In an unapologetic display of Tribal sovereignty, on Saturday, March 26, Tribal Leaders of the Oceti Sakowin– the Seven Council Fires of Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations, otherwise known as the “Great Sioux Nation” in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868– delivered a message to the Grand Gateway Hotel: “You are in trespass.”
This action comes on the heels of a week charged with outrage after the owner of the Grand Gateway Hotel, Connie Uhre, made public comments on social media that she would be banning all Native Americans from the Rapid City-based hotel as well as the attached Cheers Lounge, following a shooting that occurred on Saturday, March 19, which involved Native Americans.
Uhre stated that because she couldn’t tell who the “good Indians or bad Indians” were, she would be banning all Native Americans from her businesses. Among the first to publicly denounce the blatant violation of civil rights was the Mayor of Rapid City, Steve Allender. Yet quick to speak up and remind Connie Uhre, the Grand Gateway Hotel, and all of Rapid City whose land they were on, was Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, who shared a public statement on Tuesday, March 22.
“It is foolish to attack a race of people and not all of the issues affecting the society in which we live. This includes racism,” said Frazier in the statement. “The members of the Great Sioux Nation who visit our sacred Black Hills are often subject to this kind of behavior. Those members that choose to live on our treaty territory are often treated as a problem, no matter how we choose to live.”
“When those wagons first began their way to break treaties and settle on our territory we were classified as lesser beings and genocide was justified as such,” Frazier continued. “The words uttered by this person is a reminder to my people that this is still the case– ‘No Indians allowed.’ I demand an immediate apology from this person to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota territory with clear and public consequences.”
In addition to the public outcry demanding accountability for blatant racism and civil rights violations, Frazier, along with other Tribal leaders of the Oceti Sakowin, grassroots organizers, and others, quickly mobilized, organizing two separate but related marches in Rapid City.
On Wednesday, March 23, the first march of the week was held in downtown Rapid City, hosted by the NDN Collective, the American Indian Movement, and the Cheyenne River Grassroots Collective, culminating with a press conference where NDN Collective spoke to a federal civil rights class action lawsuit filed against the Grand Gateway Hotel. And then on Saturday, March 26, the march organized and co-led by Frazier and other Tribal leaders and grassroots organizers, called “Indians Allowed,”closed out the week with nearly a thousand people gathering.
Beginning at Roosevelt Park in Rapid City, Frazier and other Oceti Sakowin signatories of a “Notice of Trespass” to be delivered to the Grand Gateway Hotel, spoke to a crowd of nearly a thousand, some holding signs and wearing T-shirts reading “Indians Allowed.” The march continued from Roosevelt Park to the Grand Gateway Hotel.
Along with Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Chairman Peter Lengkee of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, President Kevin Killer of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, President Scott Herman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, and Chairwoman Janet Alkire of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, all signed the Notice of Trespass, which was taped to the door of the Grand Gateway Hotel. Many Tribal council representatives from each Tribal Nation also joined the march, along with Tribal members from other Tribal Nations throughout South Dakota and North Dakota.
Asserting Tribal sovereignty and naming the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, the signatories took a stand for their People, for civil rights, and for the sovereignty of the Oceti Sakowin on their own ancestral lands.
The Notice of Trespass stated the following:
YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED that the Great Sioux Nation has made an investigation, and
evidence shows that you are in trespass. You are in violation of the following provisions of the
Treaty with the Sioux, April 29, 1868, 15 Stat. 635 (“Treaty”).
“…no white person or persons shall be permitted to settle upon or
occupy any portion of the [land north of the North Platte River or east of the
summits of the Big Horn Mountains]; or without the consent of the Indians first
had and obtained, to pass through the same;”
Article 2. “
…[land which includes the above-described property] shall be, and the
same is, set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the
Indians herein named …and the United States now solemnly agrecs that no
persons except those herein designated and authorized so to do, and except such
officers, agents and employees of the Government as may be authorized to enter
upon Indian reservations in discharge of duties enjoined by law, shall ever be
permitted to pass over, settle upon, or reside in the territory described in this
Article 1. “If bad men among the whites … shall commit any wrong upon the
person or property of the Indians, the United States will, upon proof made to the
agent and forwarded to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs at Washington City,
proceed at once to cause the offender to be arrested and punished according to the
laws of the United States, and also to re-imburse the injured person for the loss
YOU ARE FURTHER NOTIFIED that, in accordance with the Treaty and the laws located in
the United States of America, and as a consequence of your act, you must permanently cease and
desist from the violations charged. You are instructed to vacate and remove your persons and
any personal property you deem necessary from the Treaty Territory of the Great Sioux Nation
YOU ARE FURTHER NOTIFIED that the Great Sioux Nation, in order to prevent further
trespass upon said land, may without further or any additional notice of any kind whatsoever,
and without liability, take possession, destroy, or remove said property at your expense. The
Great Sioux Nation hereby elects to declare forfeiture or abandonment of any property that you
occupy or use if you fail to cease, desist, and vacate the Premises. Noncompliance with this Notice of Trespass will institute legal proceedings to recover possession of said premises which shall result in a declaratory and/or monetary judgment against you, including costs.
GREAT SIOUX NATION
Just moments after the signatories of the “Notice of Trespass” posted the document to the front door of the building, an “Eviction Notice” banner was erected over the front of the sign of the Grand Gateway Hotel, which read, “In violation of the 1868 Treaty, Grand Gateway Hotel EVICTION NOTICE, Effective Immediately.” When the banner was raised, traditional Lakota akišas (warwhoops) from the men and lilis from the women rang out as the People in the crowd cheered in excitement and approval.
A crowd of hundreds continued to gather in the parking lot of the Grand Gateway Hotel, singing, cheering, dancing, and smiling. This was a moment of community, of reclaiming power, and a moment of asserting Tribal Sovereignty, from the grassroots, to the Tribal leadership. This was a moment to remember, galvanizing a multi-faceted movement for justice and racial equity in the Land of the Oceti Sakowin.
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NDN Collective will continue to report on this story as it continues to evolve, including on the proceedings of the federal civil rights class action lawsuit filed against the Grand Gateway Hotel.