A hotel in Rapid City, which is on the eastern edge of the Black Hills in South Dakota, said last month that Native people were no longer welcome. The Black Hills have been home to Indigenous people for a long time.
Owner: After a Native American man was arrested in connection with a shooting that happened at the Grand Gateway Hotel on March 19, the owner called the police.
Connie Uhre, the owner of the hotel, said on Facebook that she was going to ban Native Americans from the hotel and the Cheers Sports Bar next door.
A comment by Uhre: “We will no longer allow any Native American to be on our property.” Steve Allender, the mayor of Rapid City, shared the comment and called it “disgusting.” Another thing that Uhre said was that ranchers and people who were not Native would get a special rate of $59 a night.
South Dakota Public Broadcasting has seen an email chain in which Uhre said, “The problem is that we don’t know the nice ones from the bad ones.”
A trespassing notice was sent to the hotel on March 26 by tribal leaders in the area. They said they had to do this because of a treaty made with the Sioux in 1868.
Harold Frazier, the chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux and one of the signers of the notice told Insider that it was “shocking, but not too much surprising because we live with this here in South Dakota.” Frazier was one of the signers of the notice. “But to see it so clearly, it was really scary.”
But he told SDPB that he didn’t agree with his mother’s statements. “Natives are welcome at the Grand Gateway Hotel, always have been, always will.”
They didn’t rent rooms to Natives, a lawsuit says.
There’s the comment that Native people should be banned in Rapid City caused a lot of people in the city to be angry quickly.
When an Indigenous-led group sued the Uhres and other people, they said they were “explicitly racially discriminating.” They also sued the hotel and the company called the Retsel Corporation which lists Connie “Connie” Uhre as its president.
Plaintiff Sunny Red Bear and another Native woman tried to rent a room at the Grand Gateway Hotel on March 21, which was a few days or so after Uhre made his comments. They were turned down. In the lawsuit, they say that an employee told them that the hotel didn’t rent rooms to people with “local” IDs.
Lawsuit: “Mr. Red Bear was discriminated against because Connie Uhre said she would not allow Native Americans into her businesses on social media,” it reads.
According to the lawsuit, the NDN Collective sent its own representatives on March 22 so that they could try to rent rooms at the hotel. They were also turned down, the lawsuit says.
Days after the lawsuit was filed, Sioux leaders sent a trespass notice to the hotel, telling them not to stay there.
“You are being told that the Great Sioux Nation has done an investigation, and the evidence shows that you are breaking the law,” the notice said. A large “Eviction Notice” was hung over the hotel sign the day it was delivered. Protesters came to the hotel and hung it up.
It was important to “get our people safe,” said Frazier. He and other tribal leaders moved quickly because that was important. People from Crow Creek Sioux, Oglala Lakota Sioux, and Rosebud Sioux also signed the letter.
An 1868 treaty that the US quickly broke.
Because of the Treaty of Fort Laramie, also called the Sioux Treaty of 1868. This agreement said that the land in the Black Hills belonged to the Sioux.
Gold was found in the area a few years later. The US broke the treaty by letting white people move there, which the Supreme Court found to be illegal in 1980.
People who aren’t Natives can’t go through treaty lands “without the permission of the Indians.” This is what the notice says. If there are “bad men” among the whites, it also says that.
The federal government would report anyone who did something bad to a Native person to be arrested and punished by the laws of the United States.
People in the Great Sioux Nation think the treaty is real. Because there was never an agreement by both sides to break the treaty, “it’s still a legal document.” That’s what he said: He cited Article 6, which says that the laws and treaties made by the United States are supreme law in this country.
James Meggesto, an attorney who works with Native American law and is a member of the Onondaga Nation, says that US courts have also agreed with Indian treaties.
When he talked about the Black Hills, Indian land claims, and the 2020 Supreme Court decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, he talked about those three things.
When courts uphold Indian treaties, they say that “a treaty is the law of the land,” no matter how long ago it was made.
As for whether or not the treaties are valid, the real question is how they can be fixed or made to work better. When a hotel is accused of trespassing, it’s unlikely that the federal government even has a way to enforce the treaty, even if it is valid.
Despite this, Meggesto said that “highlighting the treaty is a good way to show that “Let’s not forget this is all Indian land.”
“If we can’t get everyone out of the land that those treaties protect, we still have a responsibility to make sure that the people there are healthy and safe.
Because of this, people who have been racially discriminated against are taken care of “He said.
It’s not clear what will happen to the hotel in the end. On Google, it said it was “temporarily closed.” Before May 16, you couldn’t make a reservation online for a room there.
People from the tribes say they want Rapid City to revoke the hotel’s business license. They also say that the tribes are thinking about a complete boycott of Rapid City because of this.
If they don’t find a solution soon, Frazier says they’ll keep looking. But this isn’t the first time Native people have been in this situation.
“We’ve already been through this,” he said. “A little bump in the road. As long as we keep moving, we don’t care about the bump. We can’t let this happen to us.”