On January 24th, Native American students and staff of American Horse School were harassed at a Rapid City hockey game by a group of about 15 white men. The students, ages 9 to 13, were part of AHS’s 21st Century Club and were at the hockey game as a reward for their academic achievements. They left the game after a group of white men began yelling “Go back to the Rez!” along with racial slurs, the men even sprayed beer on them.
Only one man, Trace O’Connell, has been charged with disorderly conduct. The charge is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine if he is convicted.
Many are angered by this decision, feeling the punishment is not nearly as severe as it should be. National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media has called the actions of these men “racist and criminal behavior” and stated that this incident “should be considered a hate crime.”
“They poured beer on children. They yelled racial slurs. I don’t know how that is not a hate crime,” said American Horse School Superintendent Gloria Coats-Kitsopoulos.
“Some of our kids — they’ve had nightmares, they cry,” stated Angie Sam, whose 13-year old daughter was one of the victims at the hockey game. “[T]hey were being rewarded for good behavior, and these drunk, white men ruined that for them.” Her interview can be heard in the NPR report by Charles Michael Ray.
What these men did to the students and staff of AHS was cruel and unwarrented, and it should not be tolerated. Sadly, this unfortunate incident reflects the grave problem of racism that has plagued Rapid City for years. An article by Danielle Miller, which can be found at Chase Iron Eyes’ webpage Last Real Indians, states,
“The racism and biases are not new in South Dakota, where you can find sacred Lakota objects hung next to KKK outfits in the museum. The very landmarks such as Mount Rushmore constructed by a white supremacist are a reminder of the theft of the Black Hills, which was supposed to fall under the protections of the Sioux in the Fort Laramie.”
It is important to make our voices heard and to expose the racial issues Native Americans face everyday. Unless these issues are discussed, incidents such as the attack on the AHS students and staff are bound to repeat themselves.