Is South Dakota being “demonized” over treatment of Native Americans?


Recently, after South Dakota's genocidal snatching of Native children received wide publicity, one of the state's newspapers saddled up and charged out in the best cavalry style of the Old West cinemas to protect the circled wagons of the Department of Social Services (DSS).

The Mitchell, S.D., Daily Republic editorially asserted, "State wrongly demonized in ICWA debate." However, demon is as demon does. "If the shoe fits ... " or "If it quacks like a duck ... " But enough old-time maxims. There is no getting around the abominable illegal actions of the state in flagrant violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) or the fact that said state gets $70,000 for each abducted Native child.

This journalist takes further particular offense at the paper's statement that "this controversy has become a glorified shouting match between adults."What? This canard trivializes a matter that is deadly serious - the genocidal forced assimilation of thousands of Native into white culture. This is no "glorified shouting match."

Moreover, let's look at how Native people are treated in other respects in South Dakota. A good start is the state's reputation among Indian people nationally. In my conversations with other Native Americans, South Dakota is referred to as the most "redneck" state in the entire country because of its treatment of  American Indians. It is the 1960s Mississippi of the Indian world. Native Americans from there relate stories of how they are followed inside grocery stores by employees because it is thought they are going to "steal a pack of meat."

The pervasive racism is exhibited at basketball games when it's Native teams vs. white players. White cheerleaders gyrate with signs saying that Indian students graduate "from high school to go to prison."

Reports regularly issue of unequal treatment by law enforcement officers and even murder. In 2010, a young Oglala Lakota college student, Christopher Capps, was killed in a hail of bullets in Rapid City, S.D., by local police. An Indian DUI offender is given a five-year jail sentence, while a white man similarly charged is given probation.

Years ago young Indian men were arrested for alleged vagrancy in the wintertime so they could be made to shovel snow in the small towns. Native people are still racially profiled for alleged driving offenses or suspicion of drug involvement. The South Dakota's overall population is 14 percent -15 percent Native American, but the state's prison population is over 50 percent Native American, according to Albert Pooley, who heads the Native American Fatherhood and Families Association. This is an atmosphere of a police state, a demonic police state, directed against Indian residents.

In Rapid City, Native media reports that there is a pervasive fear of law enforcement among Indian families. Many relate experiences of being pulled over by police allegedly for drugs. Families coming from the grocery are required to put all their foodstuffs along the side of the road. Next, they are handcuffed and their vehicles are searched by police and drug-sniffing dogs. No drugs are found, no arrests are made. This happens most often with license plates bearing the number 65 (this number identifies the Pine Ridge Reservation on state plates).

Some families reportedly declined to talk with the media for fear of reprisals from law enforcement.

In the economic sphere, Native unemployment consistently averages 85 percent to 90 percent. State employment programs regularly pass over tribal members, the Rapid-City-based Native Sun Times reports. Last year the state's Labor and Regulation Department partnered with Manpower, a national recruiting firm based in Milwaukee, to attract 1,000 out-of-state workers to fill positions in manufacturing, engineering, financial services and information technology. This was done despite the fact that Oglala Lakota College, an accredited higher education institution on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation, has graduates in at least two of those fields. There were many young educated Indians qualified and eager for employment in those areas, but the state decided to look elsewhere.

The governor's office said that it looks for workers in other states if it cannot find South Dakotans to fill job openings. Obviously, the governor meant white South Dakotans. A friend of mine from the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, in Rosebud, S.D., has said it is the policy of the state government to "keep the Natives naked and starving."

This is all part and parcel of the imposition of genocidal living conditions. Again, the state acts the demon.

The state even goes so far as to exclude reservation populations from employment data, according to a Native Sun Times report. The jobless rates on the state's nine reservations are stunning, to say the least, with Pine Ridge at 89 percent. This  exclusion is just another despicable example of how, in South Dakota, Indians literally don't count.

South Dakota is a hotbed of virulent racism, perhaps without parallel anywhere else in the U.S. Yet, the Daily Republic feels South Dakota is being wrongly demonized. Imagine that!

Photo: Native children outside the Wounded Knee Museum on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Ben Piven CC 2.0

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  • Well america it seems that this is just what we do to innocent native americans. It is what we have always done to them since we arrived. Is this what we teach our children? The answer is sickenly yes. More american pride. Shame on us once again.

    Posted by gary david, 11/23/2013 8:21pm (1 year ago)

  • Thank you!

    It has done my heart good to read your words and see your sincerity.

    My son was wrongly accused and wrongly convicted of manslaughter.

    His case became the "poster child" of the then newly elected Pennington County States Attorney Mark Vargo. Vargo use to work as an assistant State Prosecuter on Federal cases.

    He bragged that he Never lost a case in his career. He was chastised by a federal judge for sitting on evidence.

    He,Vargo, was quoted in the Rapid City Journal announcing that my son's case was a drug deal gone wrong, two days after my son peacefully surrendered.

    Posted by Karen L. Testerman, 11/12/2013 2:46pm (1 year ago)

  • The problems regarding all of the Lakota Clans and the state government is more complicated than this piece or even a 1000 page book could exlain. The Lakota are a soveirgn Nation. They can never be what they once were a hundred and twenty years ago because the Buffalo Nation was massacred in the greatest genoocide against a species to ever occur here on this continent. The old Lakota ways were so closely intertwined with the Buffalo People that without them it will never be as it was. This is just reality.
    Now, all the things that have happened to the Lakota since then including: cultural genocide as united states laws prohibited the Lakota from openly performing their religious rites, speaking their language, coming of age ceremonies, and so these way were kept alive underground while the children of lakota people were forcibly removed from their families to further enforce the cultural genocide.
    Going forward from today, the spirit of the Lakota People is still alive and well. They are trying to teach the youth the lakota language. Pe Sla was saved by great grassroots efforts by Rosebud. Sun Dances are occuring this time of year.
    The Lakota will also have to look inward and decide what kind of life they want for their descendants 7 generations down. Alcohol must be conquered. The Lakota People will conquer alcohol.

    Posted by Timothy Canezaro, 08/15/2013 10:40pm (2 years ago)

  • Sickening that in the 21st century we still have rampant racism in America. I guess it all depends on what part of the USA you live in. I'm an Oneida from the Six Nations Rez. in Ontario, Canada but I grew up in Western NY. This area has a huge variation of ethnic groups. I can't imagine trying to raise children in such a hostile environment. Guess they think that if they treat them like scum they will move.This horrible, racist treatment of the Native Indians is a violation of civil rights & liberties & I hope that one day a lawyer can represent these people to make positive changes.

    Posted by Rose Stone, 08/14/2013 8:52pm (2 years ago)

  • Yes, this an international problem and we as concerned community member's need to get together to fight against this injustice!! love always!!

    Posted by Tammy Lynne, 08/14/2013 8:49pm (2 years ago)

  • Only South Dakota? Your whole country (USA) should be demonized for it's treatment of it's native peoples.
    You guys have no sense of taking care of your own!
    Instead you are out there fighting wars in other countries, supposedly protecting those natives from certain despots, when you have more destructive despots creating misery in your own back yard!
    Natives...get your people into the White House!

    Posted by Kerry Whiton, 08/14/2013 7:31pm (2 years ago)

  • south Dakota is an evil racist state .I feel so sorry for my brother and sister siouxs..south Dakota is and always been the deep south of today...I wouldn't be surprised if they have a new form of kkk there probably all the white south dakotans are..stay strong my Sioux brothers and sisters'll be in my

    Posted by Allert Takes Enemy Sr., 08/14/2013 12:28pm (2 years ago)

  • In an ideal world and if all of my wishes were to come true treaties would be recognized and the Native population could kick out most of the non Indian population from the state of SD. It sounds to me they are doing a poor job of running it. I wish I had it in my power to open call centers or any kind of employment on the reservation. All I can do is voice my opinion.

    Posted by Barbara Miller, 08/14/2013 3:06am (2 years ago)

  • Not that long ago SD DOC had funds taken away & given to Childs voice to disperse to Tribes because DOC was using Native American juvenile numbers & getting funds & not giving any funds to the tribes for their juvenile population for services like juvenile probation officers, or other services to help juvenile offenders!

    Posted by Johanson, 08/14/2013 12:04am (2 years ago)

  • When you ignore these matters "because they're only [insert relevant POC here], it sooner or later comes to play at a theater near you. In my birth-state of Massachusetts, many, many Irish-, French-, Portuguese-American children were taken out of their homes under "stubborn child" laws and wound up in county reformatories or mental hospitals, or both. In Maine, Franco-Canadians were hit especially hard, in this instance by the state in cooperation with the Catholic Church.

    Posted by gary hicks, 08/13/2013 6:34pm (2 years ago)

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