Many are watching to see how this incident is handled by authorities.
We have seen how it is being (mis)handled by some media.
The more information we see, the more we abhor the behavior of the perpetrators and those who tolerated it. This article and commentary comes from a social media post today. Read it and see if you agree we must rise together to end this kind of abuse.
The following is an article that was written by David Rooks, an enrolled Oglala Lakota, for the Rapid City Journal that never got published regarding the horrific behavior of drunk white men verbally assaulting over 50 native students from American Horse School on Pine Ridge Reservation and then dumping beer on them at a Rapid City Rush hockey game. David Rooks has subsequently resigned and parted company with the Rapid City Journal.
No rush to judgment
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
… Down to a sunless sea.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1797
The Rapid City equivalent to “a stately pleasure-dome” is the downtown Civic Center, where Rapid Creek, the sacred river, runs to a sun-drenched plain. Beneath the Civic Center’s dome, pleasures include renowned speakers and performers, off-Broadway plays, rodeos, monster truck contests … and sporting events.
Including hockey. Especially hockey. Over the years, semi-pro basketball, arena football, and pro hockey have all had a go at the Civic Center with varying success. None gained resounding acclaim until the Rush came to town. Rush fans routinely flock to home games at well over 4,000 attendees.
So it was last Friday night when too much pleasure imbibed raised an old community spectre: Indian/White relations. With a March 10 vote on a Civic Center expansion from 6 to 16 thousand seats mere weeks hence, controversy is the last thing city officials and Civic Center executives want. Alas, add controversy to the scale.
Their tickets purchased months in advance, 59 Oglala Lakota children, aged 9 – 13, journeyed by bus nearly 150 miles from Pine Ridge Reservation’s Pass Creek Community to enjoy some well-earned fruit of their academic labors. Accompanied by eight American Horse School employees, including lead chaperone Consuelo Means, the kids took their usual spot in Section Q of the arena. For Means, it was her 5th student trip to a Rush game.
Facts not in dispute: For roughly 15 minutes, beginning during the second and third period intermission, at least three adult males, exceedingly inebriated, verbally harassed the students. Drunken comments, racially insensitive and derogatory, were capped off with overturned beers on the students’ heads.
After a command decision, Means had the other chaperones gather the children outside the venue and called for the busses. Their safety assured, Means and fellow chaperone Justin Poor Bear began a twenty minute search for a security official to lodge a formal complaint. Near the main concession stand, they located what looked to be a support staff member who contacted security.
Unheard after their departure, was the wave of derisive cheers and gleeful self-congratulations by the drunkards in the Eagle Sales of the Black Hills skybox. That old dragon, racism, flicked its self-satisfied tail above the four thousand, without apparent shame – without apparent consequences.
Throughout their search, neither Means nor Poor Bear were able to encounter anyone from the Rapid City Police Dept. When a security official did arrive, he had the school officials step into what looked to be a “storage and supply room.” There Means filled out an incident report and provided contact information. Believing, in good faith, she had discharged her duty, the head chaperone returned to the children and boarded the bus.
“The ride back was really sad. Usually the kids are excited from the game…but it was a very quiet ride back.” The two girls that received the brunt of the spilled beer were crying. Riding with her own two children as well, Means fought back her rage. “I started to cry, something I never wanted to do in front of the kids. But I was just so mad.” For the past five years, going to the Rush Hockey game has been a very big deal. “It’s an academic incentive, said the 5th grade teachers aide. “They work really hard to be able to go.”
21st Century program director, Jody Richards said the afterschool program is at least 85 percent academically oriented, with computer based math and reading programs, along with homework mentoring and assistance. American Horse students are closely monitored for academic progress. Earning a ticket to the annual Rush game brings pride and excitement.
Richards attended the game with her husband and sat nearby the students. About the skybox above, she said, “There were specifically three instigators, and one who did most of it. We could only see them when they were standing up. But (Eagle Sales of the Black Hills) knows who they are. They have to know, or can easily find out.”
American Horse Lakota Language and Studies teacher, Albert White Lance said he received a very disturbing call from his granddaughter that night. Knowing she attended the game, he expected to hear of her exciting time with friends. What he heard instead shocked him. “Grandpa, I drank beer tonight. I looked up and a whole bunch of it poured into my mouth.”
Albert Sharp, eight term school board president said, “Our kids were well behaved – that says a lot for them. They didn’t deserve what happened. Now we deal with the consequences – but they’ll never have what they had before, no matter how hard we try.”
School Superintendent, Dr. Gloria Coats-Kitsopoulos echoed the same: “We work so hard to tell our kids you can be anything you want to be, you can do anything you want to do. They believe us. When they marched out of that Civic Center their self-esteem was assaulted.”
Sharp, Coats-Kitsopoulos, Means, and several others all had the same question: Why is there not a non-alcohol section in the Civic Center for children and their families? “I’ve lived from D.C. to Honolulu, on down to Texas,” said Coats-Kitsopoulos, “there’s always a section set aside for non-alcohol. We on the reservation use that arena as much as anyone, and I’m sure a lot of non-Native people don’t want to sit near people who are drinking either. It’s something you would do for the whole community.”
A serious concern for several Lakota parents is why, given Consuelo Means, an official of the school, filed a formal report to the Civic Center immediately following the incident, it took the Rapid City Police Dept. four days to open an investigation. Particularly since the story had been all over Rapid City media three days prior to the announcement.
Repeatedly, Pass Creek Community members shared the belief that “if the racist drunks in the Eagle Sales Sky box were wearing eagle feathers,” the outcome would have been as different as it was predictable. “Turn it around,” said Albert White Lance, “If Indian men were intoxicated and harassing white kids at the Civic Center, never mind if they poured alcohol on them, they’d all be handcuffed right there in the skybox. Rightfully so.”
Wednesday, five days after the incident, a closed-to-the-media meeting was held at the Civic Center. Present were members of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council, Tribal Chairman John Steele, Mayor Kooiker, Rapid City Police Chief Jegeris, Civic Center Executive Director Craig Baltzer, and Eagles Sales of the Black Hills President Tom Heiland. Also in attendance, at the invitation of Pass Creek Tribal councilman, Ron Duke, were members of the American Horse School Board, Superintendent Coats-Kitsopoulos, and some family members of children who attended the game.
Justin Poor Bear, chaperone at the game, and a newly elected American Horse School Board member, said, “It’s a black eye for Rapid City.” Poor Bear recalled the officer involved shooting death of 30 year old Lakota man, Alan Locke, in Rapid City two weeks ago. “They were pretty quick with their story of how that happened, but they don’t know what happened at the Civic Center after a week? Show me pictures of the guys, I’ll identify them.”
Suzanne White Lance, another school board member, said her take on the Wednesday meeting was it felt as if the chaperones and children were being put on the spot and asked to justify their actions. Evidence to support her claim came when a charge surfaced on Thursday, that the American Horse children provoked the inebriated adults by not standing for the National Anthem.
Her voice dripping with disdain, Superintendent Coats-Kitsopoulos quickly dismissed it: “Oh, I get it, so it’s the kids’ fault,” she said. When Means and Poor Bear were informed of the National Anthem claim, they flatly stated the charge was false.
And so it goes. With the vote for expansion nearing, many in western South Dakota’s native population strongly feel that, clearly, Rapid City and Civic Center officials have a lot of explaining to do.
Thank you, David Rooks, for this informative report. How tragic it didn’t earn a place in the media.
“It’s not about right or left, it’s about Right or Wrong.”
You can help:
- pitch in a few bucks… hit the “Donate” button on this page
- “friend” me on facebook for daily updates
- SHARE the articles on this site with your network
- PRAY for our State and Nation (please pray for me too, if you can)