HRC-MOA: Recognizing history, moving toward a better future

As Commissioners for the newly formed Rapid City HRC-MOA Partnership (Human Relations Commission and the Mniluzahan Okolakiciyapi Ambassadors) our work often feels like taking two steps forward, one step back. Yet this past Monday it felt like 400 steps back. Seeing a Rapid City business owner post on Facebook about not allowing Natives onto their property brought back ancestral memories of the “No Indians Allowed” signs once found throughout our city. At moments like this, it’s hard not to feel hopeless, to question the progress our city has made, and to question why we even continue with this work.

But today is a new day, and today we are here to take a stand against racist sentiments that have no place in our city. We’re here to remind ourselves and our community that the blatant racism expressed by the owner of the Grand Gateway Hotel is not in line with our community standards. This is not the Rapid City of the past. The Rapid City of today is about learning from our past mistakes. We are learning to appreciate other cultures, to understand how past actions have affected other cultures, particularly the Native American community. We know there are tensions in our community stemming from the pandemic, from increased crime and drugs in our community; but we must take care in how we address these issues. We are learning how to communicate with each other. How to live in the beautiful Black Hills together. How to be better.

Clearly, we still have much work to do.

Let us be clear: we condemn the statements posted by Connie Uhre earlier this week in the strongest terms possible. Ms. Uhre does not speak for our Rapid City. Banning an entire race from a public accommodation, like a hotel, is both immoral and illegal and will not be tolerated in Rapid City. If members of our Native American community, or other marginalized communities, have been discriminated against by the Grand Gateway Hotel or any other Rapid City business, the HRC-MOA stands ready to assist.

The HRC-MOA would like to offer our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the victim of this past weekend’s shooting at the Grand Gateway Hotel, and to his family.

As we consider the effects of the events of the week, we want to share a taste of our work. The HRC-MOA’s mission is to BEAM (Bridge cultures, Educate, Advocate and Model respectful behavior) while building relationships in our community. Make no mistake about it, we believe history and place matter and relationships matter.

We know there is a lack of trust and change will not happen until we grow that trust.

Over the past few years our community has started to come together by respectfully working together to support events like the He Sapa Wacipi (Pow Wow) and the Lakota Nations Invitational. Friendships have been made, and growth in these events is a result. We host learning opportunities; we advocate and listen to the community needs.

Slow change. Trust building. It’s a start.

We acknowledge that our city has a history of blatant racism against the Native community. Racism is still present in our city. We pledge to do everything in our power to root out this racism: to recognize it, to expose it for what it is, to condemn it in the strongest terms possible, and to help our community to heal from it. As the light has been shone on this dark behavior, it alerts us this is a concern for ALL of Rapid City. We can learn from Dr. Martin Luther King who said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

The HRC-MOA will be hosting a Forum in April entitled: The Impacts of Racism on Our Community.

This will begin to address effects such as mental health, economic development, educational disparities and more. It will be an opportunity to learn, to question, and to be in conversation with our community. We are in the planning stage, so watch for details soon. We believe the more you know, the better we do. We don’t have the solutions for racism, but we remain committed to BEAMing every day.

We ask you all to join us.

The Rapid City Human Relations Commission- Mniluzahan Okolakiciyapi Ambassadors

  • Lloyd Lacroix
  • Paula Longfox
  • Bill May
  • Denise Maher
  • Fr. Cody Maynus
  • Karen Mortimer
  • Whitney Rencountre
  • Jessica Rogers
  • Amy Sazue