Grand Gateway Hotel in Rapid City sued for banning Native Americans

RAPID CITY – A quiet Ninth Street and a table with the banner “Systemic racism is still the problem” awaited hundreds of people marching against racism on Wednesday afternoon.

Cries for an end to racism, for businesses to join the march and an end to racial profiling crossed a blocked main street as people made their way from Memorial Park to the Andrew Bogue Federal Building in Rapid City.

It was there that Nick Tilsen, President and CEO of NDN Collective, announced that the federal civil rights class action lawsuit against Retsel Corporation, parent company of the Grand Gateway Hotel, had been filed for denying services to Native Americans.

“We will hold them accountable,” he said.

The march and trial comes four days after an early Saturday morning shooting at the Grand Gateway Hotel on North Lacrosse Street that seriously injured a man. Connie Uhre, who was listed as president of the Retsel Corporation located at the same address as the hotel until November 2021 in an annual report to the Secretary of State’s office, posted comments on Facebook saying she ” wouldn’t allow a Native American into our business, including Cheers (sports bar)” because she can’t tell “who’s a bad Native or a good Native.”

The comments have since been deleted.

Tilsen said NDN Collective sent Sunny Red Bear, director of the collective’s racial equity campaign, to the hotel to book a room and she was turned away. They then sent the operations manager Alberta Eagle to book rooms on behalf of the organization. He said Eagle was denied and removed from the lobby.

“By doing this, by violating both Sunny Red Bear’s rights and the rights of NDN Collective, they broke the law,” Tilsen said.

Previously:Rapid City hotel threatens to ban Native Americans after shooting

Red Bear said before the press conference that the federal trial had been in the works for some time. She said the Civil Rights Act of 1965 was passed because people were being discriminated against. Now, in 2022, it’s Native Americans who are being denied a hotel room.

“It’s a violation of civil rights,” she said. “We will not allow that to happen in the community or anywhere else for that matter.”

She said NDN Collective plans to go to court to argue the merits of the case. Until then, they plan to support the community and address systemic issues facing Native Americans today.

“That’s just one of them, and he was very explicit and outward looking, but we have a lot of root causes for these systemic issues and the racism that exists in our community,” said Red Bear.

Tilsen said NDN Collective will be represented by former US Attorney Brendan Johnson.

Johnson said the lawsuit was filed as a class action lawsuit on behalf of the Native American community that has faced discrimination.

Christopher Pina of Rapid City joined hundreds of others in a march down Main Street Wednesday afternoon that started in Memorial Park and ended at the federal courthouse on Ninth Street.

“To be clear, we’re not filing a complaint to send a message,” he said. “We are filing a complaint because we want justice. For those who take us lightly, remember last year we sued the federal government’s Indian health services and said there is a treaty right to health care that Native American signatories of the Fort Laramie treaty, and we won.

Johnson said it will be a long process, but there will be justice.

Oglala Sioux Tribe President Kevin Killer, who walked from the Band Shell to the courthouse with the group, said he and the Tribal Council are committed to protecting people’s rights and ensuring that people are heard.

Chairman Peter Lengkeek of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe said it might be time for Native Americans to get their money elsewhere.

“Maybe if this is going to continue, we’ll go somewhere else,” he said. “Maybe things will change and that’s something we’re praying for, that’s what we’re hoping for.”

He said it is actions like the one taken by the Grand Gateway Hotel that create an environment conducive to violence.

Red Bear said situations like Uhre’s comments are symptoms of the root causes of systemic racism that exists in policies and practices within the community.

“Our community was built on genocide, on the inequalities of stolen land to begin with, and for us to truly move forward, we need to acknowledge those inequalities,” she said. “This story is very heavy, but we have to do it to heal and move forward.”

Joe Pulliam of Rapid City holds his 2-year-old son, Akicitaas, he came out to show his support while listening to speakers from the Andrew W. Bogue Federal Building on Wednesday afternoon where it was announced that a federal lawsuit related to of civil rights had been filed.  against the Grand Gateway Hotel on North Lacrosse Street for denying services to Native Americans.  The rally comes just four days after an early Saturday morning shooting at the Grand Gateway Hotel on North Lacrosse Street.

Red Bear said that as an Indigenous person, they couldn’t let their guard down. She said it is difficult as a mother to balance encouraging her children and telling them that Indigenous peoples are resilient and powerful while holding responsibility within the community and fighting the systemic racism that continues to exist.

She said it’s time for people, government agencies, schools, business owners and the community to look inward and question themselves, policies and practices that might actively discriminate against Native Americans. and other people of color.

Red Bear said this solution involves the whole community, not just Indigenous peoples. She said it was time to sit at the various council tables and in conversations and have people listen to learn, not just respond.

“I think we can move forward in a really powerful and good way if we just try to create a better community for everyone,” she said.

The city, county, tribal and business entities condemned Uhre’s comments in a joint statement released Tuesday afternoon calling on the family to publicly speak out and denounce their statements and make amends to the community, by especially the Native American people.

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In a statement on Facebook, Cheers Lounge, which is located at the Grand Gateway Hotel, said the family was considering what they could do to help the shooting victim.

“We are sorry if some members of our community reacted without thinking and said things that do not reflect the values ​​of Cheers, The Hotel or our customers,” the statement read. “We are committed to being a welcoming and inclusive place for all.”

The statement says the MacArthur Foundation and its grants, which the county accepted in 2015 to help reduce incarceration and aims to reduce the prison population and racial disparities in the criminal justice system, are “destroying us.”

“I believe my mother cries so hard when gunshots ring out in the hotel and vandals destroy guests’ property because she feels that everything she sacrificed her life for is being destroyed. be destroyed,” the statement said.

Northcott Hospitality President Julie Roettger, who manages the Perkins Restaurant and Bakery attached to the hotel, released an official statement Wednesday saying the business has been a fixture in Rapid City for more than 40 years.

“Above all, our top priority is to provide all of our customers with a warm, welcoming and safe environment in which to enjoy a home-style meal and spend quality time together,” she said. “Statements made by the Grand Gateway Hotel do not represent our beliefs or our business practices. It is against Perkins’ core values ​​to discriminate against any guest or employee – equality, inclusion and mutual respect are an integral part of our culture.”

Nohemi M. Moore