Feb 1, 2015 - Violence Against Native Children Lauded by Rapid City Media, By Danielle Miller

When Native children are being assaulted, the immediate reaction should not be to seek justifications for the attack. This is exactly what the Rapid City Journal did, by finding any argument they can to victim blame the assaulted students.

This pattern has already emerged through other Rapid City publications.  KotaTv news recently released a story mitigating the actions of racist perpetrators by referring to the assault as “bad behavior”. KotaTV also published another article as a tactic to garner sympathy for those institutions complicit in negligence to address the incident until it went viral. The article deflected from the trauma suffered by Native students and centered the harassment of Eagle sales workers. The article was also used as an act of damage control to distance the Eagle Sales name from the incident. The concern was all centered on protecting the brand and attempting to shift the narrative to frame their workers as victims.

The reshaping of narratives is unacceptable because it mitigates acts of violence. Respectability politics do not justify violence. Victim blaming is rape culture. Racists and abusers use this rhetoric as fuel to justify violence against the marginalized.

Ultimately, these Media outlets hide behind the excuse of neutrality or playing devil’s advocate when they are really attempting to change the narrative and shift blame on Natives, thus contributing to the cycle which normalizes and sanctions racism based violence.  This goes further than media creating a “buzz or controversy”, but is an intentional act to uphold this culture of racism.

Many would agree that violence against children is not a situation which you would take a neutral stance on. However it is telling that whenever these platforms choose to play “neutral”, they grant agency to racists or their apologist. A reminder: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. –Desmond Tutu

As a media organization you are accountable for your reach and influence on viewers, ultimately there is such a thing as media ethics and journalistic integrity, which is severely lacking with Rapid City publications. The recent reveal of biases raises the question if Rapid City media was ever to be trusted in their coverage of injustice against Natives. Many events go unreported but it’s evident that when covered they are done so in a manner that upholds racism and violence.

Also rarely mentioned is the act that Natives bring so much capital to Rapid City through events like Sturgis, Lakota Native invitational and the Black Hills powwow. Rather than giving recognition and showing appreciation for that, Rapid City media chooses to treat Natives as a burden.

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.

The very symbolism of the United States in itself is a morbid reminder of the genocide and slavery this country was built upon. This is why it is even more preposterous that Rapid City Journal would grant credence to speculation of whether Native students stood up for the pledge as a justification for the assault. Whether or not someone chooses to participate in displays of patriotism should not warrant violence against them, especially not children.

Rapid City has not changed much since the days of when L. Frank Baum wrote for South Dakota paper. As Ruth Hopkins noted on a previous Last Real Indians article:

On December 20, 1890, nine days before The Wounded Knee Massacre where over 150 Lakota Sioux, mostly women and children were slaughtered by the 7th Calvary (Custer’s regiment), Baum wrote an editorial that called for the genocide of every last American Indian. South Dakota media is still upholding American symbolism to justify violence against Natives. 

This is the legacy of pride that Rapid City wants to uphold, white supremacy.

The pledges that exemplify American Pride were also forced upon Native children in boarding schools, to show appreciation of being civilized. That US flag flew over atrocities like Wounded Knee. Medals of Honor given to soldiers for the barbaric murder of women and children at Wounded knee still have not been rescinded. Trail of Tears, Fort Robinson Antelope Creek Massacre, Sand Creek Massacre is only a few of the massacres of blood shed that were carried out in the name of American Pride, manifest destiny and doctrines of discovery.

The Haudenosaunee were another tribe that became victims to the retaliatory actions of founding fathers and settlers when their villages were burnt to the ground.  To make matters worse symbols of the Iroquois were adopted. The eagle was appropriated by America, as well as the very ideologies of the Iroquois Confederacy in order to construct the United States constitution.

Even as America has prided itself on the appropriation of Native culture, the paradigm still exists that Natives need to surrender their cultural symbols and meanings to uphold American Culture instead. This is the process of cultural appropriation and assimilation alike, to reclaim cultural signifiers and depower their meanings and origins. This is assimilation. To say that Natives should hail to American doctrines of patriotism or face the consequences of violence.

This isn’t to say that Natives cannot be patriotic. Lori Ann Piestewa was the first Native American woman in history to be killed in combat and first US female soldier to die in Iraq while serving in the U.S. military. Native Americans are the largest ethnic group per capita in the United States military. So if there is anyone who could speak on honoring America, Natives have those credentials in order to prove so. Especially when considering what little in return they receive for their sacrifice, with the prevalence of disparities and unfulfilled treaty obligations by the United States. That fact alone should be more of a reason to protect Natives from the pervasiveness of appropriation, dehumanization and hate crimes.

An integral part of Native culture is to honor our warriors; veterans are honored at Pow wows and other cultural events and ceremonies.  Organizations such as Sister Nations’s color guard were established to honor veterans. Native Americans know about pride and patriotism, the misconception by Non Natives is that they believe they should dictate our pride and displays of it. To that I say Tribes are sovereign Nations, with sovereignty which has been inherent since before the settlers stepped foot upon this land. THIS LAND IS OUR LAND,remember that before you chastise Natives for not partaking in the symbolism of colonial violence. Remember that justifications for racist based violence areperpetuation of Genocide. If your first reaction to racism is to ask what the victim did to “bring it upon themselves” then you are a part of the problem. 

Last Real Indians