August 20, 2021

Nick Tilsen Statement on Interaction with Police at NDN Collective Headquarters

"NDN Collective is here to do our best to stand up for Native people and build communities that create real opportunities for transformation and change. We will continue to protect our people on the streets while we create jobs, improve education, and build a more equitable future."

The following statement is in response to an incident that occurred on NDN Collective property adjacent to the NDN headquarters in Rapid City, SD on Monday, August 16 and subsequent media coverage related to that event.


My priority has always been to protect my community. When I heard that an Indigenous family had been pulled over on the Land owned by our organization, I felt a deep responsibility to make sure they were safe. It’s no secret that Indigenous people are disproportionately targeted by the police, both in Rapid City and across the United States. In fact, Indigenous people are killed in police encounters more than any other ethnic group. I move through life with this knowledge in my gut, doing everything I can to help dismantle the systems that continue to brutalize and scare my people. 

Rapid City exists on stolen land. NDN Collective now owns pieces of it — and we work hard to make sure it is a safe and welcoming place for our Indigenous community members. I did not want the police, who repeatedly violate their own laws, to set foot on the place we’ve carved out for ourselves, let alone to do so just to pull over an Indigenous mother for a broken taillight and harass her. 

I operate in the world as an Indigenous man who has been harassed, tear gassed, and targeted by police officers many times. I’m far from alone in these experiences. Native people in the Rapid City community see and experience this on a daily basis. My goal is to keep my people safe — which often means holding police accountable. I’m asking our allies who want to help us change the system to keep the police accountable by observing and recording traffic stops. While the whole policing system needs to be defunded, more eyes on officers will force them to change their conduct in the meantime. 

It is too easy for non-Indigenous people, who don’t live our day-to-day experience or hold our history, to twist our behavior and actions into the dangerous stereotype of angry “savages.” We are fighting for visibility, understanding, and a reckoning with the truth of what the U.S. government did to our people. Our stories and experiences are still taken out of context — or erased altogether. We have to live under constant double standards, villainized for actions that no one would even blink an eye over if a white person did the same thing. 

I want Indigenous folks to know that I will always stand behind them, with them, and for them. We are building a world that will allow us to not just survive — but thrive together.

NDN Collective is here to do our best to stand up for Native people and build communities that create real opportunities for transformation and change. We will continue to protect our people on the streets while we create jobs, improve education, and build a more equitable future.

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