Federal investigation into hotel ban on natives

“Good NDN” and “Bad NDN” t-shirts are seen at the “Indians Allowed” rally and march in Rapid City, South Dakota on March 26, 2022. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

Federal investigation into hotel ban on natives

Wednesday, March 30, 2022


A Sioux Nation tribal leader calls United States Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate a hotel owner’s decision to ban all natives from his business. On March 20, Connie Uhre, owner of the Grand Gateway Hotel in Rapid City, South Dakota, posted on Facebook, “We will no longer allow any Native Americans on the property.” She cited a shooting involving two young Lakota men at the company as the reason for her controversial decision. This week, President Janet Alkire of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe submitted a letter to the Justice Department, alleging that Uhre’s actions violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which she says prohibits discrimination in public accommodations.

Janet Alkire

Janet Alkire is president of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, an Indian nation whose lands are in North Dakota and South Dakota. Photo courtesy of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
“The Department of Justice has a responsibility to enforce the Civil Rights Act prohibition against denial of access to public housing based on race, Alkire said. Alkire also sent a letter to other Great Plains tribal leaders encouraging solidarity. “This type of discriminatory behavior cannot be tolerated and will not be tolerated,” she wrote. “Allowing this type of discrimination to occur without repercussion will undeniably set a precedent for other business owners to follow suit and ultimately cause civil unrest.” Nearly 1,000 Natives and others marched Saturday in Rapid City to protest Uhre’s actions. They carried signs that read “Indians Allowed” and “Land Back” and wore t-shirts that read “Good NDN” and “Bad NDN.” Earlier Saturday, tribal leaders from North Dakota and South Dakota met at a downtown convention center to discuss possible responses to Uhre’s actions and later released a list of actions they plan to fight racism in Rapid City. These actions include: boycotting the Grand Gateway Hotel and its affiliates, moving the Lakota Nation Invitational basketball tournament to another location, moving the Black Hills Powwow, and filing hate crime charges against the owners of the hotel. Last week, the non-profit organization Native NDN Collective filed a federal civil rights class action lawsuit in the Western Division of the U.S. District Court in South Dakota against the owners of the Grand Gateway Hotel.

Kevin Abourezk

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Nearly 1,000 people turned out for the ‘Indians Allowed’ rally and march in Rapid City, South Dakota on March 26, 2022. Photo by Kevin Abourezk
On Monday, the Lakota People’s Law Project, an indigenous rights organization, set up an online action so people could show their support for Alkire’s request to the Justice Department: lakota.law/sd-hotels. “Laws, by themselves, will not change discriminatory behavior,” Alkire said. “They have to be enforced. The Department of Justice should intervene quickly, investigate and prosecute. We need to send a clear message that it is unacceptable that Indigenous people still face overt racism in our daily lives, especially here in our own countries. »

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