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Post from alt.native
Subject: Civil Rights Com. in Black Hills
Date: Tue, 07 December 1999 12:21 PM EST

from David Seals -

"We're scared of the cops," Faith Taken Alive said Monday in Rapid City, testifying 
before the US Commission on Civil Rights, investigating more murders of Natives 
throughout the Black Hills region. "I'm scared now they're taking my picture and I'm 
gonna be targeted after we leave here."

Scott German, also a Lakota from the South Dakota Reservations, nodded agreement 
beside her. "Yeah. Everybody's really scared. They're afraid to talk."

The 14 members of the Commission, including 8 from a South Dakota Advisory Committee, 
didn't seem to know what to think, even though there were a fair representation of 
Blacks and Asians and an Hispanic on the Commission, and a Native Elsie Meeks. 
Chairperson Mary Frances Berry asked incredulously of elder Floyd Hand, from Pine 
Ridge, "With the talks all last year from the President's Panel on Racial 
Reconciliation, surely you're having weekly or even daily meetings with the police and 
other groups about this?"

Floyd shook his head, "Not that I know of."


"Nope." Tom Poor Bear sitting beside him also shook his head, and so did Elaine Holy 
Eagle. "I'm a fullblood. We're not supposed to talk against anyone. That's how we were 
taught. And that's why we keep getting pushed around."

Racism was the common theme of dozens of grassroots people, mostly Lakota Ki, who 
testified all day and well into the evening. By nightfall at least 500 were politely 
listening to the testimonies, many waiting their turn as well. The FBI also testified, 
as well as US Attorneys, Rapid City and Pennington County police, the BIA 
Superintendent for Pine Ridge, and Tribal Police Chiefs.

The non-Natives said they weren't racist, the problem wasn't racism, but rather, lack 
of funding for more law enforcement, lack of communication, lack of education, etc.

"No, it's racism," Rosalie Little Thunder reiterated, after listening to them. "Racism 
is a prejudice we all have.Racism is not just prejudice but the power to exercise it. 
The police have that power over us more than anyone in Rapid City, and they use it."

Eileen Iron Cloud added, "We're afraid to drive at night to the border towns, or to 
walk alongside the roads in South Dakota. The cops always stop Indians and assume we 
been drinking. But they let white people go."

One after another they told heartbreaking stories of Indians murdered and lives ruined 
by unfair criminal sentences, inequities in their civil liberties and civil defense 
suits, discrimination in jobs and hiring practices, routine prejudice against them in 
restaurants and on the streets of Mobridge, Sisseton, Whiteclay, Gordon, Rapid City.

Peggy Redday told the excruciating story of her son Justin run over by a pickup truck 
by a white man and killed, and the white man got only 30 days (I believe it was). She 
was sobbing in the hearings room, and, more than once, Chairperson Berry asked the FBI 
and US Attorneys, "Why haven't you investigated this? I have never heard such 
unawareness of how much people mistrust you." Her remarks drew applause from the 
usually polite audience.

Local white rancher Marv Kammerer also drew applause when he said, "I hope this 
Commission sets the West on fire. I'm squatting on Lakota land over here by Ellsworth 
Air Force Base, and my grandfather squatted in 1880, and we've always known this was 
Treaty Land. We respect that. I honor my red brothers and sisters. The western cowboys 
are gonna be the next generation of Indians destroyed by these real estate thieves if 
we don't watch out."

Elder Richard Grass gently chastised the Commission, saying, "This is not your 
jurisdiction though. We thank you for coming here today, but this Tribunal is in the 
hands of our traditional Government. We are recognized internationally as a sovereign 
Nation, and we're not going to beg from the United States."

"We hope you will not sugar-coat this Report," Floyd Hand added.

"Get your hands dirty and dig into these cases," Scott German said, handing them 
documents of many cases of civil rights violations, as did many other witnesses like 
Phyllis Hollow Horn, Mark White Bull in the case for Boo Many Horses murdered in 
Mobridge by 4 white man who were acquited for stuffing Many Horses upside down in a 
trash can, David Seaboy, Darlene Renville Pipe Boy, and Ted Means.

The remarkable thing about the 2 days of testimony - including a visit by the 
Commission on Sunday to White Clay, where Wilson Black Elk and Ron Hard Heart were 
murdered last summer - was that it was almost unique as an occasion for people to be 
heard who are rarely if ever allowed to be heard.

We heard the Zephiers of Yankton tell of an FBI Agent (whom several Commissioners 
would not allow them to name publicly) who molested their little daughter, the father 
wailing painfully in the room, his cries like a gunshot in the air, "That guy 
destroyed my little girl's Spirit! And nobody's doing nothing about it!"

A white artist said, "Loren Two Bulls was my friend, and an exceptional artist. He was 
found drowned head first in the Creek, and there are Skinheads patrolling up and down 
Rushmore Street;  and none of the art galleries around here even honored his work with 
a showing."

Another white woman said, "Anybody with a brain or a heart around here can see this is 
racism. But they don't. The people in Rapid City don't care. They just don't care."

Pine Ridge BIA Superintendent Robert Ecoffey responded to a question from the asian 
woman on the Panel, when she asked him that surely the recent Economic Revitalization 
Act was helping the Reservation with creation of businesses to alleviate the 90% 
unemployment. "No. I don't know of a single lending institution in South Dakota or 
Nebraska that doesn't just red-line any application for a loan from anybody with a 
Pine Ridge address." The Commission looked shocked again.

Regional Director John Dulles said, "Well, in California I know the small Indian 
Reservations are doing much better now with Casinos. They're making donations to 
political candidates and meeting regularly with the Governor. Can't that happen here 

Floyd Hand said, "I don't know. It's not. We're dealing with Governor Janklow here."

Chairperson Berry asked, "I don't know him. But couldn't you try to do something like 
that here?"

Tom Poor Bear laughed, along with the rest of the audience. "Janklow? It would be a 
hard sell. For now all I can think of is to demand an investigation of Sheridan 
County, Nebraska into the murders of my brothers. That's what Camp Justice is doing 
now, that's our focus."

Elaine Holy Eagle explained it further for the perplexed Panel, "Money is not our 
priority here. It's not what we were taught. We're fullbloods."

Dennis Banks and the Bellecourts and Michael Haney showed up to draw some attention 
from the people, though. It was ludicrous to watch Clyde running after the TV cameras 
out in the hall of the luxurious Holiday Inn, and the 4 of them butted in to testify, 
joking with the Commission and shaking their hands. But it was too bad the only thing 
that made the KOTA News at 10:30 (after Monday Night Football) was Clyde and Michael 
talking about their organization protesting the Washington Redskins. After they 
testified and got interviewed they left. They didn't listen to the people.

And the media barely covered the real story. I suspect, like many others, that nothing 
will come of this Commission hearing. They promised to write a Report in 90 days, and 
maybe follow up with more hearings and subpoena some witnesses. But their bylaws only 
allow them to monitor civil rights enforcement by federal agencies. The last time they 
were here was February 1973, just before the Wounded Knee Occupation, and there have 
thousands of uninvestigated murders and imprisonments and lives and hopes ruined since.

Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine 
of international copyright law.
           Tsonkwadiyonrat (We are ONE Spirit)

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