Rapid City, South Dakota has experienced a rash of hate crimes directed against Native people in recent months.
In September 2009, Jenna Gitzke and Miranda Shelden, both 21, were sentenced for their December 2008 attacks on Native people in Rapid City, South Dakota. The two were the first to be charged under South Dakota's "malicious intimidation or harassment law" (a class 6 felony) in Pennington County. They were sentenced to five years probation, required to perform at least 100 hours of community service and take classes from the Center for Restorative Justice. The two will also spend the weekend in jail near the anniversary of their hate crime for five years. The two were arrested after they attempted to run Theresa P. Janis off the road and had thrown rocks and eggs at Native people. They had plead guilty in July 2009. The Dakota, Lakota, Nakota Human Rights Advocacy Coalition held a protest to raise awareness about hate crimes following the hate crime. (Associated Press, September 9, 2009; Rapid City Journal, July 15, 16, 2009).
Between Gitzke and Shelden's crimes and sentencing, Rapid City became the site of more hate crimes against Native people. In March 2009, a carload of youth ranging in age from 12 to 17 shot Native people with a BB-gun and threw urine on them in three different instances. The first incident occurred when the teens drove a vehicle around six Native men in Rent-A-Center parking lot, yelling obscenities, pointing a BB-gun at them, firing several times and throwing a bottle of liquid suspect to be urine at the men. In another incident, the teens fired the BB gun at the back of a Native man. The same vehicle was also believe to be involved in a similar incident earlier in the day. One of the teens was suspected in shooting a mother and daughter with a BB-gun earlier in the month. (Rapid City Journal, March 26, 27, 29, April 10).
The Society for the Advancement of Native American Interests - Today (SANI-T) is conducting a campaign aimed at addressing anti-Indian hate crimes in the community. SANI-T has a number of programs and campaigns addressing issues ranging from advocacy for Native students and families, to youth culture camps and cultural competency education for community members and advocacy for policy change. More about SANI-T can be found at www.sani-t.org.
Chuck Tanner is a co-coordinator of Borderlands Research and Education. Borderlands is committed to using strategic research to support indigenous sovereignty and treaty rights and environmental justice.
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