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On March 20, Grand Gateway Hotel co-owner Connie Uhre commented on a post made by Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender’s Facebook that Native Americans would no longer be allowed on the property, including “Cheers,” a popular bar attached to the hotel. Uhre’s comment came after a late night shooting at the hotel that resulted in a young Lakota man being taken to the intensive care unit at the local hospital. In response, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairwoman Janet Alkire has sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, noting the ban is a violation of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution and the 1964 Civil Rights Act

“In Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964), the Supreme Court held that Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a valid exercise of Congress' power, and Title II prohibits racial discrimination in public accommodations,” Alkire wrote to Garland. “The Department of Justice has the responsibility to enforce the Civil Rights Act prohibition against denial of access to public accommodations based upon race.”

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When Uhre’s comment to ban all Native Americans from the hotel property was brought to light, leaders within the Lakota Nation were transparent and committed to presenting a united and organized response. Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier issued a press release on March 21, saying that since settlers arrived Lakota people have been treated as a problem. 

On Saturday, a protest was organized largely by Tribal leadership with attendance in the hundreds. Collectively, the Lakota people delivered a “Notice of Trespass (Cease and Desist)” at the Grand Gateway Hotel, citing the Fort Laramie 1868 Treaty. 

Prior to the incident in Rapid City, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe met with other Lakota tribes to participate and contribute to the conversation involving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) that has oversight on permitting the operation of the Dakota Access oil pipeline on Indian treaty territory. 

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s External Affairs Director Kerry Libby recalls the collective presence of other Lakota Sioux Tribes that are also known as the Great Sioux Nation at the recent meeting with the USACOE. 

“I think it’s important on these big issues that we work with surrounding tribes as the Great Sioux Nation, not just Standing Rock, but all of them,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s External Affairs Director Kerry Libby to Native News Online.

Libby said several Tribal chairmen voiced that they all liked the opportunity to work together as a collective tribe and agreed that collective work should continue.

Tomorrow, all leaders of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association plan to privately meet in Pierre, South Dakota, to discuss next steps of the civil violations. “How do we stop racial discrimination from happening?” said Libby of the upcoming meeting’s focus.

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About The Author
Author: Darren ThompsonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a freelance journalist and based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, where he also contributes to Unicorn Riot, an alternative media publication. Thompson has reported on political unrest, tribal sovereignty, and Indigenous issues for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, Powwows.com and Unicorn Riot. He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in international conversation. He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology & Law Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.