Rapid City Rhubarb
Great Sioux Nation vs Connie Uhre and the Grand Gateway Hotel
This is getting interesting. Connie decided to ban all natives after a native shot somebody in a room, sparking immediate outrage from both tribal and Rapid City leaders, with a now deleted tweet. Her staff walked out, the restaurant on the premises, owned by a franchise, stopped serving food into the hotel bar and the NDN Collective filed suit. Now this, from the intertribal treaty council, which is basically saying she needs to pack her bags and go, invoking the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty. I don't know if they seriously intend to enforce this order or not , but they clearly intend to take as much native business away from her as they can. Whether Rapid City sides with her or the council remains to be seen.
UPDATE: March 29, 2022
An estimated 1, 000 people, led by the chairmen of the tribal governments in the treaty council marched on the Grand Gateway hotel to serve the eviction notice.
”In an unapologetic display of Tribal sovereignty, on Saturday, March 26, Tribal Leaders of the Oceti Sakowin– the Seven Council Fires of Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations, otherwise known as the “Great Sioux Nation” in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868– delivered a message to the Grand Gateway Hotel: “You are in trespass.”
“This action comes on the heels of a week charged with outrage after the owner of the Grand Gateway Hotel, Connie Uhre, made public comments on social media that she would be banning all Native Americans from the Rapid City-based hotel as well as the attached Cheers Lounge, following a shooting that occurred on Saturday, March 19, which involved Native Americans.”
Oceti Sakowin Movement shared the NDN Collective coverage of the action with this comment: "What a performative act of protest. EVERY SINGLE day since 1890's our treaty has been broke on every square mile of our territory. EVERY business in Rapid City is guilty of profiting off of our genocide. So why just the Grand Gateway? Why not all of them and why not march on Noems doorstep and stay their until the treaties are FULLY restored? Oh I know why... That would mean actually making change. Grand Gateway will be gone, sure... But until this Same effort is made for REAL core Sovereignty issues... I see nothing but a great performance. I SEE ALL THOSE FEDERAL TRIBAL COUNCIL CHIEFS BUT NOT ONE REAL LEADER!" - J. Switters (Mniconjou-Oglala Lakota)
As a hereditary medicine person from a European Hebrew Israelite family that came here as refugees six generations ago and a blacklisted queer rainbow hippie life scientist, I have been allied with the original people of many nations for the past forty years in their struggles for economic and ecological justice all over the lower 48.
J. Switter's comment illuminates a schism in the native community most would rather nobody notice. . "I SEE ALL THOSE FEDERAL TRIBAL COUNCIL CHIEFS BUT NOT ONE REAL LEADER!" In all the press this controversy has received, I haven't seen any statements by recognized spiritual leaders of this Great Sioux Nation of the Fort Laramie Treaty, such as Arvol Looking Horse , Chief Phil Lane or Winona LaDuke. I don't even see Joy Braun in any of this, likely because both of those warrior women are focused on pipelines and the water.
Tribal governments are constructs of the federal government imposed on sovereign nations whose ancestral lands they've taken over to build their republic and they generally don't serve or protect families who live according to the traditional customs of their tribes. They serve to facilitate the industries exploiting the resources of their locales and scant little of the revenue trickles down into the reservations where the people live, often without indoor plumbing or electricity, sometimes with the nearest treated water source, provisions and health care services many miles away.
Indigent rez folk everywhere struggle to keep their children and elders fed and sheltered, their adults clean and sober and their culture alive. The people leading this demonstration are all "urban Indians" exhibiting a fair bit of economic privilege. What do they intend to do with the building? There are about 350 homeless people in Rapid City and about a thousand around the rest of the state who could be housed there.
In 1993, I sat with the late Leonard Crow Dog in his trailer at Crow Dog Paradise with his nephew, Ernie Running, listening to their vision for development in the Black Hills. They expressed a lot of contempt for a casino deal Kevin Costner had invested in, calling him "Sleeps With Dogs". They saw nothing but harm coming from casinos and wanted to build a spa. It appears to me the spa has been built and just needs to be taken over and repurposed to serve people indigenous to the land it is on.
The offending tweet:
Local tribal and city leaders push back:
Local leadership slams hotel owner for inflammatory racial comments
Complaint: Racist Rapid City Hoteliers Actually Denied Service to and Ejected Indian Customers
BY CORY ALLEN HEIDELBERGER ON 2022-03-25
South Dakota Free Press
Nick and Connie Uhre didn’t just threaten to ban Indians from their Grand Gateway Hotel and Cheers Sports Lounge in Rapid City. According to the amended complaint that the NDN Collective and the group’s racial equity director Sunny Red Bear filed Thursday in federal court in Rapid City, the Grand Gateway Hotel actually refused to rent a room to Red bear and another Native American woman:
22. On March 21, 2022, Plaintiff Sunny Red Bear entered the Grand Gateway Hotel with another Native American woman. The two women tried to rent a room at the hotel.
23. After initially beginning to process the rental and providing a price quote, a hotel employee refused to rent a room to them, claiming that the hotel had a policy that it did not rent rooms to people with “local” identification. This was mere pretext to discriminate against Ms. Red Bear based on her race.
24. The hotel employee first claimed that this local identification policy was an actual policy. Then she reversed herself, claiming there was not a formal policy but that this was an effort to implement and/or deal with the fallout from Connie Uhre’s social media posts. On information and belief, no written policy existed, and no such policy was provided to Ms. Red Bear.
25. The hotel employee also did not allow the other woman to rent the room under her name using her identification.
26. As a direct result of Connie Uhre’s decision, announced on social media, to exclude Native Americans from her businesses, Ms. Red Bear was discriminated against in violation of federal law. On information and belief, Nicholas Uhre has also endorsed and enforced this policy [Brendan V. Johnson, Amended Complaint, NDN Collective and Sunny Red Bear v. Retsel Corporation, Connie Uhre, and Nicholas Uhre, U.S. District Court of South Dakota, Western Division, 2022.03.24].
Evidently not smart enough to smell a lawsuit coming, Grand Gateway staff denied more Indians rooms the next day, and Nick Uhre himself appears to have ejected Indians from his hotel:
30. On March 22, 2022, representatives of NDN Collective entered the Grand Gateway Hotel to reserve five rooms on behalf of the organization.
31. NDN Collective was told that they could not rent rooms due to some “issues” that the hotel had.
32. When NDN Collective stated that Expedia showed rooms available, the front desk employee confirmed that rooms were, in fact, available but the hotel would not rent those available rooms to NDN Collective.
33. At no point did the NDN Collective representative present a form of identification, local or otherwise.
34. The NDN Collective representative asked to speak to a manager. At all times, the interaction with the front desk employee was respectful and polite.
35. Immediately thereafter, an individual believed to be Nicholas Uhre approached the NDN Collective representatives and forcefully demanded that they leave the hotel. He then followed them out of the hotel. The representatives of NDN Collective were intimidated by Nicholas Uhre’s threatening demeanor [Amended Complaint, 2022.03.24].
To underscore the intimidation Natives may experience at the Grand Gateway, plaintiffs amended their complaint Thursday to include this statement, with a photo I first saw posted Twitter by Joye Braun on Wednesday, alleging that after these two unsuccessful attempts by Indian customers to rent rooms at the Grand Gateway, the hotel had stationed guards with at least one rifle in the lobby:
20. On information and belief, by the afternoon of March 23, 2022, the Grand Gateway Hotel had stationed guards, at least one of whom had an assault rifle, in the lobby of the hotel:
Photo included in Amended Complaint, 2022.03.24.
21. The presence of guards and automatic weapons was intended to, and did, further intimidate and exclude Native Americans, including the Plaintiffs here [Amended Complaint, 2022.03.24].
The plaintiffs allege violation of 42 USC §1981, which recognizes the right of “All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States… in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts….” They ask the court to certify this matter as a class action on behalf of the thousands of Native Americans to whom the Uhres are denying service; award compensatory, general, special, and punitive damages to each plaintiff; enjoin any unlawful anti-Indian policy practiced by the defendants; and deploy any other judicial butt-kicking the court deems appropriate.