, the deadline for giving the city written notice occurs this week.

Named as prospective defendants in the yet-to-be-filed suit are the city of Rapid City, which operates the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, in which the Rush play their games; Eagle Sales of the Black Hills, which leases the luxury box from which the beer-spilling and racial taunts reportedly came; Trace O’Connell, a Philip resident who has been charged with disorderly conduct in connection with the incident; and “other guests of Eagle Sales’ box suite” on the night of the game.

Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender on Saturday said he had “skimmed” the pre-suit notice and has scheduled an executive session at the Monday night Rapid City Council meeting for council members to discuss the possible lawsuit with legal counsel.

“I guess it wasn’t unexpected,” Allender said.

“It could very well be that the impact might be to elicit a settlement” from the defendants, he added. An attempt Saturday to reach an executive with Eagle Sales was unsuccessful.

O’Connell’s attorney in the disorderly conduct case, Michael J. Butler, responded in an email:

“The notice to bring a lawsuit against Rapid City, the Civic Center, Eagle Sales, my client, and others is little more than a shakedown for money, captioned as a lawsuit claiming racism. I am familiar with the investigation. This case is not about racism, but it is about a few who are advancing a personal agenda and using race to do it. The lawyer filing notice should take some time to inform himself of the investigation and do his homework. ”

The pre-suit notice lists as plaintiffs parents who are acting on behalf of the students. In a cover letter, Hopper refers to the plaintiffs as a “Putative Class of Native American Children.”

The pre-suit notice says the plaintiffs “and putative plaintiffs class (were) subjected to (1) an escalating series of racially derogatory comments; (2) foul language; (3) objects, including bottle caps and Frisbees, thrown at them; and (4) spitting, spraying and throwing of beer onto their clothing, in their hair, and on their faces.”

Some of those accusations are familiar, although the references to thrown bottle caps and Frisbees apparently are new.

The pre-suit notice said the “atrocious behaviors” were committed by “several adults … in a private suite … leased by the Civic Center to Eagle Sales of the Black Hills, Inc.”

Those actions, the notice says, “were allowed to perpetuate and were exasperated by the negligence of the Civic Center and its responsible agents and employees acting in their official capacity on behalf of the City.” In an email, Hopper said “exasperated” should have been “exacerbated,” and he explained that an auto-correct feature on his computer made the mistake.

The students, all from the American Horse School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, were at the game as a reward for academic success. They were accompanied by adult chaperons. The group had 65 tickets to the game.

After a lengthy investigation, O’Connell was charged with disorderly conduct, a Class 2 misdemeanor. His trial is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday this week in the Historic Theatre at Rapid City High School.

Authorities Probe Alleged Hate Crime Against Native American Kids

A small protest in Rapid City, S.D., including members of the Native American community, gather in front of the Civic Center where the incident occurred.Charles Michael Ray/South Dakota Public Broadcasting
A small protest in Rapid City, S.D., including members of the Native American community, gather in front of the Civic Center where the incident occurred.
Charles Michael Ray/South Dakota Public Broadcasting


By Charles Micheal Ray, NPR


An investigation into a possible hate crime is underway in Rapid City, S.D., after a group of men allegedly assaulted Native American kids at a minor league hockey game. The incident angered many in the community, and racial tensions in Rapid City are running high.

The group of middle-school students made a two-hour bus trip from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to a Rapid City Rush hockey game in late January. The school-sanctioned outing was a reward for academic achievement.

But the group left the game in the third period when some men sitting above them in a corporate box allegedly began to pour beer on and shout racial slurs at the parents and students.

Angie Sam says she believes her 13-year-old daughter and 56 other students, ages 9 to 13, are victims of a hate crime.

“Some of our kids — they’ve had nightmares, they cry,” she says, as she herself fights back tears. “We as parents, we cry for our kids, because we protect them. And they were being rewarded for good behavior, and these drunk, white men ruined that for them.”

The incident was reported on social media after the game, then to law enforcement. Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris condemned the attack and said charges could include hate crimes.

“It is what I would call ‘scorching of your soul,’ so it upsets me greatly that this occurred here in our community,” he says. “And it certainly is a criminal act that occurred; we do have an ongoing, open criminal investigation.”

Suspects in the investigation have not yet been named, and police say any charges could be weeks away.

“Being patient in this process is part of it, but we can’t be too patient — we need action,” says Mato Standing High, an attorney for some of the families involved. “Rapid City should not tolerate the abuse of children, period.”

Standing High says the incident adds to racial tension that already was elevated by a police shooting of a Native American man in December. He notes a pattern of troubled race relations extending all the way back to the white settlement of the area in the late 19th century, but says that what’s different this time is that it involves so many kids.

“You add on top of that factors of race, and that’s when people get really, really excited and taken back in history to horrible treatment that Indians have faced,” he adds.

Many of those like Standing High say that past racist acts or even hate crimes against Native Americans here have occurred with few repercussions. Social media is seen as a game-changer in this case.

The Native community is using it to organize protests, which have been attended by Native Americans and others. Organizers see that type of cross-cultural communication as a positive step, but note that it will take more than one rally to heal the deep racial divisions here.

Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney and a founder of the group Lastrealindians, spread the story on his website after it was posted on Facebook. He warns that anyone who is overtly racist now runs the risk of being called out on the Internet.

“We control our own presses, we control our own media networks,” he says. “We reach a million people a week, for instance, on my media network, easily. And so things are changing. There’s an evolution here, coming.”

Good idea, but not in our neighborhood

Posted: 07/14/2013 1:55 pm



Huffington Post

By Tim Giago 
Founder, Native American Journalists Association

If you are Native American and you have lived in Rapid City for any length of time, the actions of the Department of Parks and Recreation Advisory Board last Thursday would have come as no surprise.
After two previous meetings, the board finally voted 4 – 3 to deny Native Americans the opportunity to place four bronze busts of famous Native Americans in Rapid City’s Halley Park.

I felt from the moment I entered the arena of the old Sioux Indian Museum at Halley Park that we were about to face a rigged and forgone conclusion of a decision. That feeling just hung in the air. The board saw to it that five of the grandchildren of Mr. James Halley, for whom the park was named, were present. It was almost as if they collectively brought a feeling of “Oh my God; they are trying to place the busts of Indians in our precious park.”

Most of the people standing up in opposition to the plan were folks who lived in the park neighborhood. To a person they said, “Oh, the idea is a really good one, but not in our neighborhood.” One elderly lady almost uttered the racist words that seemed to be on the minds of those people opposed to the project. She said, “I’ve lived in Rapid City for 70 years and if they put those statues there the next thing you know . . . . . . . . Oh, I can’t even find the words.” Every Indian in the place knew the words. They were, “The next thing you know there will be a bunch of drunken Indians panhandling and dirtying up the park in our precious neighborhood.”

Actually the idea of the Sculpture Garden of Native Americans was hatched by the longtime activist and professor, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, a member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. She wanted to place the busts of accomplished Native Americans like Vine Deloria, Jr., a noted Indian author, Oscar Howe, one of the great Indian artists of our time, Charles Eastman, an author and physician, and the famous holy man Black Elk, in the park to show the rest of the world that we (Native Americans) had intelligent, professional scholars and artistic members in our history who seldom make it into the history and text books of non-Native America.

At a previous meeting a few months back Cook-Lynn was quoted as speaking of “little white girls” and this comment set off board member Jeff Schild. His impression of one of the ‘good ole boys,’ intentional or not, was right on. His efforts at making light of a serious proposal were embarrassing to some of the other board members and definitely to all of the Native Americans in attendance.

Mr. Schild made it his goal to attack and embarrass the elderly Dakota woman, Liz Cook-Lynn. “I didn’t like your comment about little white girls because I have two daughters of my own and Oh yes; I’m of Russian and German descent.” Retorted Liz, “Well you folks refer to our children as ‘little Indians,’ so what’s the difference? But Schild kept jabbing away until he forced an apology from Cook-Lynn. It seems that his attacks upon Cook-Lynn were his only reason for showing up that night and his obvious opposition to the proposal to place the statues in Halley Park was secondary.

For more than 50 years the Sioux Indian Museum was located in the very park Cook-Lynn selected for the Sculpture Garden of Native Americans. The lame excuse that by placing the statues in the park would create traffic problems was repeated over and over and the proven fact that the Sioux Museum never caused traffic problems in all of the years it shared the park was never mentioned.

The placing of the Indian statues in the park would then become a “destination” according to Mr. Schild, Nick Stroot and Chuck Tinant, three of the board members who voted against the plan. “The location is a big concern,” they almost chimed in unison. And they could have added, yes, my dear little Indians, it’s a good idea, but not in our neighborhood.

There are statues of past white American presidents on nearly every street corner in downtown Rapid City. Are they also considered a “destination” because there is certainly a lot of traffic passing through downtown? No, they are more of a distraction than a destination.

We ask Elizabeth Cook-Lynn to stick to her guns and don’t give up the fight. Discouragement is the first roadblock to accomplishment.

The next step of the Four Nations Sculpture Park Corporation will be to take the fight to the newly elected, second-term mayor, Sam Kooiker. As Mr. Schild would probably say in his best impression of one of the “good ole boys,” There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

(Tim Giago can be reached at

Historic Federal Lawsuit Dealing with Removal of Indian Children Filed on Behalf of Lakota

Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents,

RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA – Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union Thursday filed a lawsuit on behalf of three American Indian parents, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Rosebud Sioux Tribe for the illegal removal of Indian children from American Indian families in the US District Court in Rapid City, South Dakota.

American Indian Parents LawsuitACLU and Tribal Leaders at Court House

The 39 page lawsuit pertains to the lack of adequate hearings when American Indian children are removed from their familial home.

In one case cited in the lawsuit, one custodial hearing lasted a mere 60 seconds. American Indian parents were not even allowed or permitted to see the court papers. The judge signed the documents to remove the children within in seconds.

The case has been in the making for months as American Civil Liberties Union attorneys reviewed the circumstances surrounding the procedures used in the Pennington Court system.

“This case is not about numbers, this case is about the procedural fairness,”

stated Stephen Pevar, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney.

“This lawsuit seeks to put an end to disgraceful and unlawful practices that unfortunately have been standard practice in Pennington County, South Dakota, for a long time.”

American Indian Parents LawsuitSigns say it all

Outside of the Andrew W. Bogue Federal Building in Rapid City, American Indians began to gather to protest shortly before 9:00 am. Facing brisk temperatures on the second day of spring that were in the low 20s, some 100 tribal members stood outside the federal building as the attorneys and Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan V. Brewer, Sr. went inside to file the lawsuit.

“This is the first step. Our children have been abused for far too long,”

stated President Brewer outside before he went into the federal building to file the lawsuit with American Civil Liberties Union attorneys.

“ This has to stop, we will not tolerate this any longer. Today is a historic day.”

People carried signs that read: “Protect our children from the state” and “No more exploitation of Indian children.”

Several tribal members were visibly upset as they took the microphone to tell their stories of how children were removed from their homes without due process by county or state of South Dakota officials.

Mary Black Bonnet, 38, a tribal citizen of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, spoke about being removed from her family when she was only 18 months old and adopted by a non-Indian family and ended up in Niles, Michigan.

“I fought for 22 years to get back to my people. I kept telling myself, “I have to get away from these crazy people.” I wanted to get back to my people,”

referring to her natural, American Indian family. As she spoke, her daughter clung to her.

American Indian Parents LawsuitMary Black Bonnet – Rosebud Sioux

Some of the attendees discussed how the state of South Dakota and Pennington County officials have ignored the Indian Child Welfare Act, ICWA, that was passed by Congress in 1978 in response to the large number of American Indian children who removed from their homes in at disproportionate rates.

“This hits the heart of our tribe. With this lawsuit we want to see our rights that ICWA should guarantee to us. Pennington County is violating our rights,”

stated Juanita Scherich, ICWA director for the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

“I had to witness the actual filing of this lawsuit. This is so historic,”

said Sheris Red Feather, whose son, Patrick, committed suicide while in the custody of the State of South Dakota when he was 15.

She went upstairs of the federal building to watch the filing of the lawsuit at the federal court by the lawyers and President Brewer.

Tribal Councilors Robin LaBeau and Robert Walters of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe attended the event to demonstrate the support of their Tribe to the lawsuit.

“We are here to support this lawsuit 100 percent. It comes down to our support of all Lakota children,”