|Martin Luther King, Jr. said that this
country is in trouble, not because of the bad acts of evil people but because
of the appalling silence of good people. (2)
1999, The South Dakota Advisory Committee to the Commission on Civil Rights Report
Charles Abourezk, an attorney in Rapid City with a lengthy record of advocacy on behalf of Native Americans, presented an overview of race relations in South Dakota and treatment of Native Americans within the judicial system. Racial polarization, although improving in some segments of society, has long been a reality in South Dakota, he said. Acts of racial violence are as much a part of South Dakota's history as they are for the South, he told the Committee. Referring to the 1998 dragging death of a black man in Texas, Abourezk said, "Our James Byrds often appear with little notice here in our region, and their killers often get probation rather than the death penalty or do not get charged at all."
He noted that an act of violence against one Native American, whether racially motivated or not, spreads fear throughout Indian communities. When minorities react to these deaths, he continued, it is they who "appear excitable and prone to exaggeration while the rest of society looks on with calm reasonableness as if they are disconnected from it all."
Racism exists yet, elder says
Agatha Holy Bull, 83, is an elder of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Holy Bull says communities on both sides of the river - Mobridge to the east and reservation towns to the west - still suffer from the death of Boo Many Horses in 1999.
"When I go to Mobridge to buy food, I see Mobridge's businesses running with Indian money," she says. "Some (Native Americans) are still angry and don't go there. There is a lot of anger on both sides."
Holy Bull says a Wakpala boy was walking home along the highway recently when he was offered a ride by two white teens.
"They beat him up pretty bad and left him in a ditch, but he's OK now," she says. "It's dangerous for an Indian to walk alone on the highway now."
Holy Bull says she still encounters racism in certain Mobridge businesses.
"I want to go to the Chamber of Commerce and talk to them," she says. "We're all children of the one God. We don't want to hate anybody.
"It's sad that all the people have started to drift apart. It's because of the death," she says. "When that happened, that's when people started to feel sad."
Tribal members accuse Wagner police of brutality
Yankton Sioux tribal members are complaining that Wagner Police Chief Ed Zylstra used excessive force while arresting an American Indian homeless woman last week.
They say Zylstra threw Sharon K. Gullikson to the ground in the middle of Main Street, handcuffed her, then yanked her up by the cuffs, cutting her wrist. Gullikson was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. ... "When it can be proven that we did something wrong, then we'll have to suffer the consequences," Dvorak said.
... ... In April, tribal members accused Zylstra and his officers of racial profiling -- stopping tribal members based solely upon their race. Zylstra and the city denied the charges. They say they were stopping tribal members to serve outstanding warrants. Several of those who witnessed Gullikson's arrest last week say the woman did nothing to provoke Zylstra.
"He grabbed her by the wrist and slammed her wickedly, right to the concrete," said Larry Weddell, who watched the arrest from across the street. "She landed on her face and chest. Dust flew up when she hit. He kneed her in the back, put the handcuffs on her, then jerked her off the ground, by the handcuffs.
"She never attacked him. She wasn't trying to get away or assault him. There was no need for this attack. What he did was totally uncalled for."
"I don't know what happened between Sharon (Gullikson) and the cops," he said. "She is not a problem here." Gullikson said she began to respond when Zylstra confronted her.
Sun, 02 Sep 2001
Dana Washington, Pass Creek, ... told of a 20-year-old Pass Creek member being raped along Highway 18 in Bennett County: White males picked up the female Lakota who was hitch-hiking. The two assaulted the woman with fists before raping her. She eventually broke away and ran into a field of sunflowers to escape. The victim reported, as she was running away, she was shot at several times. At press time, the victim was in Rapid City Regional Hospital.
Washington then opened the meeting to anyone who wanted to testify concerning civil rights violations in or near border towns.
Thu, 09 Mar 2000
Also barely meriting notice - at least by Rapid City officials - are the dead bodies turning up in Rapid Creek. In the past 17 months eight bodies, six of them Lakota, have been pulled from the shallow stream that runs through the heart of South Dakota's second largest city. The deaths have inspired fear in Rapid City's sizable Native community, whose members are overwhelmingly convinced they are the result of murder. Rapid City Police have sealed reports pertaining to the creek deaths, and say they are satisfied, for the time being, to label these deaths non-homicides.
Captain Tieszen of the Rapid City Police insists law enforcement officials are doing all they can. "We are investigating and haven't determined the causes. There is no credible evidence of homicide. The obvious connection that the cases have to each other is that they were found in Rapid Creek in Rapid City, South Dakota, in the same ballpark of time. They had no signs of trauma that might have caused their deaths. All but one were highly intoxicated. In many of these cases we have very little to go on. Some of the bodies were found quite some time after their deaths. There was no crime scene, per se, since most of the bodies drifted downstream from where they died."
On average there are one or two bodies found in the creek each year, Tieszen said. Keith Janis, a local Native activist and American Indian Movement member, said the Lakota people have no trust in police and are conducting an investigation of their own. "We've found things police don't know about. Many of us feel the police are playing a role. The police say they're baffled. That's how it is with law enforcement in South Dakota. Their solution is to let us solve our own problems, and that's what we're going to do," he said.
... "The police are trying to say these victims drowned, but they were all found the same way - head and shoulders in the water and in such close proximity - their theory just doesn't add up," said Janis. "The family of one of the victims, Timothy Blue Bear, said he was found naked with rope burns around his neck and cigarette burns all over his body. The police said he was found highly intoxicated. But everybody knew he wasn't a drinker. He was a singer at sundances. He had just come from a sundance when they found him dead in the creek."
... ... Killsright said he knows of 16 deaths that have occurred along Rapid Creek since 1984, and he believes racist skinheads are to blame. He formed this theory after he and two friends were confronted lastyear on a railroad bridge that crosses the creek. "There were six skinheads. I had two other guys with me. We defended ourselves but there wasn't much we could do. One of our guys was thrown off the bridge and had his arm broken. The fight lasted five minutes. My glasses were broken and I got a fat lip, then they ran."
Killsright said he reported the incident to police but they never responded. "The police are denying white supremacist groups exist here. This town has been a magnet for white supremacists since Custer first came looking for gold," Killsright said.
... Janis and Killsright complain that police have been condescending and evasive. "They've made their stand and we don't expect them to change their position."
... The police have provided the Community Action Patrol with two cell phones. They each dial only one number: 911. "These cell phones are useless. What makes them think I have trust built up to the point that I can expect they'll respond?" wonders Janis. According to American Indian Movement sources there have been 120 unsolved murders of Indian people in South Dakota - 68 on the Pine Ridge Reservation alone - going back to 1970. While such figures inspire a nearly unanimous distrust of the justice system by members of the Lakota Nation, recent events around the state have made matters even worse.
Saturday, May 20, 2000
... ... Nearly a year has passed since officers descended on the creek en masse and everyone in town learned about the mystery. Not a soul has died there since.
There is something else, something that makes Glassgow frown and shake his head: Every single corpse was found in the water. Not alongside it, not in the soppy prairie grasses on the banks, in the cold runoff of Rapid Creek. People who live along a creek could be expected to die along it as well. "But they died in it," Glassgow says ... ... ...
Police Keeping Close Watch Along Creek
It's dark, and for a Monday night, the police radio in Lt. Dave Walton's patrol car is going good.......
Walton drives his cruiser over a curb and onto a bike path that parallels Rapid Creek. He stops the car, flicks on his spotlight and aims the bright white beam into the dark underbrush.
"We just don't know," he says. "These people keep saying these things: people pushing them in, somebody's killing them. ... That's the word going around. We just don't know."
Thu, 09 Mar 2000
On June 26, 1999, over one thousand men, women, and children marched on the Pine Ridge Reservation to demand justice for the area's two most recent murder victims. Wilson Black Elk, jr., 40, and Ronald Hard Heart, 39, were found dead June 8 in a culvert 1Omega miles south of Pine Ridge Village near the Nebraska border.
While police and autopsy reports have been sealed family members have been allowed to see them. "Much of what is in the autopsy reports is confidential, but I will say who ever murdered them had a lot of hate," says Pine Ridge AIM member Tom Poor Bear, a brother of one of the victims.
"They were chopped-up pretty bad with an ax or hatchet. Wally was a very spiritual person. He read the bible a lot. He was just starting to get into traditional ways, the sundance and the sweatlodge. He touched the lives of many kids. Ron worked hard, and was really humble, really quiet. Ron would walk away from a fight. He didn't believe in violence but was killed violently."
... ... It's almost certain that Black Elk and Hard Heart were killed off-reservation and dumped where they were found. Witnesses say there was almost no blood at the scene. Sheridan County law enforcement officials are viewed by many Camp Justice supporters as prime suspects.
In the past three years two Lakota prisoners have died in the county jail, one hung by his own belt. The Sheriff called it suicide.
Everyone knows when you're arrested they take everything, especially your belt," said Webster Poor Bear. "The other prisoner was said to have died falling down the stairs. But other inmates saw deputies beat him prior to him being found dead."
The Sheridan County Sheriff's office has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in the cases.
... Layne Gisi, 19, of Mobridge, was accused of putting Many Horses in the trash can. He was charged with first- and second-degree manslaughter, aggravated assault, and abuse or neglect of a disabled adult. Many Horses suffered from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Ryan Goehring, 16, Joy Lynn Hahne, 18, and Jody Larson, 19, were charged with being an accessory to a crime and not reporting it.
The four picked up Many Horses at 3:00 a.m. as he walked along a Mobridge street. Lila Martel, Many Horses' foster-mother, said the teens often used Boo to buy them alcohol. Gisi told investigators they drove to the country where they drank and listened to music until about 4:30 a.m. Gisi shared a bottle of whiskey with Many Horses until he passed-out. Gisi said he tried to revive Many Horses with three or four slaps to the face then, in an attempt to wake him, threw him in a ditch. The four then put Many Horses in the car and returned to Mobridge where Gisi stuffed him head-first into the garbage can. They claim to have placed him there as a joke. An autopsy determined Many Horses died of alcohol poisoning. His blood-alcohol content was 0.446, more than four times the legal limit to drive in South Dakota. But on September 31, Magistrate Tony Portra dropped all charges against the four. (in the Robert Many Horses case, (Attorney)Abourezk alleged local authorities have been "totally unresponsive" to his foster mother's request for information (she did not receive an autopsy report until 3 weeks after his death) and he has not heard from Federal authorities, who have reportedly assumed the investigation. CCR Report) Native activists say they are outraged at what they say appears to be collusion between the defense and prosecution. Porta told reporters he hoped the American Indian Community would not view the decision as "white justice, but justice. One can only hope that other people, especially young persons, will learn from this incident and be more aware of the ramifications of their actions," Porta said.
"To call the state prosecutors in this case inept is putting it nicely. When an Indian dies they don't go the whole nine yards. If they did someone would be in jail right now instead of walking free," said Faith Taken Alive of the Justice For Boo Committee.
Taken Alive, who lives in McLaughlin on the Standing Rock Reservation where Many Horses was a tribal member, said the only thing this case has taught young white people is that they can get away with murder, and the only thing it has taught young Indians is to be afraid. "I have children and grandchildren. Can I send them to get groceries in Mobridge and expect them to come home alive?"
... ... ... "If the FBI is going to reopen that case I just hope they investigate and prosecute with as much zeal as if a white person had been killed," said Taken Alive. "Hopefully the world will see South Dakota for what it really is - the shrine of hypocrisy."
Date: Mon Sep 25, 2000 11:54 pm
The Death of Robert Many Horses 20/20LYNN SHERR (VO) With Robert dead and the four youths taken quickly into custody-several eyewitnesses had seen them together-prosecutor Dan Todd filed charges of manslaughter, aggravated assault, and abuse to a disabled adult against the four whites. But at a preliminary hearing, the judge threw the case out, saying the prosecutor hadn't proved that a crime was committed. So the four whites went scot-free. There wasn't even a trial.
JUDGE TONY PORTA That is a tragedy, but there's nothing that the law can do about that. The state was not able to show causation, meaning whatever these kids did or didn't do on that night, was not the cause of his death.
LYNN SHERR In other words, the prosecutor didn't prove his case?
TONY PORTA That's right.
LYNN SHERR (VO) Why not? According to testimony, the teen-agers believed Robert was alive when they dumped him into the trash can. And Prosecutor Todd says he may have suffocated in his upside-down position. That's called positional asphyxiation. But Todd says he didn't have sufficient evidence.
DAN TODD When the medical reports came in, which did not support that, we didn't have that as a basis to present that to the court as the cause of death.
LYNN SHERR (vo) In other words, he couldn't find any forensic experts to say that being put upside-down in the trash caused Robert's death. The people he consulted said Robert's blood alcohol level indicated he died of alcohol poisoning. But that's not what 20/20 found. When we got back from South Dakota, we showed the evidence to six forensic experts around the country. Some said it was possible Robert died of asphyxiation. Two had no doubt. From the former deputy medical examiner of Chicago... (OC) "That positional asphyxiation was a significant factor, and that indeed it was homicide." The former ME of New York City says "If he was alive, positional asphyxiation was the cause." Flat-out, was the cause.
DAN TODD If I can get those papers, I'll sure review those.
LYNN SHERR This is the former medical examiner of New York City. No question in his mind the immediate cause was positional asphyxia.
DAN TODD OK. Well, I'd like to talk to this Dr. Baden. I mean, if that's information which we can review and conceivably put into the case, it may be worth doing a review on.
LYNN SHERR If we could find these guys within a couple of weeks, why couldn't you find anybody when you were doing this?
DAN TODD I guess I don't have an absolute answer why we can't find the same guys you're talking with.
LYNN SHERR You are well aware that there are members of the Native American community who think you didn't do a very good job.
DAN TODD I mean, I know that's some assessment out there, but I feel that we put a lot of effort into this.
LYNN SHERR (VO) Todd also says race had nothing to do with the way he prosecuted the case, but not everyone agrees.
MARK WHITE BULL If it was Indian kids that put a white person in a trash can, upside down, killed him-same situation, he would have went out of his way to make sure they sat behind bars, but he did not do that.
LYNN SHERR (VO) Mark White Bull believes the death of Robert Many Horses was murder. And even though federal officials have declined to prosecute the death as a hate crime, most Indians think that's just what it was. (OC) Is there racism in South Dakota? After Robert's death, the US Civil Rights Commission held a hearing in the state and issued this scathing report, concluding that most Indians believe, quote, "that racial discrimination permeates all aspects of life in the state." What we saw, seemed to back that up. (VO)
Thu, 09 Mar 2000
... ... Inside the courthouse the confessed killer of Justine Red Day was being tried not for the death, but for driving under the influence of alcohol. Red Day, a 21 year old Dakota, was walking along a highway in Roberts County South Dakota near the Sisseton Reservation in Northeast South Dakota. He was struck by white motorist Mark Appel, then 17. According to Shirley Duggan of the Dakota Justice Coalition, Appel was unsure of what he had hit so he backed up to check it out.
(The truck's driver, Mark Appel, then 17, said Redday had been lying in his lane of traffic and that he did not swerve to avoid running over him because "it is illegal to cross the white line, or if it is a solid yellow line, or even if it wasn't, it is illegal to swerve." The South Dakota Advisory Committeee to the Commission on Civil Rights Report)
Appel again ran over Red Day, crushing his ribs. With help from his five passengers, Appel put Red Day in the back of his pickup. They drove the still living victim for what may have been several hours before delivering him to the Sisseton Public Health Hospital, where he died. Appel was sentenced to thirty days in jail and a $330 fine.
(Justin Redday's mother told a South Dakota newspaper, "If my son had been driving, rather than the victim, he'd be serving 20 years." SDAC to the CCR)
"$330! That's all an Indian life is worth in South Dakota?"
Duggan said there's a racist conspiracy operating in the Roberts County legal system. "We have different sentencing guideline for Indians and non-Indians." Last summer a Dakota woman named Melanie Seaboy collided with a white motorist in an intersection while he was on his way to work. Instead of being charged with DUI, as was Appel, a non-Indian, she was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. "I'm afraid of this racist town," said Duggan. "This is Mississippi Burning all over again."
Thu, 09 Mar 2000
... ... The state of insecurity that currently exists in South Dakota has been exacerbated by Governor Bill Janklow, a self-proclaimed Indian fighter in the tradition of Custer. In the early 1970s, when he was attorney general, Janklow began making inflammatory remarks that sparked racial tension between Indians and non-Indians. "The only way to deal with the Indian problem in South Dakota is to put a gun to AIM leaders' heads and pull the trigger," he said in 1974.
The South Dakota Advisory Committeee to the Commission on Civil Rights Report
For Ted Means, a member of the American Indian Movement, racism in South Dakota has become more subtle over the years. But, he said, "Every Indian in this State will tell you that they have experienced racism, be it in the stores and restaurants, be it in the judicial system, or having to deal with the police forces of this State." Education, he said, is the key to reducing racism; only if young people are taught about racism-how it starts and its effect on people-can race relations improve. He recommended a "continuous dialogue" on racism, bringing in perspectives from the education and judicial systems, police departments, and religious communities. Means also noted the dearth of attention paid to the history of Indian people in children's textbooks.
Racism, Means said, was evident after the death of his daughter in 1981. Kimberly Means was killed by a drunken driver while participating in a spiritual run from Porcupine to Sioux Falls. The driver, he said, was only charged with drunken driving and served 15 days in jail. "Had the situation been reversed and I ran over and killed his daughter, I'd still be in prison today," Means added.
In response to questions from the Advisory Committee, Means discussed race relations in towns bordering reservations. Racism, he said, is more pervasive in towns on the fringes of Pine Ridge Reservation, like Martin, Gordon, Nebraska, and, of course, White Clay-areas where people confront intolerance on a daily basis. Renville Pipe Boy had earlier referred to the presence of a "border town mentality" neighboring the Lake Traverse Reservation.
Online archives from The Rapid City Journal Online.
By Patricia Lee, author of "Feeling Good About Feeling Bad," and owner of Lee Consulting and Training in Rapid City. She and her husband, Milt, have produced over 60 documentary programs for public radio, primarily on American Indian issues, including a series on Indian music, "Oyate Ta Olowan - The Songs of the People."
Last night, Nov. 27, I attended the community meeting of the Mayor's Committee for Undoing Racism. I was impressed by the number of people of all colors that attended. At the same time, I wondered why there were not more people there. Racism has gangly, bony little fingers that reach out and touch each one of us in this community. It's not the experience of only American Indian people but grabs us all.
I went home thinking of all the good things I had heard and the honest, sincere desire so many expressed of the need to end racism.
In once sense, the idea of "undoing" something doesn't compute.
We can't undo history and experience. It simply isn't possible. What happened is what happened. It's as if I took a purple crayon and scribbled all over a page and then sat back and wondered how I can I "undo" what I've just done. I can't.
However, I can take a fresh new page ... and make a new picture. The path to undoing racism is not one of getting rid of but the creative act of making something new. We need a new picture.
Racism, Floyd Hand said, can be combated with education. Children need to be taught about racism at an early age, and outdated school curricula, with its stereotypical descriptions of Indian people, must be revised. Parents also need to be educated, because by example they determine their child's attitude, he said.
Because of racism people are suffering on Pine Ridge Reservation, Hand said. Agreeing with other panelists, he said a civil rights office on the reservation would be helpful, with one caveat: The office should not employ members of the Oglala Tribe. Everyone is related on the reservation, he said, and because of the extended family concept, people from other reservations or nontribal people should be in charge of processing grievances to ensure neutrality. Earlier he claimed that nepotism and discrimination against full-blooded Indians by other tribal people exist on Pine Ridge.
Elaine Holy Eagle, Rapid City
Elaine Holy Eagle is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and has lived in Rapid City for more than 40 years. In those years, some people have drowned accidentally in the creek, but the number of recent deaths is unprecedented. "I can't understand how eight men drowned in Rapid Creek, and in December 1998 four men drowned in 4 days," she said. Holy Eagle questioned why people are not outraged over their deaths. "Is it because people are conditioned to believe it's okay if an Indian person is killed?" she asked ... ... ... Disparate treatment of Native Americans is pervasive in South Dakota, according to Holy Eagle. "There is definitely a dual justice system, one for white people and one for Native Americans." Some Native Americans have reported incidents of discrimination to the police department and the mayor's office, but many others are unaware of the proper procedures for filing a complaint, and some remain silent, fearing retaliation, she alleged.
Peggy Redday, Sisseton
For Redday, her son's case sends a message that justice is not guaranteed for Native Americans. She wrote:
In my opinion, the message the courts are sending to our community is that its okay to kill someone as long as it [is] an Indian in this county and state. This state treats Native Americans just like blacks are treated in Mississippi. Why wasn't something done when [Mark Appel] was caught the second time? Why did my son have to die because this white boy seems to have the right to drive around drunk. My son, Justin Redday, is dead. The court system leaves a family with no closure, no justice, and peace of mind for our Native American community.
David Seaboy, Sisseton
On July 29, 1998, a car driven by David Seaboy's daughter Melanie plowed into a Jeep Cherokee, killing the other motorist instantly. Melanie, who had just turned 18, had been drinking. Seaboy said Melanie accepted her responsibility, pled guilty to vehicular homicide, and put herself at the mercy of the court. And "the mercy of the court was that out of a maximum of 15 years, she would serve 14 years in the South Dakota State penitentiary for women," he said.
During his presentation, Seaboy listed the sentences for 10 comparable cases in the fifth judicial circuit, where his daughter was sentenced. (He also gave a letter to the Committee providing case citations.)
Melanie's sentence was nearly 3 times more severe than any other sentence handed down in the circuit for a comparable offense, he discovered.
The harshest sentence for vehicular manslaughter or homicide was 5 years, and some defendants served no time at all, he said. The only female defendant among the 10 cases pled guilty to vehicular homicide, like Melanie, but received a suspended sentence of 5 years, he added.
A newly hired attorney for the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe has taken on Melanie Seaboy's case and petitioned the court for a reduced sentence. The same judge who sentenced Melanie to 14 years agreed to hear the re-sentencing motion on December 15, David Seaboy said. (The sentence reduction hearing was held at the Roberts County courthouse on December 15, 1999, at which time Judge Larry Lovrien allowed parties to submit supplementary pleadings until January 3, 2000. Both Melanie Seaboy and the attorney for the victims provided pleadings. But on January 21 the court dismissed the motion to amend the sentence.)
Date: Tue Aug 14, 2001
... ... Indians are still much more likely to be victimized than are non-Indians.
According to a study published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in March 2001 the rate of victimization for serious violent crimes was 118.8 per 1000 for Indians and 45.4 for whites.
While violent crime for both blacks and whites is generally perpetrated by someone of the same race, violent crimes for Indians were primarily perpetrated by non-Indians. Sixty percent of the perpetrators are white and 10 percent black.
The violent crime victimization rate of Indians increased from 104.7 [er 1000 in 1993 to 116.1 in 1998. At The same time the violent crime victimization rate for whites decreased from 52.5 to 38.2.
Crime rates have decreased while victimization rates of Indians have increased.
Violent deaths of Indians are much more likely to occur at the hands of a non-Indian. The death penalty has never been sought for the murder of an Indian. Four Indians have been hanged for murder of a white person in South Dakota.
Even though the physical conditions in Sioux Addition have changed, the underlying poverty and racism, whether intentional or unintentional, has prevented much progress in most areas. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that this country is in trouble, not because of the bad acts of evil people but because of the appalling silence of good people.
Many Indians believe that a deafening scream protesting the continued marginalization of this country's first occupants should be heard. Instead they say they hear little more than a whimper.
The "STAR - Students and Teachers Against
Racism" web site is the