Published February 25, 2018
COLUMBUS, MONTANA – On a cold day in January 2017, the Pryor Four – four Indigenous Montana parents – traveled nearly ninety miles to Reed Point to watch the Class C basketball matchup between the Warriors and the Renegades. When they arrived, they were blocked from entering the gymnasium early because they were not white. Reed Point staff informed the Pryor Four that only “white people” were being admitted to the gym pending the arrival of additional school staff. Today, the Pryor Four took a stand against racism and have filed a discrimination complaint in Stillwater County District Court.
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“We will never forget how it felt to stand outside in the January cold and be told, ‘We’re only letting white people in,’” said Elsworth GoesAhead (Apsáalooke). “We want our children, our communities, and all other Montanans to know that racism in Montana is not inevitable and it is always illegal.”
GoesAhead is joined by Brandy GoesAhead (Blackfeet/Eastern Cherokee), Emerine Whiteplume (Arapaho/ Apsáalooke), and Whitney Holds (Apsáalooke) as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
“It takes enormous courage and conviction for the Pryor Four to continue to stand up and protect their community,” said Caitlin Borgmann, Executive Director of the ACLU of Montana. “Race discrimination is illegal. We are asking the court to uphold these parents’ right to be free from the dehumanizing impacts of discrimination. We commend the Pryor Four for their persistence.”
The District Court complaint follows a complaint of discrimination filed with the Montana Human Rights Bureau in May 2017 that requested a formal apology by the Reed Point School District and cultural sensitivity training for staff.
The Human Rights Bureau’s informal investigation resulted in a “no-cause finding.” The investigation is simply the first step in the legal process designed to protect all Montanans from discrimination. The case now shifts to a formal proceeding in District Court, where the Pryor Four seek an order prohibiting discrimination and requiring cultural sensitivity training for the defendants.